Fear Street – The Netflix Trilogy

Rating:

BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS

Mr. Mayhew Blumengroh, my editor on my new memoir, Veni, Vidi, Vicki! Has been hard at work creating an absolute literary masterpiece from boxes of old press clippings, some abortive attempts at a diary from sometime in the mid 1970s, and me carrying around a Dictaphone and recording reminiscences of my fabulous life on stage and screen as they occur to me.  I was at a little bijouterie on Rodeo Drive the other day looking at some accessories for my next awards show appearance when I was reminded of an absolutely hilarious story about the time Tallulah Bankhead and I went swimming in the canals of Venice and I felt so fortunate that I could turn my little machine on right then and there and capture the moment.  I’m not sure the salesperson was as entranced as I was so I felt a bit guilty and ended up buying a divine set of cloisonne earrings shaped like the Matterhorn which I’m sure will be the perfect complement to my formal dirndl. 

MNM memoir comic sans
Doesn’t it look terribly elegant?

At the end of the day, I turn my audio files over to Phoebe, my new intern, who translates them into lovely prose using an enchanting font which I believe is called Comic Sands (I wonder if it’s named after darling Julian?) and then takes the pages over to Mayhew for processing and integration in the ever growing work.  His current draft is now something over 900 pages.  I didn’t know I had packed that much living into my ever youthful thirty-nine years.  We may have to take out some of my stories of the studio system in the forties and fifties as they would belie my professional age.  I’ll talk to Angie Lansbury about it.  We started at MGM at about the same time and she probably has a few ideas about how to remain eternally young in the eyes of the American public.

Something called the Delta Dawn variable is shutting down business again.  It’s all so dreary.  Fortunately, we here at my in-home production studio at Condo Maine have learned all about how to keep free from infection in the work place.  I’ve even had a billboard put up on Sunset with a large picture of me in costume from The Story of Louisa Pasteur (in which I played the famous doctor’s daughter, and real brains of the family) and a large headline Vicki’s a Vaxxer!  I will do my best to promote public health even if the sign has become a site of a daily protest by an anti-vaccination church group.  There’s no such thing as bad publicity, even if the congregants keep lobbing water balloons filled with red paint at my face.  The sign company has had to go out four times so far to remove what looks like blood stains from my cleavage.

fear street part one poster

With all of my projects, I simply haven’t had as much time to head for the cinema as I might like.  I have managed to spend a little time in the home theater with the Netflix and recently fell across a trio of films entitled Fear Street.  I originally was going to review these as three separate films, but after watching them, I came to the realization that they’re really all the same movie, just divided, like Gaul, into three parts. Therefore, this column will cover Fear Street: Part One 1994, Fear Street: Part Two 1978, and Fear Street: Part Three 1666

Originally, I thought that the numbers were street addresses and that it might be about three haunted houses a few blocks apart, but it turns out that they are the dates in which each of the films is principally set.  (All three of the films go back and forth between the three time periods somewhat which can get a bit confusing, but the filmmakers have included helpful visual cues in the cinematography such as a glowing neon palette for the 90s, a golden sepia outdoors look for the 70s, and a stark high contrast grainy look for the 17th century). 

Fear Street part two 1978 poster

Fear Street: Part One, the 1994 edition, introduces us to two neighboring towns – Sunnyvale and Shadyside.  Where Sunnyvale is the idyllic wealthy suburb, Shadyside is gritty and urban and full of malevolence.  We begin at the Shadyside mall where a young man goes crazy, dons a ghost costume and stabs a number of other employees to death before being killed by the cops.  This is apparently normal behavior for Shadyside, murder capital of the United States. 

