Fear Street Part 1: 1994 review: "New Netflix horror is a fun throwback slasher"

Fear Street on Netflix
(Image: © Netflix)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

A popcorn-friendly horror romp, Fear Street is a colorful addition to Netflix’s catalogue.

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Grab your duvet and your best friends, we’re going back to the ‘90s for this highly nostalgic throwback slasher. Fear Street Part 1: 1994 – an R-Rated adaptation of R. L. Stine’s novels – has been made with teenage sleepovers, squeamish first dates, and every other popcorn-friendly situation in mind. It’s a shame that such a kinetic horror movie will play on the small screen, but Leigh Janiak’s colorful ode to Scream will no doubt be a Netflix hit.

At least, the streamer hopes so. Three Fear Street movies are being released over consecutive Fridays – an interesting strategy that’s essentially turning this trilogy into a TV series. Whether the sequels can offer satisfying pay off remains to be seen, but, whatever the case, the first instalment works as a succinct story about young love, murderers, and curses.

Kiana Madeira leads the cast as Deena, a high schooler who lives in Shadyside (AKA "Shittyside"), a village afflicted by a severe case of serial killers. Every few years, a Shadysider goes on a murderous rampage, and Fear Street Part 1: 1994 starts with a slickly filmed, bloody sequence where a few mall employees meet their grisly end – and if you’ve seen the opening five minutes, already available on YouTube, then you’ll recognise one of the victims.

Fear Street

(Image credit: Netflix)

That’s just the first major Scream callback (perhaps it’s no surprise that director Janiak helmed two episodes of that iconic movie’s TV adaptation). And while the retreads of certain character tropes are predictable – yes, there’s a character who loves likening the nightmare situation to their favourite horror movies – Fear Street is progressive in other ways. 

At the centre of the story, Deena is pining after her ex, Sam, played by Olivia Welch, who has moved to the neighboring village of Sunnyside. The two are soon reunited and their push-pull relationship adds huge heart to the horror – a genre that has failed LGBTQ+ representation on many occasions. Fear Street puts this relationship at its center, progressing the horror pantheon that bit further.

Joining Deena and Sam are Benjamin Flores Jr.’s Josh, newcomer Julia Rehwald as Kate, and The Woman in the Window’s creepy kid Fred Hechinger as Simon. They make for a contagiously fun group who, though doing silly things like splitting up, at least try to justify their actions. There are moments where they become fully realised cliches, but the film’s forward momentum stops you from overthinking the situation.

With such a motley crew, plus this being a nostalgic flick, the Stranger Things comparisons are justified. Similar to how that Netflix series honed its ‘80s pastiche, Fear Street does similar with the ‘90s. Almost every needle drop will have watchers of a certain age going, “Ah, yeah, I remember that one,” though a few are slightly too on the nose – Radiohead’s “Creep” plays as Deena sulks on a bus ride, for instance.

In the end, that only adds to the blood-splattered tapestry Fear Street has woven. Some of the scenarios may be a little barebones, falling into the same issues as the superior It Follows, and the two leading performances verge on becoming mopey, but Fear Street will delight anyone wanting to sink into some ‘90s nostalgia or simply enjoy a Saturday night slasher. Plus, the ending nicely sets up the next instalment, which – fingers crossed – will be just as bloody fun.

Fear Street Part 1: 1994 is on Netflix from July 2, with the sequel Fear Street Part 2: 1978 available from July 9, and Part 3: 1666 streaming from July 15. In the meantime, be sure to check out the best horror movies of all time.

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Jack Shepherd
Freelance Journalist

Jack Shepherd is the former Senior Entertainment Editor of GamesRadar. Jack used to work at The Independent as a general culture writer before specializing in TV and film for the likes of GR+, Total Film, SFX, and others. You can now find Jack working as a freelance journalist and editor.