Directed by: Leigh Janiak

Written by: Phil Graziadei & Leigh Janiak

Starring: Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Julia Rehwald, Fred Hechinger

Rating: [3/5]

The socioeconomic factors impacting towns and how easily they can vary with their close neighbors has its larger sociological reasons but blaming it on a curse beset by a witch really takes the cake as seen in the first of a three-part story in Fear Street Part One: 1994. A film, which kicks on an intriguing collection of stories, with plenty of style to constantly remind you it takes place in the 1990s but also enough thrills to keep you engaged. 

Shadyside has endured ridicule for many years for being the murder capital of the country and with a surprising recent murder done by a young man now known for these tendencies raises some eyebrows. Shadyside citizen Deena (Kiana Madeira) and her brother Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) encounter this first hand as they learn more about the witch in question, Sarah Fier (Elizabeth Scopel), and how a band of killers are on their way. 

Attempting to be a combination of a fun slasher and introducing intriguing lore, this feature serves as plenty of setup but does well in its mission. The way it differentiates between Shadyside and Sunnyvale could not be starker, where it even comes in the names of the towns, which border each other. A bit on the nose, but we’ll take it because this film wants to be incredibly direct with everything it wants to do. Starting out in the traditional fashion of a slasher with the opening victim dying at the hands of the murderer, much more gets introduced into an overarching tale about Sarah Fier. The other following films provide more answers, which are horribly unsatisfying but this feature does a good job setting up the questions where it cannot hold blame. 

Refreshingly, this feature centers on a lesbian relationship between Deena and her ex-girlfriend Samantha (Olivia Scott Welch). Dealing with issues of Sam not coming out to others around her and moving over to Sunnyvale, the complications held between them contain its multitudes. It has the flame of young love that burns bright and gets extinguished by the slightest of inconvenience, which in this case occurs because of Sam moving to Sunnyvale. Something that has a larger meaning in the broad aspect of what these two towns represent, but also in a practical sense really does not make sense. I suppose this could be said about many young relationships. 

On an aesthetic level, this movie really wants you to know the story takes place in the 1990s with the neon lights and the colors we can only recall from a time long ago strangely enough. From the love of people working at malls and the ancient days of instant messaging online, everything about this feature screams “we’re in the 1990s.” A nostalgia trip that works very well in establishing the norms of this time and how it relates to these characters along with how they operate. Thinking of Samantha’s struggles to fully come out and share her true self certainly did not come as easy in this time as of now but also the very lame ways these teenagers would prank each other really hits home what this era signifies. 

Similarly, the kills displayed in this film set the tone for how brutal things will get, especially with the introduction of the different killers Shadyside has had throughout the years, Much more brutal than expected, from characters having heads cut from bread slicers and an ax to the head, things get gruesome, which falls right in line with the genre this motion picture falls within. These brutal kills come from the killers of past and present and display their weapons of choice. Bringing them into the fold certainly brings up many questions but it shows what these teenagers must overcome as they try to figure out how to bring everything to an end. 

Fear Street Part One: 1994, however, does not come without its litany of flaws like the weird idea that no adults exist in this universe in order to assist these teenagers. The absent presence of Deena and Josh’s mother makes sense considering she works multiple jobs to support her family but the idea of essentially no other adult being present to even intervene with what occurs with these bonkers killers except for a skeptical cop is hilarious. This film asks to suspend belief for its more fantastical elements, but at the very least come up with an excuse. Additionally, this film sets up very distinct rules about how the curse operates and how it impacts the killers coming after these teenagers, but the narrative begins to not follow them and the logic they lay out. This becomes more egregious and downright aggravating in the later films, but this feature begins to show the cracks. 

A strong start for a trilogy of films telling one overarching story, Fear Street Part One: 1994 sets up the lore of what will kick everything off and provides some fun characters to follow along with some wicked kills. The 1990s definitely threw up all over this feature, which ultimately becomes the point and it mostly works for what it wants to achieve. This feature sets up all of the questions the next two films will look to answer and the table-setting does well enough along with telling an engaging story.

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