Fear Street Trilogy (2021)
Directed by: Leigh Janiak
Premise: A trilogy of films based on the books by R. L. Stine. In 1994, a group of teenagers living in a tragedy-plagued community discover the source of the curse bedeviling their town. They trace its origins to events in 1978 and later to 1666.
What Works: Fear Street has an ambitious scope and it uses horror tropes in an intelligent way. Each film is a period piece and it makes reference to horror tales of earlier eras. 1994 channels Scream; the first sequence is an obvious homage to the opening of Wes Craven’s 1996 film. The 1978 installment reflects horror films of the classic slasher era, namely Sleepaway Camp and The Burning. 1666 is rooted in more literary sources and the final installment is easily the best of the three films. The performances and the story of 1666 are more complex and the story subverts some of the assumptions of the previous films in ways that are smart and interesting. 1666 also tells its own story and does so better than the other parts while tying all three episodes together. The performances are uniformly strong throughout the three films but especially notable is Kiana Madeira in the lead role.
What Doesn’t: The filmmaking of Fear Street remains consistent throughout the trilogy. That makes sense in that it gives the series a unified style but it creates an anachronistic look. Strangely, this effect is less bothersome in the 1666 chapter and much more obvious in the 1978 installment. The middle film doesn’t feel authentically of its time. The performances feel very contemporary and the costumes and production design often look like an imitation of the period. Viewers should be aware that Fear Street is R-rated. Many of R.L. Stine’s books were intended for young readers but the tone of this material is far departed from the author’s Goosebumps series.
DVD extras: Currently available on Netflix.
Bottom Line: Fear Street is an impressive horror triptych. Each film tells an engaging standalone tale of terror while the trilogy interconnects in ways that are smart and produce a whole that is bigger than the sum of its parts.
Episode: #874 (October 24, 2021)