R.L. Stine’s Fear Street is Netflix’s newest trilogy of slasher flicks, and despite its teen-scream inspirations, it’s shaping up to be a stand-out horror experience that perfects upon the standard formula. Yes, the main plotline focuses on a group of teenagers getting ritualistically picked off by a series of killers, but what lies beneath is so much more.
Fear Street (at least the first installment) deserves to stand alongside such smash hits as Halloween, Scream, and A Nightmare On Elm Street. It has all the trimmings and trappings of an ’80s or ’90s slasher, but it improves the formula to the point modern horror films should start taking notes.
10 Characters Feel Like Real People
While the film’s leads do fall into the tropes of nerd, slacker/stoner, final girl, and so on, they don’t use those roles as their entire identity. Their character types are purposeful, and each has a standout personality that separates them from other horror victims. But the most important thing is that they feel like grounded humans rather than targets for the killer.
Relatability will always get a movie points, no matter the genre. And chances are, viewers can identify at least one person they know that resonates with the characters if not themselves. That way, they’ll be more emotionally invested when said characters get axed off.
9 Nostalgia Isn’t A Gimmick
Netflix’s Stranger Things did it first, then others followed. However, Fear Street’s use of a nostalgic age isn’t the star of the show, more like an aesthetic or theme. This way it becomes more of the film’s identity and setting rather than its main selling point.
Apart from a few design choices and set pieces, the ’90s aren’t really hammered into the film or forced into the viewer’s face. Little winks and nods like the Castlevania game are perfect for viewers who grew up with them, but they aren’t jammed as critical points. Everything happens naturally and without much coercion.
8 The Genre Is Referenced But Respected
Right out of the gate, Fear Street knows it’s a horror movie. When the opening scenes are direct references to Scream, it’s pretty much a tell-tale sign of the film being self-aware. However, it leaves its meta-horror elements there and moves on. The rest is practically a respectful tribute to the slasher genre.
Some bits and bobs are callbacks to movies like Friday the 13th but it never ventures into parody territory at all. It’s a film that takes the genre seriously and knows exactly what it’s doing at all times, a feat hardly seen by its modern contemporaries.
7 There’s A Wider Audience Appeal
It might be inspired by R.L Stine’s more mature series, but it has appeal for horror fans both young and old. The bright colors and blatant classic horror themes might bring in the younger viewers, but the graphic visuals and intense plot will keep the older ones glued to the screen.
True, there are the typical teen-scream elements present in the first half, but once the threat of the Witch’s curse takes hold, that’s when things take a dark and twisted turn. It has different levels of intensity that can ease newcomers into the genre but keep long-time fans invested for the long haul.
6 A Sense Of Balance
One thing the film does that many modern slashers seem to have forgotten how to do is balance its horror elements. It’s tense when it needs to be, light when it needs to be, and everything in between. It’s not a constant series of grisly murders but it’s not a tongue-in-cheek meta-narrative either.
It’s a scary movie, but it knows it’s a scary movie. That being said, it also knows its audience and what they will look for in terms of storytelling. Still, it’s able to use all its elements to deliver a solid final product.
5 Confidence In Identity
This is a big win for Fear Street, as well as being one of the biggest factors separating it from other Scream knock-offs. The film knows it might be compared to other slashers, but it goes out of its way to establish its own identity so that particular pothole is avoided. By creating its own world and lore, it establishes itself outside the particular horror film.
The movie feels genuine at all times, and it doesn’t rely on gimmicks or pandering. It sticks to the choices it makes and commits to the act.
4 The Curse Has Reasoning
Mixing a slasher movie with the supernatural was a bold choice to make, but not without reasoning. By having the film’s group of killers being fueled by an ancient curse, the danger is given more depth than just a typical freaky night for the teenage victims.
The curse of Sarah Fiers gives the killers a reason to exist. They aren’t escaped mental patients, evil spirits, or monsters freed from a cursed book or board game, but rather puppets in a darker, overarching narrative that helps the series progress into a full trilogy. It’s not forced, it’s not contrite, and it helps further the story, so the filmmakers made the right call with this one.
3 The Killers Are Simple Yet Effective
No slasher movie would be complete without one masked maniac at the helm, but Fear Street gives viewers a full assortment of killers to contend with. But what makes them classic is that they all feel real within this universe, and not something created by other hands or means.
Using the three killers with the most screen time as examples, these victims of Sarah’s curse are composed of what their environments had to turn them into slashers. They aren’t elaborate, but they’re still identifiable and definitely scary. Sometimes less is more.
2 The Scares Are Well Executed
Far too many horror films rely on jump scares and cheap tricks to get their scare factor in, but this series is shaping up to be a solid entry in terms of suspense, story, and substance for a truly classic horror film. Fear Street’s kills and scares are perfectly spread and allow the audience a chance to catch their breath between scenes.
The kills and scares are balanced, suspenseful, and just gory enough without going into overkill. The old sting never dulls viewers to the new one, and everything is delivered in a sharp and precise way.
1 It’s Never Too Meta
The film is already set in the blacklight glow of the ’90s and its primary killer wears a Halloween costume and sports a sharp knife. There’s no way it wouldn’t be compared to movies like Scream, but luckily it avoids comparison by limiting its meta flavor to just the opening scene.
It knows it’s a horror movie, but it’s not self-aware. There is arguably some commentary present, but it isn’t the star of the show. It’s a horror film that sets out to be a classic slasher flick, and that’s exactly what it accomplishes all in the first entry. Hopefully, the sequels will be just as enticing and engaging.
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