The Fear Street series, originally written by R.L. Stine, thrives off subversion.
So much about this trilogy rejects typical horror tropes. As a newcomer to horror, I was nervous but excited to watch Fear Street. My intrigue won out. It seemed presumptuous to consecutively release all three films on Netflix in the weeks of July – usually one of the lowest months of horror releases. Surely, you’d wait for reviews before even thinking of filming the sequel. But no, the Fear Street crew already knew they had three hits.
Alongside the subverting conventions of publication comes the subverted expectations of chronology. The films are Fear Street Part 1: 1994, Fear Street Part 2: 1978, and Fear Street Part 3: 1666. Typically, it would be the other way around, but the team knew EXACTLY what they were doing. They pull you in with Part 1, and up the tension with Part 2. Then they finish it all off by hitting you with a major plot twist in Part 3. You cannot watch them chronologically by date without completely ruining the impact of the story. The full tale MUST be experienced through jigsaw pieces of flashbacks and storytelling.
Much of the series has a focus on misdirection, as well as subversion. We’re told from the very beginning that Sarah Fier is the witch, and we never doubt this. This is unlike typical horror movies where the killer is a mystery, or you listen to doors slam for half an hour before realising there’s a ghost. It isn’t until halfway through 1666 that we realise there’s a lot more than anticipated. That’s why we need the subversion of chronology. For the reveal to be as impactful, we must fight against our nature to follow a linear timescale.
The line between good and evil is also majorly subverted. The trilogy is set in Shadyside, the ‘murder capital of the US’. Here, the people are underprivileged and battling their demons. The neighbouring town, Sunnyvale, is safe and privileged. The teenagers there have a future. The teenagers in Shadyside are at risk of going on a murder spree. Yet, in truth, the residents of Sunnyvale are the cruellest. They call their less-privileged counterparts ‘Shadyside Trash’ and enjoy flaunting their superiority. In the series, it’s the kids who deal drugs who have the most courage, and it’s the cops, who’re meant to protect and serve, who don’t listen to people who need their help.
The final, beautiful matter of subversion is that of the characters. Throughout the series, the main characters are people of colour, who, in horror, are usually stereotyped. In Fear Street, they’re not tokenistic, or the first to die. Instead, they’re the most important characters. Alongside this, queer characters exist! LGBTQ+ characters are a rarity in this genre, but again, Fear Street ignores the typical horror path and puts queer romance at the forefront.
If you haven’t already watched the Fear Street trilogy, then what are you doing? They bring a touch of Halloween to Summer, and I cannot hype them up enough