The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Netflix] - FEAR STREET PART ONE: 1994 | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Netflix] - FEAR STREET PART ONE: 1994

fear street part one 1994 review
Teenagers battle an ancient evil in their troubled small town.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Leigh Janiak

Starring: Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Fred Hechinger, Maya Hawke, Benjamin Flores Jr., Julia Rehwald

fear street part one 1994 poster

I've long felt envious of fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. How much fun must it be to have this ever-evolving world filled with returning characters, with three or four new instalments hitting cinemas every year? Those movies bore me to tears however, but I do respect the patient manner in which MCU supremo Kevin Feige has gone about building that cinematic universe over the past 15 years or so. DC, on the other hand, thought they could rush together their own cinematic universe in the space of a handful of movies, a move which backfired and led to one of the most cringeworthy scenes ever put on film – that of Batman watching primer videos on the other members of the Justice League. Where Marvel gave their heroes their own standalone movies before assembling them into The Avengers, DC did it ass backwards, lumping together a bunch of heroes the audience had no familiarity with.

Netflix's ambitious Fear Street trilogy promises something of a cinematic universe for horror fans, but unfortunately it opts for the DC method, throwing a bunch of characters at us and expecting us to play catch-up.

fear street part one 1994 review

Inspired by RL Stine's popular (in the US at least) series of Young Adult books, Fear Street is broken down into three movies, each taking place in a distinct year. If it seems odd that the trilogy opens with 1994, the latest year in chronological terms, it becomes even odder once you start watching this opening instalment, as it really feels like we're watching the concluding chapter of a trilogy rather than the curtain raiser.

All three movies are set in the small town of Shadyside, right next to Sunnyvale, the Shelbyville to its Springfield. While Sunnyvale is considered one of America's most liveable burghs, Shadyside has a notorious history of headline grabbing homicides, earning it the nickname of the murder capital of the US (I bet Murder She Wrote's Cabot Cove has it beat though).

fear street part one 1994 review

Fear Street Part One: 1994 opens with the latest dark chapter in Shadyside's history, as several store clerks are butchered in an after hours mall by a knife-wielding local teen wearing a skull mask before the killer is gunned down by a security guard. Things take a supernatural turn when the killer appears to return from beyond the grave, along with several notorious murderers from Shadyside's past. It's up to a bunch of teens to figure out how to save their town.

1994's opening act leans heavily into the influence of Wes Craven's Scream and its late '90s imitators, though visually it bears more of a resemblance to the recent Scream TV series than the original movies. The '90s is one of those decades that's difficult to visualise, as it lacked the distinct personality of the decades that preceded it, and despite the never-ending needle drops (the music licensing budget for this thing must have been astronomical) and presence of AOL Online, it never really feels like a period piece.

fear street part one 1994 review

If these early scenes promise a fun throwback, it's frustrating when 1994 becomes so bogged down in its haphazard world-building. The group of resurrected killers feel like they should be the Avengers of Horror, but we know nothing about them, and we only learn their backstories through clunky exposition delivered by an obligatory nerd character who has a fascination with his town's dark past. Every time a new twist emerges, we're left to watch as the teens, and the audience, are delivered another lecture on what's going on. It often feels like the movie is making up its world as it goes, and Shadyside never feels like a convincingly real place.

If 1994 set out to evoke '90s slashers…well, I guess it does a good job. Those movies were generally awful to mediocre, and unlike the golden age slashers of the '70s and early '80s, spent more time spelling out the plot than building suspenseful sequences. Save for a late flurry when Janiak seems to pay tribute to Scott Spiegel's cult supermarket slasher Intruder, there's very little here to satisfy fans of the slasher sub-genre. With its focus on teen dynamics and non-stop needle drops, it's more likely to find an audience among fans of Netflix shows like Riverdale and Stranger Things. Maybe that's the point.

Fear Street Part 1: 1994 is on Netflix from July 2nd.

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