The Peanut Gallery Reviews the Fear Street Trilogy
Part One PG Score: 5/10
Part Two PG Score: 6.75/10
Part Three PG Score: 5.5/10
The Fear Street trilogy is available on Netflix
Written and directed by Leigh Janiak, the Fear Street trilogy has been rolled out on Netflix over the past three weeks. Each movie is connected but takes place in separate time periods: 1994, 1978, and 1666. The series revolves around the fictional towns of Shadyside and Sunnyvale, and the former has dealt with a string of grisly homicides for decades. It is important to note that Fear Street attempts to capture the tone of R.L. Stine's book series of the same name but is not directly based on a specific story.
Part One: 1994
Fear Street Part One: 1994 opens in the Shadyside Mall where Heather (Maya Hawke) is murdered by a masked killer. The thrilling and brutal sequence hearkens back to slasher films of the '90s. Unfortunately, that is where the excitement ends as the movie plummets into boredom. Following an accident near the burial site of an alleged late 1600s witch, a group of teens is placed on a collision course with a deadly evil and chased by former Shadyside serial killers. The film stars Deena (Kiana Madeira), her younger brother, Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.), friends Kate (Julia Rehwald) and Simon (Fred Hechinger), and her ex-girlfriend, Sam (Olivia Scott Welch). Aside from Flores Jr., who plays a computer nerd and has some humorous lines, the rest of the cast is bland and hard to care for.
Horror scenes are a rarity with a surprising lack of frights. In between, viewers are subjected to numerous forced, insufferable, and unapologetic pseudo-emotional relationship conversations with lovers, Deena and Sam. Oddly enough, the movie feels catered towards a younger crowd but with its R rating, the vicious murders carried out by the reanimated killers make for somewhat of a strange blend. Janiak gives the film a unique look with a saturated color palette and occasionally mixing in some neon, which perfectly encapsulates the '90's. Given her creative control over the final product, it is a shame most of the cinematography is dull and uninspiring. Fear Street Part One: 1994 is lacking in several departments and its 1 hour and 47-minute runtime is difficult to get through.
Fear Street Part One: 1994 PG Score: 5/10
Part Two: 1978
Fear Street Part Two: 1978 is a marked improvement over its predecessor. Turning the clock back to the summer of the titular year, the second installment takes place at Camp Nightwing. Another Shadyside resident is possessed by the compulsion to kill, and it is not long before more bodies begin to pile up. Janiak captures the nostalgia of the ‘70s with appropriate wardrobe and music while allowing the buildup to occur more organically this time around. The more relaxed tone in the first act is reminiscent of several sleepaway camp-themed slashers released in the ‘80s.
Once the slaying starts, the special effects are appropriately gruesome and help bring the film to its intense climax. The characters are well-developed enough to warrant a genuine interest in their well-being. Stranger Things star Sadie Sink leads a relatively strong cast and excels as the protagonist. There are some slow spots, and while much less frequent, the same tiresome melodrama that plagued the first movie is still present. However, the flaws in Fear Street Part Two: 1978 are outweighed by the fun story, Sink-led cast, and engrossing ‘70s aesthetic.
Fear Street Part Two: 1978 PG Score 6.75/10
Part Three: 1666
Fear Street Part Three: 1666 leaps back on the timeline and serves as a disappointing finish for the trilogy. Finally, the origins of the curse are revealed, and the blood-soaked history of Shadyside comes full circle. The dreadful accents were the most frightening part of the movie as it is light on thrills for much of the two-hour runtime. The first half is painfully slow and falls back into many of the same traps that haunted Part One. Boring, repetitive conversations and the unbalanced horror to drama ratio are the key offenders in a tedious opening act.
One of the highlights of Part Three is Anna Drubich’s musical composition, which has a very eerie feel to it. Thankfully, the second hour fares better as the story draws its last breath. The ultimate showdown is creative and contains plenty of horror-action. Unfortunately, the negatives are too glaring to overlook in the final piece of Leigh Janiak’s uneven adaptation of R.L. Stine’s work.
Fear Street Part Three: 1666 PG Score: 5.5/10
Impressive Scope, Unimpressive Execution
Ultimately, it is a valiant effort by Janiak but comes up short in the end. Featuring a better narrative and cast than the other two entries, 1978 is the lone bright spot. Marred by poor pacing and a lack of scares, 1994 and 1666 are the bad eggs of the bunch. The repressed sexuality metaphor, while fitting within the story's structure, is a bit excessive and shoved in viewers' faces. This indicates a lack of trust in the audience. Vapid acting and pedestrian filmmaking hinder what could have been a banger of a summer horror trilogy.
Despite the underwhelming result, Janiak shows glimpses of promise in the horror realm. Whether it is entirely new content or a continuation of Fear Street, there is hope for improvement in her future. Fear Street takes the 'fear' out of the title but is still worth a watch for those craving a schlocky horror binge.
NOTE: This review was created by both Josh Aboody and Matthew Novak, who collaborated in watching, analyzing, and writing about the Fear Street films.