Exploring Digital Purgatory: The Fear Street Trilogy

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The Movie or TV ShowFear Street (1994), Fear Street (1978, Fear Street (1666)

One Sentence Premise Summary: The line between television and movies becomes blurred again as Leigh Janiak’s directorial efforts realize the potential of horror by actually investing in the characters while still being extremely violent.

Where You Can Stream ItNetflix (As of July 22, 2021)

Why I Streamed It: I’m an R.L Stine fan from wayback, and although I am not usually the biggest horror fan, this combined some elements from Stranger Things and featured a strong LGBTQ+ element, so I wanted to give at least the first movie a chance.

Why You Should Stream This:

Look, I am a Stranger Things fan and as basic as that makes me, it led me to a trilogy like this. Janiak is not someone I had heard or seen a lot from, but I walked away thinking she should get her next ten projects funded, no questions asked. If you had told me that in 2021, one of the best things I would watch is a Netflix trilogy of movies airing over the summer. While originally scheduled for a once a month theatrical release, we instead got to see these movies aired over three consecutive weeks. There is a distinct possibility Netflix used this as a test for possibly releasing television shows on a more staggered schedule, but Fear Street was able to build up buzz over the weeks and there was some strong word of mouth from social media and critics.

Netflix tends to release a lot of movies that have questionable quality and have become the scourge of film Twitter in many cases. This is case of Netflix buying a gem of a series that can be accessed by a lot of people. The fact that the three movies were guaranteed helped a lot. How many recent franchises have had a first film with the promise of more but then bombed so hard all future plans were scrapped? Janiak really got to pace out the story like a television show. I think 1994 mostly stands on its own and is easily the best of the three. I think it has the most compelling story, best kills, and fun character beats.

1978 struggles as a middle chapter but also because we have a pretty good idea who is going to make it and who will die (although this does get subverted in a fascinating way). 1666 is almost two movies in one. The first part does struggle because the actors from the first two movies are asked to play new characters and put on community theater level Irish accents. I think the goodwill from the first two films and allowing the audience to make character connections is why it still mostly works. I still liked Black Widow despite some…ahem…inconsistent Russian accents (especially looking at you Roy Winstone). The second half of 1666 brings the trilogy together in not so subtle fashion. In a horror movie, I’m okay with a bit of a sledgehammer to drive certain points off. This actually has something to say about who gets to wield power and the idea of privilege.

What makes this trilogy work are the relationships. Deena and Sam’s relationship in 1994. Ziggy and Cindy’s relationship in 1978. Deena and her brother in 1666. These are just three major examples, but there are so many others as well. Not all horror movies are guilty of this, but I have a hard time with this genre because it’s more about the “idea” or the kills. I don’t like the idea of elevated horror because that makes it seem like slasher movies or B level horror is illegitimate. It’s not. Not my cup of tea but I understand why people get visceral excitement from a really interesting kill. I think 1994 has a couple in its own right. The slasher aspect is strongest in 1978 as it is a direct homage to the camp slashers of the late 70s and 80s.

The most famous name is Gillian Jacobs with Maya Hawke a distant second. I would argue the main players from this series deserve far greater opportunities, especially Kiana Madeira and Benjamin Flores Jr. Everyone across all three films play their roles well. I walked away impressed with the actors and especially the visuals. I really just wish Janiak has turned the music down (in other words, STOP WITH ALL THE NEEDLE DROPS).

Best Performance:  I walked away from this movie trilogy being incredibly impressed with Kiana Madeira. I think the middle part of the trilogy suffers a bit because she’s barely in it. Is her Irish accent good? No. Is it an abomination? Probably but she is able to make the audience feel the pain of Sarah Fier because we’ve seen her struggle as well. She is a tremendous “final girl” in a series that subverts this trope in interesting ways. The fact that her brother and romantic partner live shows the importance of those relationships beyond just being another slasher horror movie.

Best Quote: ‘It’s not your future if you’re pretending to be someone else.’ – Deena (from 1994)

Final Grade: 1994- A-, 1978- B+, 1666- A-

Coming next week, Dr. Death!  

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