“Fear Street” Trilogy Brings The Thrills (Review)

R.L. Stine’s original “Fear Street” book series was a step up from his “Goosebumps” books that offered age-appropriate scares for young readers.

Director Leigh Janiak has taken things a lot further, accelerating the “Fear Street” series into full-blown R-rated territory with a captivating trilogy that recently launched on Netflix.

Originally conceived as a theatrical play for Fox before Disney’s acquisition, these would have certainly been fun to watch on the big screen with an audience, but play excellently at home as a fun summer escape.

All three films are centered around the legend of Sarah Fier, a young woman in 1666 who was accused of being a witch and died after a man in her village named Solomon Goode (Ashley Zukerman) made a deal with the devil to provide his family with success for generations.

Part One takes place in 1994 and, as somebody who graduated high school that year, I found it to be my favorite of the bunch. We start with Deena (Kiana Madeira), her girlfriend Sam (Olivia Scott Welch), and their friends as they try to save their small town of Shadyside from the curse of Sarah Fier.

With more than a tip of the cap to Wes Craven’s “Scream,” young people around town begin to be terrorized by a man in a ghostface mask, but the truth is even more insidious. Yes, there is more than one killer and they’re all pretty terrifying.

A big reveal in 1994 takes us straight back to 1978 for Part Two, where we end up with a seemingly normal boy at Camp Nightwing who breaks bad and starts to off the campers. Now we’re getting straight up into “Friday The 13th” territory, but the entire series is rooted in this 17th century supernatural curse that provides an interesting balance.

Part Three takes us to the beginning of the story in 1666. In one of the less successful aspects of the trilogy, all of the characters in this timeline are played by the young actors who we already saw in the previous two films. Some are far more successful than others in pulling off period accents and language and the first hour of the film had me zoning out a bit as it relies heavily on the backstory of the curse.

Thankfully, the gears shift about halfway through and we go back to 1994. The final hour of the third installment of the film brings us full circle and, simply put, it kicks ass.

My most nitpicky criticism is that the music supervision, especially in the first installment, contains multiple songs that were released after 1994. I know that the majority of viewers won’t have been alive, but hearing songs like The Prodigy’s “Firestarter” and White Town’s “Your Woman” (which were released in 1996 and 1997, respectively) felt lazy when it wouldn’t have been that hard to stay fully embedded in the timeline.

I didn’t love every aspect of these films, but I have to give Janiak credit for a fun ride. “Fear Street” is a magnificently bloody and gory horror trilogy offering a queer perspective and a fun twist on the legend of the “final girl.”

All three “Fear Street” films are streaming now on Netflix.

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