We then switch over to young Deena (Kiana Madeira), Shadyside high schooler and budding lesbian who’s girlfriend Sam (Olivia Welch) has recently moved to Sunnyvale with her family.  The course of true love is not running smooth and, at a football rivalry game cum memorial for the mall victims, the two kind of get back together to the consternation of Sam’s new boyfriend (Jeremy Ford) who chases the couple and their friends Kate (Julia Rehwald), Simon (Fred Hechinger) and Deena’s little brother Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) causing a car accident.  This leads to stalking and murders in a hospital, stalking and murders in a high school, and stalking and murders in a supermarket.  They begin to figure out that there’s a witch in the distant past whose curse causes those in the present to kill as part of her revenge on the people who had her executed. The surviving kids track down a Ms. Berman who was involved and survived a previous Shadyside massacre and turn to her for help.

fear street part three 1666 poster

In Part Two 1978, Deena and her friends find Ms. Berman (Gillian Jacobs) and ask her for guidance.  She tells them of the Camp Nightwing massacre that took place when she was a young girl (Sadie Sink) at the camp along with her sister Cindy (Emily Rudd) when Cindy’s boyfriend Tommy (McCabe Slye) became an axe-wielding lunatic chasing after campers in the woods.  More is revealed about the history of the witch and other Shadyside psycho murderers over the years.  

Part Three 1666, transports us back to 1666 when the witch, Sarah Fier (also played by Kiana Madeira as Deena is witnessing the past through her eyes after reuniting a severed hand with a corpse – don’t ask) is a young girl wrongly accused.  The rest of the cast all turn up playing Puritan ancestors of their modern characters which I guessed saved the production on salaries.  Young Sarah is also a lesbian in a budding relationship which more or less turns people against her and leads to her demise, but not before Deena learns a lot about witchcraft and curses. 

We then return back to 1994 and the mall where the modern characters take on the various psycho killers and the powers that made Sunnyvale rich and tranquil and which held Shadyside back.  Good triumphs over evil, but not without sacrifice.

The Fear Street films were all made together pre-pandemic for theatrical release in 2020-21 but, with the significant issues in theatrical exhibition of motion pictures, they were eventually sold to Netflix for streaming instead.  They are based on R. L. Stine’s books of his Fear Street series of which there are many.  Stine is the Stephen King of Young Adult fiction and these books were intended for tweens and older with a good deal more gore and evil than his earlier work in the Goosebumps series for younger children.  I haven’t read them and, based on this film adaptation, I shan’t be rushing out to purchase copies. That’s not to say that there aren’t decent things in these films, they just aren’t greater than the sum of their parts.

The performances are perfunctory.  There’s no real standout in the cast.  Kiana Madeira has the most to do and there’s nothing wrong with anything she does, it’s just that she makes no real impression, despite carrying six hours worth of film.  Some of the supporting players make more of an impression, Fred Hechinger as a hyperactive drug dealer makes the most of his bits for instance.  The only actor I recognized was Sadie Sink, Max in Stranger Things.  She’s playing pretty much the exact same character here so I can’t say she shows much dramatic range.  A lot of Fear Street made me think of that TV show – and I’m pretty sure they were using the same mall set, only slightly redressed.

Six hours of slasher film is a little much.  Each of the three chapters could have been tightened down to about 90 minutes from two hours without losing much of anything.  At the current length, it all feels a bit like overstuffed sausage about to burst their casings.  The writers (Phil Grazidei, Leigh Janiak and Kate Trefry) and director (also Janiak) obviously love the genre and the films are full of referential bits to the classics of the genre with nods to Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and American Horror StoryAt times, they’re all being so gosh durn clever with their nods that it just becomes too much and it takes you right out of the story.

If the pandemic blues are keeping you in and you have six hours to kill, there are worse things you could do with your time than watch these (and fans of slasher horror should watch them for all the in jokes) but there are also better films and TV series out there to take up that time.

Mall tree. Severed hand. Stuck security grills. Death by bread slicer. Gratuitous pig Cesarean. Thrown barrels. Pit toilet tunnels. Whacko nurse. Mysterious family power. Demonic possessions. Capture the Flag.

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