The seventeenth entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series is actually a trilogy of films, Leigh Janiak’s Fear Street: 1994, 1978 and 1666. The town of Shadyside is cursed. Mysterious deaths and murders have been occurring there for years and the legend of evil witch Sarah Feir being at the heart of the curse has been passed down through generations. Deena Johnson (Kiana Madeira) doesn’t believe in any of that and is trying to get over her breakup with her closeted girlfriend Sam (Olivia Scott Welch). When Deena and her friends actually get involved with one of the murders, they discover that the curse may just be real. The trilogy jumps between the 1994 narrative to 1978, to see how another generation is dealing with the curse, and finally to 1666 to see where it all began. Will Deena and her friends be able to end the murderous curse in Shadyside? Or will they too fall victim to the curse of Sarah Fier?
Personally, these films just hit all of the right buttons for me. The story is well-fleshed out and, with three films, is able to delve deeper into areas than most slashers can in just one film. Filming them all at once obviously helps give them a very smooth flow and transition as you jump to the next section. I absolutely loved the world that Janiak has created here. It has the nostalgia of a show like Stranger Things but doesn’t beat you over the head with it. Some have been quick to point out a few historical inaccuracies, such as a particular song being released after 1994, etc. And to that, I simply say, I don’t care. I’m not watching these for a history lesson on the music that was playing on the radio on one particular evening in 1994. These films are incredibly enjoyable and entertaining, and that is more than enough for me.
Naturally, the 1978 film was my favorite, as slasher films from the 1970s and 1980s are my usual go-to for horror, but each film is excellent in its own way. 1994 clearly shows the influence of films like Scream and the other teen slashers of the decade, while 1978 is focusing on the campground slasher model of the Friday the 13th series. There are so many fun references throughout that highlight important horror classics, that you will find yourself greatly anticipating what comes next.
The teen cast is another element of this trilogy that works phenomenally well. Unlike most slasher films, where a decent chunk of the teens are irritating and grating, I absolutely loved all of the teens in this, particularly the main cast of the 1994 film. It is also fun to see the same actors play different characters in the other films as you see them in different time periods. While the accents in the 1666 section may not be the best, some are even a bit comical, they still do a decent job exploring the themes of the trilogy. Madeira as Deena is a particular standout as the entire trilogy rides on her shoulders. She proves that she is capable of taking the reins and holding everything together.
One of the things that stands out the most for me in this trilogy is the tremendous amount of queer representation. The entire trilogy is focused on the queer relationship between Deena and Sam. As the trilogy’s lead, Deena goes against the traditional white heterosexual girl that is most common in slasher narratives. Instead, we have a complex and proud lesbian character that is simply existing. This is not a story of her queer trauma or an exhausting coming-out narrative. This is simply the story of Deena and her friends and how they deal with the violence in their town. While that may not seem incredibly exciting, you need only to think of literally every mainstream slasher film that has been released. How many have featured an out queer lead? Exactly. That this simple characterization is so progressive is astonishing and hopefully it will lead to more horror films being released by the big studios featuring queer protagonists.
If you have not seen these films already, they are an absolute must-watch this Halloween season. As they’re simply streaming on Netflix, they’re very easily accessible and are perfect for a fun binge session with friends. By the films receiving decent ratings, I sincerely hope that Leigh Janiak is given the chance to expand the trilogy into something larger. Personally, I would love a new trilogy of these every summer.
I’ll be back tomorrow with another exciting entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!