Fear Street Part 1: 1994, based on the Fear Street books by R.L. Stine with the story written by Kyle Killen and Phil Graziadei, and directed by Leigh Janiak, is a horrorfest. As a fan of the Fear Street books, which I read around the time this film takes place, I went in hopeful and terrified it would taint one of my favorite childhood memories. Luckily, I ended the film feeling terrified, but in the best possible way for a horror film. If you think there won’t be violence and gore because these are children, allow me to disabuse you of that. A love story, a curse, murders, and mayhem; Fear Street Part 1: 1994 lays the perfect foundation for the subsequent two films.  

The film is about a group of teens, Deena (Kiana Madeira), Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.), Kate (Julia Rehwald), Samantha (Olivia Scott Welch), and Simon (Fred Hechinger), stalked by an evil that they realize has been around for over 300 years. The cast is diverse, the acting is an apt mix of naïveté, angst, and conflict one would expect from teens who have to deal with the supernatural, identity issues and acceptance. As such, viewers will see a reflection of their youth, complete with drama and humor.

Chilling Opening & Engaging Characters

The film opens immediately into horror and a nod to Fear Street. Heather (Maya Hawke), a mall bookstore clerk, sells Fear Street: The Wrong Number to a stepmother who considers the book “low brow horror.” Like other films that focus on teens and kids, adults are useless and an impediment to survival. So, it’s not a surprise this is the first adult we encounter. Then, within minutes, this teen is in peril as a crazed killer stalks her. The film lets you know this isn’t light scares; there will be blood. It also engages us with character development and backstory. The balance of horror and emotional investment is compelling.

Fear Street Part 1: 1994 image of Heather being dragged across the floor by assailant in skull costume.
FEAR STREET PART 1: 1994 – (Pictured) MAYA HAWKE as HEATHER. Cr: Netflix © 2021

Fear Street Part 1: 1994 also gives us a beautiful love story between Deena and Sam. While Deena is fatalistic and emo, Sam hides her sexuality thanks to society and a prejudicial mom. Additionally, the other characters are riveting and hilarious. Simon is bright and sounds like a stoner who loves to cite movies for situations and people. Although all entertaining, Josh is the person you would want around when horrors go down. Honestly, the acting is top-notch which is why we connect with the characters. The villains leave you shrieking, particularly creepy, undead killer Ruby (Jordyn DiNatale). Ruby’s sing-song voice sends chills rippling down the spine. 

A Mixed Soundtrack With Something For Everyone

The music is straight from the 90s angst playbook. Memorable tracks from Bush, Garbage, and Radiohead feel at home among this quintet of Shadysiders. But it’s not all rock. In addition to rock, there are hip-hop tracks from Snoop Dogg and Cypress Hill that feel at home in the story with these characters. Some tracks like “Machinehead” will make audiences cry “yes” as they sing along. Other more obscure 90s tracks like “Sour Times” from Portishead will leave you wondering how you’d forgotten it. 

A Must See Film

Fear Street Part 1: 1994 is the perfect appetizer, filling us with anticipation for the following two films. Everyone brought their A-game. It gives us a story that suspends our disbelief, outcasts we can root for, and a young love story that connects. If you like your horror blood-curdling, love complicated, and violence no-holds-barred, you would be remiss not to add this to your summer watch list.  Fear Street Part 1: 1994 has the fear and then some with a mass appeal. Young or old will love this film and, for extra creepiness, watch it at night with the lights off. You’ll thank me. Or not. 

Feature Photo credit Netflix © 2021