Netflix recently released a three-part film series, “Fear Street,” loosely based on the novels of R.L Stine, which follows the ongoing murders that plague the fictional town of Shadyside. Some townspeople believe it’s a curse and others can’t wrap their heads around any of the conspiracies. It takes a group of teens to figure out this mystery that’s been haunting Shadyside for centuries.
These films require your utmost attention due to a lot of back and forth between the time periods. The first film takes place in 1994, the second in 1978 and the last in 1666. Though each film centers around the same idea, there’s a different plot twist that comes with each, leaving most of our questions to be answered in part three. From the start, it is confirmed that the murders are being executed by average Shadysiders who appear to be normal, leaving the curse’s nonbelievers to assume the killers just snapped one day. The others know that the consistencies are far too obvious and must be the doing of a supernatural force.
Part one introduces the group of teens that take this curse by the horns in an attempt to end it once and for all. Deena (Kiana Madeira), Kate (Julia Rehwald), Simon (Fred Hechinger) and Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) aren’t quite your average teenagers; they don’t think twice about fighting off a powerfully evil force. Their lack of fear and humorous comments gives the film a vibe similar to “Happy Death Day” or “Scream.”
This part focuses heavily on Sam, who accidentally disturbed the resting spot belonging to something evil. The group’s motive for helping Sam, rather than letting her die, is the relationship between her and Deena. This whole thing started with Deena seeking revenge on Sam who recently moved to Sunnyvale (the richer version of Shadyside) and began dating a jock shortly after Deena broke up with her. What better way to make up than to solve the historic curse haunting your hometown?
This film holds up well; the graphics and acting are great and overall, there are no complaints. The plot has consistent flow and reaches a climax at a reasonable time, leaving this film to be one of the most interesting of the three parts. This could be because it’s the first part and the story begins here and viewers get a glimpse of what’s to come, giving much anticipation for the next two parts. Part one isn’t for the faint of heart as there is more blood and gore than your local butcher shop.
Part two takes us back to 1978, taking place at Camp Nightwing. We’re ushered into this period as if we’re being told a story, which is told by a key character who appears in the last few minutes of part one. Though these films jump around, it has a consistent flow from each part and maybe even too much backstory, not leaving much to the imagination for the final outcome. With that said, after watching part one, you can almost guess what’s going to happen in part two, as it’s more of a reiteration of what has already been explained.
To compare, part two resembles “Wet Hot American Summer” with loads of sex scenes amongst the raunchy campers. The only difference is there is murder… lots of murder, which is more similar to “Friday the 13th.” This part gives viewers more details of how the teens from part one could stop the curse, being that one survivor remains to be poked and prodded for answers.
Lastly, we reach part three, the start of it all. This part gives off heavy Salem witch trial vibes as we discover the truth behind the curse. As we know, in 1692, the Salem witch trials began when a group of girls accused several women of practicing witchcraft. Similarly, part three throws us for a loop, where two village women are accused of being witches, one of them possibly being the cause of this undetermined curse. Once again, the last part seems to just reiterate what we already know, with a few new pieces to complete the puzzle.
One of the key components of part three is Deena being transported back in time to see how this all started through the eyes of Sarah Frazier, the witch in question. We also learn that the curse heavily affects the success of Shadyside, due to a tie between the local Sheriff of Sunnyvale, Nick Goode’s (Ashley Zuckerman), ancestors and the murder of Sarah Frazier.
These films almost seem to be metaphorical for something much bigger than a theoretical witch haunting a dim town. Once we find out the truth of what fuels the murders and why Sunnyvale seems to become grander while Shadyside crumbles, we can’t help but think it’s another way of portraying superiority over a marginalized group. It could be a coincidence, but Sarah Frazier was more than likely hunted for being gay but there isn’t any other support that could label this as a hate crime. Overall, it’s giving viewers mixed messages of the purpose of this series.
In the past, we’ve seen works based on the Salem witch trials, where a select group was pinned for being witches, with a pattern of the accused being murdered out of spite. This was due to them either being different or not well-liked by certain individuals, thus making them an easy-target. What we see in this film is a few people coming together to accuse individuals they felt superior too and were convincing enough to get others on board with their murder.
Part two and part three seem to serve more as a visual to the brief stories mentioned about the curse that were told in part one. By part three, the films seem to be dragging. These films have potential to be great on their own, not as a trilogy. There’s an adequate amount of bloody graphics for the gore lover and enough drama and suspense to keep you entertained but overall, what these films need is to be broken up with separate plots. Though there is a lot to unpack, the trilogy could have got the point across within one film, leaving the other films to potentially be based on the first.
The “Fear Street” series is available to stream on Netflix.
By Mia Godorov