Fear Street Trilogy (2021)
The latest set of movies I watched was The Fear Street Trilogy on Netflix. It's based on the book series of the same name by R. L. Stine telling three stories in three different time periods all connected by a witch's curse. I'll give a SPOILER-FREE synopsis for each film. All three are directed by Leigh Janiak, with scripts co-written by her and Phil Graziadei. Is the trilogy movie magic or should it be burned at the stake?
First, they're surprisingly gory, I don't mind it in horror movies but this is a very hard R, not intended for kids who might be fans of Stine's Goosebumps series. You've been warned...
It all begins with a group of teenagers taking it upon themselves to figure out how to break the curse of an ancient evil witch responsible for a series of brutal murders in their hometown. It stars Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Julia Rehwald, Fred Hechinger, and Maya Hawke. I do feel Madeira and Welch were miscast but the rest are charming. Each character has a distinct personality. They learn through trial and error how to handle their predicament. What follows is a gruesome tale taking the usual slasher flick and adding a supernatural element. Many homages are made to classic horror movies of that time like Scream. Part of the fun is picking out the reenacted scenes. It does a good job of capturing that 90s esthetic. The soundtrack is a fun blast from the past despite most of the songs being released well after 94. The story kept me guessing. They blended humour throughout the horror as well. My only complaint is all the parents are noticeably absent creating a Peanuts situation. After this exceptional first entry, I had to see how the trilogy ended. That's saying something.
Overall, the directing, writing and acting in the first installment is excellent. This is also factoring in how entertaining it is and how eager I am to watch it again. It also enticed me to continue to the next film. What more could you ask for?
1994 Grade: Large Popcorn
This has a completely different feel because it takes place in a new setting with new characters for the most part. It's reminiscent of Friday the 13th because it takes place at a summer camp. It follows the story of two sisters trying to make it out alive while their friends, counsellors, and other kids at camp get brutally murdered one by one. This is more violent than the first installment and pushes the envelope by having young kids, not just teens, meeting their demise in shockingly vicious ways. It's told through flashbacks to the group of survivors from part 1. It stars Sadie Sink, who also starred in Stranger Things, Emily Rudd, Ryan Simpkins, McCabe Slye, Ted Sutherland, and Gillian Jacobs from Community. They asked Jacobs how she survived similar events in the past. This is where it gets troublesome because if one person is telling the story then how did she know what happened when she wasn't around other people in different locations? She tells information she couldn't have possibly known. For example, at one point the narrator's sister gets stuck in a cave. How could she know what happened to her in that cave if she wasn't with her? There is never a scene showing an exchange of information. These flaws are due to the narrative structure chosen. The characters aren't as likeable or memorable in the sequel. The acting isn't as good except for Sadie Sink. They do get that 70s vibe right though because it feels like older slasher flicks paying homage to slasher from that timeframe. The soundtrack amazingly fuels that feeling too. Once again, I had to see how the trilogy ended after coming this far despite it being weaker than its predecessor.
Overall, the writing gets sloppy and the acting isn't as good but the story is fun and has the nostalgic campy older horror feel to it. I think 1978 is above average. This is also factoring in my eagerness to finish the trilogy. Did the first two set the bar too high?
1978 Grade: Medium Popcorn
This takes us back to when the town was first settled and how the curse began. The cast from the original returns as ancestors to their present-day characters. This is a period piece, setting a tone and atmosphere far different than the prior films. Easily the most violent of the three, we see the origin story setting the stage for what was already presented. This has the best performances. The writing is stronger too because it fills in the gaps by answering many questions posed beforehand. As the mystery untangles the ending was actually very surprising and pays off in the end because everything comes full circle. I won't say how but enough is explained for a satisfying conclusion.
Overall, I like how each film has a completely different feel yet it feels like one big movie when binge-watching all three. Each ends on a cliffhanger making them more intriguing, keeping me interested. I was invested enough to see it all the way through. The final chapter reinvigorated my curiosity with pleasantly unexpected results. Factoring in how forced the final cliffhanger is in part 3 because it defies logic, the writing is better here. They managed to tie up all the loose ends for the most part.
1666 Grade: Large Popcorn
In the end, this trilogy is amazingly well done. All three films stand on there own and work even better together. The tonal shift between time periods is never jarring. After the first one you'll be hooked. They're a great throwback to older horror movies while simultaneously being a fresh take on the genre. I highly recommend these. I can see them being an annual viewing event for the Halloween season horror movie marathon I have each year. And remember, it's not diff-occult to see how wand-erful movie magic like this really does the trick.
Trilogy Grade: Extra Extra Extra Large Popcorn