Fear Street Keeps Coming Back for More

by Gordon Shelly

It is far better to view the Fear Street trilogy as a whole rather than as individual pieces. Netflix’s latest endeavor is based on the novels by R.L. Stine series of books by the same name. Now. having no familiarity with the books, I have no point of reference for which format is superior. Regardless, those arguments are often fruitless anyway, as I prefer the visual medium of film these days.

The story begins with Fear Street: Part One – 1994.  This first of three solidifies the long-standing feud between the upper-class City of Sunnyvale and the hard luck population of neighboring Shadyside.  In fact, the Shadyside bad luck streak runs so deep that every so often there seems to be a mass murdering serial killer running rampant.

Part One establishes the core characters from Shadyside – Deena (Kiana Madeira), her brother Josh (Benjamin Flores), their friend Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) and a gang of others who come in and out of the story to either find themselves as serial killer fodder or plot contrivances.  All are high school-aged teens who find themselves at the center of the Shadyside turmoil. Seemingly, their only adult ally is the Sunnyvale Sheriff, Nick Goode.

The first installment is the weakest of the three. It finds itself trying to balance between self-referencing teen-comedy-horror in the vein of scream and a legitimate gore infused slasher.  Fear Street is at its best when it quits with the self-awareness, drops the jokes, and focuses on the gore and jump scares.

However, the young actors in Part One are extremely talented, engaging and they do compel the story forward, even at its weakest points. Particularly entertaining is Fred Hechinger as Simon, who has a handful of comedic and scene stealing moments among the teens.

The first part opens the flood gates on a supernatural entity that has cursed the town of Shadyside with a slew of serial killers and witchery at the hand of the ominous 17th century witch Sara Fier.

Part Two: 1978 takes us back to a summer at Camp Nightwing where campers and counselors are soon to find themselves the victims of the vicious Nightwing Killer.  The story primarily follows Shadyside sisters Cindy and Ziggy Berman along with a youthful Nick Goode.

The characters and story are firmly entrenched with good technique and solid storytelling, giving viewers more details and helping them to piece more and more of the story together.

Part Two focuses less on the teen comedy and more on the tension of the circumstances and is a far more successful endeavor. It also drops the self-referencing humor and benefits greatly from a slightly different mode of storytelling.

It fleshes out characters from 1994 and gives us their backstory in 1978, attaching us to their circumstances even more.  Through the course of the story, there are a few (albeit predictable) turns of events that are engaging and make this second entry far superior to the first.

Of course, like most middle entries, the storytellers leave the viewer at the edge of a cliff in anticipation of what the next installment will bring.

The final act of the trilogy, Part III: 1666 takes us on a journey into the 17th Century where we get the history of Sara Fier and the good (and bad) folk of both Shadyside and Sunnyvale.  The third installment is full of rich story telling and compelling characters as it brings the story to a satisfactory end, tying together all the pieces in, often, surprising ways.

Flashforward to 1994 with our main characters, Deena, Josh, Sam and Nick and the story propels to an exciting and satisfying conclusion.


The Fear Street Trilogy: B+

As standalone episodes:

Fear Street: Part 1 – 1994: B-

Fear Street: Part 2 – 1978: A-

Fear Street: Part 3 – 1666: B+