The Reel Review
Following a Scream-style mall massacre, a group of teenagers uncover the source of a murderous curse that has been plaguing their beleaguered town of Shadyside, Ohio for 300 years. Set in 1994, this first installment in the Netflix horror trilogy is based on the R.L. Stine young adult novels published starting in 1989.
Director Leigh Janiak (Honeymoon) uses solid production values and equally solid casting to keep the action moving, despite a not-so-scary story that clearly is a love letter to the decade’s slasher flicks. Janiak manages to thread the needle in tone, in the process making a gorier, hornier Stranger Things with a shockingly high body count and lots of throwbacks to the many iconic films of that era. This trilogy should put her on the map as a formidable horror director.
The setting and production design terrifically captures the era, with fun nods to AOL chatrooms, Orange Julius, cassette mixtapes and B. Dalton bookstores. And there are just enough gnarly kills (especially in the action-packed finale) and legitimately surprising plot twists to keep the story interesting.
• Filmed at North Dekalb Mall in Atlanta and at Hard Labor Creek State Park in Rutledge, Georgia, Fear Street: Part 1: 1994 is the first in a trilogy that Netflix is debuting each week. The subsequent installments are set in 1978 and 1666.
• Nicknamed the Stephen King of children’s literature, R.L. Stine’s young adult horror novels have sold an estimated 300 hundred million copies.
• Director/co-writer Leigh Janiak drew upon her own experiences as a Ohio teenager in the 1990s for inspiration for the trilogy.