Review: 'Fear Street Part One: 1994' kicks horror trilogy off in style

A masked killer is on the loose in this lively (and bloody) homage to 'Scream,' the first part of Netflix's rapid fire 'Fear Street' trilogy.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

It's not really a spoiler to say that Maya Hawke doesn't last long in "Fear Street Part One: 1994." This blatant homage to "Scream" — spooky masked killer knocking off self-aware teens in a highly-stylized hyper reality? Yep! — cuts so deep that it offs its biggest star in its opening minutes. Because of course it does.

But there are good "Scream" clones and bad ones, and "Fear Street" — which is based on R.L. Stine's series of books — gets it right. This opening chapter in Netflix's ready-made trilogy ("Part Two: 1978" arrives July 9, "Part Three: 1666" will be here July 16) is a clever, fun, gory teenage splatter fest that isn't afraid to put an axe through the skull of one of its lead characters, or send another one's head through a bread slicer. It's a killer good time. 

The masked killer in "Fear Street Part 1: 1994."

Kiana Madeira stars as Deena, a high schooler in Shadyside, Ohio, a dark town that is plagued with a history of violent killings. But that trauma is nothing compared with the drama of a lovesick teenager, and Deena's in the dumps over the breakup with her ex-, Sam (Olivia Welch), who moved to neighboring Sunnyvale and to make matters worse is now dating a boy. 

The murder of a teenager at the local mall (sorry, Maya) means another killer is on the loose in town, a Shadyside tradition dating back to the 1600s. Deena's little brother Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) is piecing together clues about the murders (it's the early '90s, so he's an early adapter to the internet) and along with a small crew of friends — including a not-quite-reunited Deena and Sam, attempting to iron out their issues — sets out to end the town's curse for once and for all. 

Director Leigh Janiak, who directed two episodes of MTV's "Scream" TV series, has a flair for horror and keeps the pacing lively. The soundtrack is jam-packed with '90s era gems from Radiohead, Cypress Hill, Bush, Portishead and more (the Prodigy and Garbage cuts are a touch anachronistic for 1994, but it can slide), and the young cast is fresh-faced and welcome. It's more of a spiritual successor to "Scream" than most of its sequels; from beyond, Wes Craven is smiling.


'Fear Street Part One: 1994'


Rated R: for strong bloody violence, drug content, language and some sexual content

Running time: 107 minutes

On Netflix