Rated R for being all of the horror movies at the same time. There's a lot of grisly murder in this movie. It's a slasher, which is its own particular brand of gore. But it's also a witch cult movie, which means that there's devil stuff with mystic blood and all of that. There's also a heavy dose of sexuality, although there's no actual nudity in this one. Similarly, characters have some pretty racist tendencies and do some awful things to one another. This one is a well-deserved R-rating.
DIRECTOR: Leigh Janiak
I don't know why I sat on my hands for this one. I mean, maybe it is because I'm 38 and it feels weird watching slasher-horror movies. But I was deeply into the Fear Street books when I was a kid...in 1994. I'm really in that prime area of nostalgia demographic right now. I was recommended this by my sister-in-law, who absolutely loved the trilogy enough to recommend them to me. But while watching it, I was wondering if she was old enough to remember a lot of the things that were referenced in the movie. I mean, the movie goes out of its way to stress the fact that B. Dalton's is no longer a thing. (I hope you enjoy space, Jeff Bezos. Although, Daltons might have been dead by that point anyway.)
Fear Street was a way to show that you were grown up. I remember that my parents really fought me on reading these for the longest time. They were right to fight me on them. They were littered with really graphic violence and sex. But it wasn't reading Goosebumps. Goosebumps, when I was 11 years old in 1994, were for kids. Fear Street were for teenagers. I don't know if I wanted to read these books for myself or if I wanted to read them to prove that I wasn't a little kid to the school bullies anymore. But I finally got one and I binged the living daylights out of them. There's a weird point of pride for me with these books. I'm currently reading Lisey's Story by Stephen King and I don't know if I would be the horror nerd if it wasn't for the Fear Street books. I mean, these books were brutal. I felt like I was doing something horribly wrong by reading these books. Now, I can't tell you a darned plot of one of these books today if I tried. Despite the fact that they were my gateway drug to the enter horror genre, I just remembered that there was something forbidden about them and that was about it. If you want to know if the references in this movie are in conjunction with any R.L. Stine classics, I genuinely could not tell you. It's not like Fear Street had Slappy the Dummy as a mascot to help you remember.
But it is bizarre how many boxes this movie ticks. It's a lot. I almost binged them all in one sitting based on how much I liked the first one. It's a pretty solid horror movie in its own right. To complain a bit, the nostalgia comes into this movie a bit too hard. Man, it's weird to think that my hazy '80s memories (I was born in 1983) are being replaced with really vivid '90s memories. But it seems like the world of Fear Street: 1994 is the most hip version of 1994. Everyone is wildly self-aware of what the cool music of the era was. (I find it odd that there's never hip-hop in the nostalgia movies. That should be a thing.) But that being said, I'm now watching Part Two: 1978 and loving the '70s soundtrack, so I guess that it only applies to the generation you are completely on top of. But this is so much movie that it absolutely shouldn't work.
And do you know why I know that it shouldn't work? Because it's the basic plot of Goosebumps, only way more R-rated, which is on point for Fear Street. One Halloween, I sat in my movie theater / garage giving out candy. I wanted to put something Halloweenie on while not traumatizing kids. So I watched the first half of the Goosebumps movie. If you ignore the "how" of it all, both movies are about revisiting the big bads of the R.L. Stine respective universes. Instead of just being a creepy movie with a bad guy, these movies take advantage of the fact that they have a medium to show the great canon of these long running series. After all, the people behind the film can't guarantee that this is going to be the next mega hit. They don't have time to build up to an Avengers: Endgame, so they have to do it in the first movie. With Goosebumps, I was bored silly. I wasn't the target market (although I kind of was, but that's besides the point). But with Fear Street, despite the fact that I don't know about the litany of villains behind the world of Fear Street, the characters thrown in here seems pretty darned cool. And a lot of this comes from the writers. As rushed as 1994 feels at times, it actually is building a lot for a tight trilogy. This is really good trilogy writing, it seems. (I haven't finished 1978, so I'm assuming a lot.) But it is teasing so much and an oddly rich mythology for what should be this throw-away slasher film.
I'm probably going to go into some deeper political allegory with the second entry, but I love that Jordan Peele has made the horror movie an opportunity for political discourse. I'm going to give Fear Street the most backhanded compliment imaginable. Be aware, I come from a place of awe and respect, but the political commentary is fun, but almost hilariously obvious. It gets to be more so in the sequel / prequel. However, there is something to be said about the concept of privilege and how it spirals out of being part of the haves and the have nots. The city of Sunnyvale has never really dealt with violent crime. It's full of rich white kids who seem to succeed at everything. And then there's the town of Shadyside. Shadyside is Fear Street. Every single horrible thing in the Fear Street novels happens in Shadyside. (I don't remember if this is part of the books or not. Again, I have no memory of anything.) But the movie gives it a justification. Shadyside is economically unbalanced from its neighbor. While Shadyside isn't exclusively a Black community, it tends to be more racially diverse than the Sunnyvale. The mall is there and the students tend to have afterschool jobs. Everyone in Sunnyvale looks down on the people of Shadyside because they assume that the people there are causing their own misery. But from an outside perspective, there's the story of what it takes to make a community completely peaceful: removing any non-white elements from it. There's this concept of Color War that is repeated more in the sequel. But its there the entire time, just staring us in the eyes.
One of my professors (I have a theatre degree amongst other things) stated that art should have a purpose beyond entertainment. It needs to change an audience. Now, this is a guy who advocated for high art. You know me. I get snooty. Tomorrow's blog is going to be about 2001: A Space Odyssey for goodness' sake. But I almost like the fact that something like Fear Street decided not to treat itself as simply disposable material. It's going to reach a larger audience by making an entertaining as heck film and then saying something that needs to be said. There's a reason that violent crime keeps on happening in certain places and not in others. Now, it's a little dangerous to blame the whole thing on an ancient witch's curse. But even with that case, it ties back to the concept of women being oppressed, so that's something in itself.
I also have to applaud the fact that major characters die. Yes, 1994 is part of a tight trilogy. But it really felt like everything was going to be wrapped up in one movie, and then it pulled an It Follows. The plan shouldn't always work like it does in other movies. I don't think that a witch would intentionally give herself a set of weaknesses. Yes, I love that the movie played up archetypes and some of those characterizations are over-the-top. But that's also embracing the thing that made the '90s slasher movies so darned fun. It's so much that's just hitting right that it allows me to ignore the completely cornball conceit. Really, it just hits right. That's what good horror should do. There's planning and fun and silliness all balanced completely right. This movie is way better than it really should be and I adore it.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.