GORE IN THE STORE
FEAR STREET TRILOGY ****
Directed by Leigh Janiak. Starring Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Ashley Zukerman.
Now streaming on Netflix.
It used to be that back in the day you would have to physically move from your couch to travel to the nearest cinema or video library to watch the latest instalment of your favourite slasher film. Even then there were various factors at play that could stop you from seeing the latest escapades of Freddy, Jason or whatever misfit with a sharp household object and an unhealthy animosity to teenagers was hitting the screens or shelves that week. If the film was not sold or rented out before you got there, there was always the chance the staff would recognise that you were not actually old enough to watch these certificate 18 exercises in bloody terror. How things have changed in this age of streaming then that with the flick of a button on our remote control or laptop we can settle down and watch an entirely new trilogy of slashers with enough gory teenage kills committed by a number of masked killers to remind us of how things used to be.
Making an impressive leap from the low budget, claustrophobic horror HONEYMOON to this interlinked, sprawling trilogy director Leigh Janiak has crafted, with the inspiration of R.L. Stine’s series of young adult novels, a series of films that pay homage to the slasher genre in a large number of ways whilst splicing it with a 21st century sensibility. Telling the tale of a witch’s curse that has plagued the small town of Shadyside with a glut of horrific murders committed through the years by a number of mask wearing maniacs of all shapes and sizes, we find ourselves at first in 1994. High school rebel Deena soon finds herself embroiled in a plot trying to save her cheerleader girlfriend from a skeleton suited killer all the while discovering the evil legacy of her hometown and the witch Sarah Fier who placed a curse on it. From here we zip back to 1978 in the second instalment involving an ill-fated summer camp then all the way back to 1666 where we witness the origin of Sarah Fier’s curse.
Right from the off it is noticeable that Janiak is being reverential to the genre. Beginning with SCREAM’S trick of taking a recognisable actress with a cordless phone and putting her through the wringer, we also witness tributes to nearly every other slasher film whether it’s FRIDAY THE 13th with its summer camp under attack from a hooded sack wearing killer or even THE WITCH with its 1666 tale of a small community turned inside out by an unseen supernatural menace. At first, with the help of its constant 90’s soundtrack this all seems a little too on the nose and a bit obvious, relying a bit heavily on the point that modern day attitudes to sexuality and race can now be used to portray characters as fully rounded and not just as potential victims who would have been punished for their so-called transgressions back in the less permissive 1970’s and 80’s.
As the story progresses through the films however the overall story knits together nicely as details and further back story of the town and its residents is revealed. Despite the usual Netflix curse of over long storytelling in places the pace picks up more and more as it moves along, leading to a barnstorming climax that takes us back to the nineties with a reckoning long coming to Shadyside and its seemingly perfect neighbouring rival town Sunnyvale.
For long-time fans of the genre this is a welcome reminder of that golden age of slasher cinema, whilst for younger audiences it may well act as a gateway drug for it, leading them on to discover it in all its gory variety. There is also a surprisingly nasty edge on display throughout that keeps the viewer on edge when the realisation that no character is really safe here. That viciousness results in some truly impressive gore, death by bread slicer being a prime example, that recalls the imagination and ingenuity that the likes of Tom Savini brought to many a kill scene back in the day.
Janiak has crafted a truly impressive piece of horror storytelling here with a nicely emotional and humorous coda and like the best slashers it teases us with the possibility of more with its final shot. The FEAR STREET trilogy is one of the strongest Netflix horror features in some time. Here’s hoping it gets enough likes or whatever algorithmic data Netflix uses instead of box office or video library rentals to justify a follow up trilogy.
Changed days indeed.