Summer horror aimed at teens has been a Netflix winner since Stranger Things debuted in July 2016. The latest from the streaming service is the Fear Street series, a trilogy of films based on the book series from author R. L. Stine’s (who also wrote the Goosebumps novels). There have been several attempts to adapt Stine’s Fear Street books before, but they either flopped or never got off the ground. However, Netflix’s films — which are titled by the years in which they take place: 1994, 1978, and 1666 — have been a hit, landing Fresh certifications on Rotten Tomatoes. But for those who are afraid of the dark, how scary are Netflix’s Fear Street movies?
Warning: Very mild spoilers for the Fear Street Trilogy follow. Considering Stine’s reputation and Netflix’s track record, one might assume Fear Street to be pretty tame. The Goosebumps books are aimed toward a kiddie crowd, and the adaptations of it have followed suit, with scares that are generally OK for all ages. Netflix is also considered to be pretty soft on horror; Stranger Things, for example, might have a Demogorgon or three and a Mind Flayer, but it’s not exactly FX’s American Horror Story. And while many readers will have memories of the Fear Street books being pretty freaky when they were teens, they aren’t books written for adults. These stories are not Stephen King’s It or Clive Barker’s Hellraiser.
And yet, the films are surprisingly scarier than one might anticipate. There’s a reason the movies landed an R rating, and it’s because they are remarkably intense.
The 1994 edition that opened the series might have a serial killer in a silly skull mask, but he is a knife-wielding terror. In terms of suspense and jump scares, the film is pretty compelling.
And then there’s the blood and guts factor. That’s what gained the films their R ratings, and in terms of gory terror, the movies deliver. Fear Street: 1978 brings a double-bladed axe to the murdering party at summer camp, and it’s not just for show. Not that one could exactly call these “slasher” films, but the long-bladed kitchen knife in 1994 does slash quite a bit as well.
That said, one wouldn’t exactly call any of these movies spooky. For that, the trilogy would need to take itself a bit more seriously than it does. (I mean, have you seen the costumes for Fear Street: 1666?) Even so, for those who think they’re coming in for a slightly harder Goosebumps landing, the atmospherics and the sense of dread will probably be enough to unsettle at least a few dreams.
Fear Street: 1994 and Fear Street: 1978 are already streaming on Netflix. Fear Street: 1666 arrives on Friday, July 16, 2021.