R.L. Stine’s more adult series gets a three-film deal and the results are pretty solid.
If you grew up in the 90s, you probably saw Goosebumps books constantly. You might even have watched the television show which managed to last four seasons. It was a big deal for kids. At the same time, R.L. Stine was also releasing a series of books aimed at older kids and young adults called the Fear Street series. The books took place in a town called Shadyside which was cursed due to a family named the Fiers, later the Fears, burning a family called the Goodes at the stake for witchcraft, falsely. Now Shadyside is filled with malicious spirits and killers. The film trilogy follows a similar premise, but focuses more on the serial killers that inhabit Shadyside, dubbing it the murder capital of the US, and explores it through three different time periods.
In 1994, a random mall employee seemingly snaps and kills his girlfriend and several other people before being killed. This is considered a normal thing in Shadyside, whereas its neighbor town, Sunnyvale, is filled with success and peace. Deena Johnson (Kiana Madeira) has recently broken up with her closeted girlfriend Sam (Olivia Scott Welch), who has moved to Sunnyvale. Deena’s brother, Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) is obsessed with the town’s history and the fact that it was cursed by the witch named Sarah Fier before her execution in 1666. After a car crash involving Sam and Deena, Sam is now being stalked by the murderers that have plagued Shadyside since the 17th Century. Unfortunately, law enforcement, particularly Sheriff Goode (Ashley Zukerman), doesn’t believe in ghosts. Deena, Josh, and their friends end up thwarting the attack by killing Sam and reviving her, only for Sam to become possessed and be the next killer. The only thing that might save them is talking to the only survivor of another massacre in 1978 (Gillian Jacobs) and finding out what connection that murder has to the modern one, then figuring out the real truth of the events of 1666.
I have to credit Netflix for the ambition of filming three movies set in three different time periods and releasing them as part of one long film. Each one feels a little different, not just because they’re in different time periods, but because they often feel like different kinds of horror films. The 90s one heavily involves the undead slashers pursuing the kids who are relatively genre savvy, much like Scream. The 1978 film features a classic summer camp killer in the vein of Friday the 13th. The 1666 film addresses the Puritan witch hunts where many women were accused less because of any ability, but more because the towns need a scapegoat or to keep order. The final one also manages to wrap up the plot of the 1990s film in the process, literally feeling like two complete films that tie together solidly. The horror is well done, the performances are better than I would have expected for a young adult horror series, and, again, the scope of the story is impressive.
Overall, I really recommend the films if you liked the Fear Street books or even Goosebumps, but know that it’s a bit scarier than the latter.
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