Fear Street Is The Slasher For Fans New and Old
Well, since Fear Street put their movies into three parts, we’ll be doing a series of reviews to cover this nostalgic property. I’ve yet to see anything beyond the first movie and will be reviewing them as I watch them—and then perhaps a fourth overview article with everything in context.
And, since the books have a rich history, I suppose I should clarify my relationship with said nostalgia. The long and short of it is that I have no nostalgia for this. I read a ton of Goosebumps, but have only read a single Fear Street, and I was too young when I did. I didn’t expect characters to straight up die, and it made a much less desensitized me not overly interested in the series.
You Don’t Need To Know Fear Street To Enjoy It
However, and thankfully, Fear Street the movie works fine for any horror fan and does not require background knowledge. I’m sure there’re tons of references, but they’re not essential to know.
What you do need to know if you’re debating watching this movie is that it’s a classic teenage slasher updated for a modern audience. Essentially, Fear Street is Stranger Things but for the 80s and 90s kids.
And this comparison becomes only more apt as you go along. Yes, as an R-rated movie, Fear Street has way more sex, gore, and adult subject matter than Stranger Things, but there’s a lot of the same charm. The characters are likable and vaguely tropey. There’s an element of comedy and camaraderie in its central cast. And, most notable for horror fans: it’s full of allusions to other horror films. The Shining, Friday the 13th, Scream, and Halloween are the most obvious ones.
The Movie Wears Tons Of Influences On Its Sleeve
And it’s within that context, that connection, that a lot of my praises and criticisms come into play. The negatives are often pernicious holdovers or failures to iterate on the genre. We have things like the aggressive and frequent sexualization of teenage characters, the repetition of uncreative kills (so many people just get stabbed), and reliance on jump scares and “people running by in the background.” On the positive side, however, we have every time the story plays on the expectations of the genre to strong narrative effect.
What I’m saying is Fear Street tricks you. It knows what you think will happen and then pulls the rug. The biggest example of this is a spoiler, but the series uses ambiguous language and undermining expectations to reframe entire scenes. In one masterstroke, it reworks a classic setup to become more modern and inclusive. And that’s not the only time where the movie uses classic ideas to be currently relevant. Perceptions of people and how class disparity affects that and how culture responds to violence and tragedy are explored in interesting ways, if not for very long.
There’s A Lot Of Loosely Explored Subtexts Here
And with this willingness to misdirect, the movie achieves something a lot of horror fails to do: the kills and villains are both surprising. Perhaps savvier horror fans than I could guess, but not I. Death in Fear Street appears to happen aggressively, randomly, and quickly.
Which brings us to the question: is it scary? Well, no, not really. Not any more than Stranger Things is. It’s an effective thriller, and the deaths are suitably nasty, but it doesn’t seem interested in a dense fog of atmosphere or an overwhelming tone. There’s a lot of incredible shot composition, sleek transitions, and superb editing, but it’s more in service of a snappy, high-energy pace.
It’s ultimately meant to be a fun horror time, not a nightmare like It Follows or Hereditary (so I’ve heard). It effectively builds on traditions and might even lead newcomers towards the classic slashers. The negatives of those came along too, but if Fear Street keeps up this theme of subversion and cleverness while never losing the appeal of the genre, then 1987 will be just as fun as 1994 has proven itself to be.
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