The following contains spoilers for Fear Street Part 1: 1994.
Netflix launched the first entry in the Fear Street trilogy over the holiday weekend, and the feedback (from what I can tell, at least) has been overwhelmingly positive. Horror fans seem delighted with director Leigh Janiak‘s surprisingly bloody throwback to the era of Scream, told through the lens of the teen-centric terrors conjured up in R.L. Stine paperbacks. 1994 has a big climax set in a grocery store, resulting in a shocking kill that’s both a feast for gore-fans while also being surprisingly emotional. And according to Janiak, we haven’t seen anything yet. The sequel, Fear Street Part 2: 1978, is going to be even bloodier.
I loved Fear Street Part 1: 1994 (my review is here), and I’m excited that it’s just the first in a trilogy. Even better is the fact that we don’t have to wait a year for the second entry – it drops this Friday. While Part One is set in the ’90s, Part Two will take viewers back to the ’70s, complete with a Friday the 13th-like summer camp setting. And you better believe there will be blood.
Speaking with IndieWire, director Leigh Janiak promised more of the red stuff is on the way. “We shot the second movie last, and by the time I got to that movie, I was so tired. I was so tired,” Janiak said. “Every time we had a scene with a kill or an attack, I was just like, ‘More blood, more blood, fucking let’s do this!’ There was no more negotiation, it was just like more, just do more.”
There’s plenty of blood in the first film, too. And Janiak manages to work surprisingly emotional beats into all the death and dismemberment. A lot of slasher movies of old would populate their casts with the most unlikeable characters possible. This was all part of the plan – the more unlikeable a character, the more we, the audience, can revel in their gory demise. But that approach can also backfire. If we don’t care about the characters dying, it’s hard to really care much about the film as a whole.
While watching the first Fear Street, I reached a point near the big climactic sequence where I assumed Janiak wasn’t going to bump off as many characters as one might expect. For one thing, the main characters had all survived up until this late point. For another, Janiak and company worked hard to make the characters fun and amiable. And just when my guard was lowered, the filmmaker pulled a fast one and unleashed a particularly gruesome sequence in which character Kate (Julia Rehwald) gets shoved head-first through a bread slicer.
A Head Wouldn’t Do That
While I enjoy buckets of movie blood as much as the next horror fan, I have to confess that Kate’s nasty death threw me for a loop. The gore-lover in me thought the sequence was wonderful, and not something I had really seen before in the many, many horror films I’ve watched over the years. But another part of me felt bad – I had grown to like Kate and her desperate pleas right before her head starts getting dissected stung me, emotionally.
And that, of course, is all part of the plan. Janiak said that she and her team did their homework before shooting the scene, ultimately deciding that while this death may not be realistic, it’s still plenty effective. “We did so much research going into it, because I was getting into all of these little arguments with my art department because they were like, ‘A head wouldn’t do that,’ and I was like, ‘I don’t care. We’re making a movie. This is fun. Whatever!’” Janiak said. “Then they bought a bread slicer and we put watermelons through it, and the first watermelon that went through just got sliced perfectly. Then they were like, ‘Well, it doesn’t have hair,’ I was like, ‘We’re doing this. We’re doing it.’ That’s my favorite for sure.”
But there’s a method to all this madness. “It’s shocking and sad because Kate is so likable and you’re so late in the movie and it’s just terrible for her,” Janiak said. “That was the thing, we needed to have real loss in order to keep us propelling forward.” I’ve seen Fear Street Part 2: 1978, and while I can’t really say anything about it just yet, I can tell you that Janiak finds new ways to conjure up bloody deaths that will make you surprisingly sad while also giving you all the gore you can sand. And if that’s not enough, we’ll all have Fear Street Part 3 to look forward to.
Fear Street Part 2: 1978 drops on Netflix July 9.
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