People are being murdered in Shadyside, Ohio. Regularly. In fact, if there’s a killer capital of the country it’s gotta be this unfortunate town.
Every decade or so, it seems that some new serial killer pops up in this grungy little place and gets busy swinging his or her bloody weapon of choice. That ongoing deadliness is particularly striking because one town over, in the lovely little town of Sunnyvale, you’ll rarely see anyone even jaywalking.
So, what’s the big difference? Is it corrupt goverment officials, bad families, global warming? What makes some Shadyside citizens go so bad?
If you ask some people in town they’ll tell you it’s all because of a certain one-handed witch. Uh huh. She’s a dark-souled woman who earned that nickname way back in the 1600s when she was about to be hanged for witchcraft. She lopped off her own hand, they say, for one last blood spell that cursed the town.
Those Shadyside sorts who spread that witchy rumor online, like high school teen Josh, believe it entirely. His sister Deena, however, doesn’t believe and couldn’t care less. To her all the bad stuff happening is just a case of life being terrible. Period. Her life in particular.
Deena’s dad is a drunk. Her school life is a sludge pool. Her friends are pushing illegal prescription drugs. And her closeted gay girlfriend, Samantha, just moved to Sunnyvale and is currently being openly fondled by the football team’s quarterback.
Soon enough, however, Deena’s angsty high school woes will seem minor, and her now empty love life will slide down on her list of worries. Because soon, Deena will find herself being dragged headlong into the current chapter of the one-handed witch’s curse.
Soon, there will be multiple killers running around and zoning in on Deena and her friends like heat-seeking missiles. Yep, very soon … Deena will believe.
Friends try to help other friends–after foolishly putting themselves and those friends in danger to begin with.
We see crosses on the front lawn of a church, but there’s really no Christian faith component in this mix. The main spiritual focus is on the witch, Sarah Fier, and her powerful curse cast in the 1600s. That curse is an all-powerful thing that seemingly cannot be broken. The witch’s bones are unearthed at one point and when someone touches those bones with bloody fingers, she sees flashing images of a screaming Sarah Fier.
A nursery rhyme-like verse about the witch says, “She reaches from beyond the grave to make good men her wicked slaves.” And it eventually becomes evident to Deena and her friends that all the serial killers in town were possessed by Sarah Feir’s revenge-seeking spirit. Several of those dead killers are magically resurrected and unleashed on Shadyside.
Simon, a friend of Deena’s, holds up an epipen and suggests that enough of them jammed into an overdosed person’s chest will bring them back to life. “Epinephrine brings her back, this is Jesus!” he says.
The main romance at play in the story is between Deena and her girlfriend Sam. The two talk at length about Sam’s reluctance to reveal her gay feelings. The girls eventually repair their relationship and kiss repeatedly. We see them dressed, but entwined and making out on a bed. They unzip each other’s pants in another makeout scene, but are interrupted. Later, they proclaim their love with a passionate kiss in front of Sam’s angry mother.
We also see other male/female teen couples making out in the school hallway. Deena’s nerdy brother Josh gets a quick kiss from his school crush Kate.
A guy squeezes the plastic breasts of his blow-up sex toy doll while making some crude comments about “her”. The camera watches closely as a guy grabs a girl’s backside with both hands. Deena’s friend Simon presses his bare backside up against a bus window. He also goes shirtless later and caresses himself in a bathroom mirror while only dressed in white undershorts. We see several young women in just bra and panties or bra with jeans.
Bloody death-dealing abounds. Multiple people are stabbed in the chest, back and head. Throats are slashed, as are legs, stomachs and torsos. We see the bloody aftermath.
We see several bloody bodies at various locales. A masked man with an axe viciously smashes through doors and windows and slams his weapon down into someone’s skull. Two different people are shot in the head. In one case, the victim gets back up with a blown-out eye and we see the hole heal over.
A teen has her head jammed into a multi-blade meat slicer and the camera examines the mushy outcome. Someone is forced underwater and she struggles, grasping and flailing in the process. We see several news reels, depicting people who have been murdered in various ways. And the camera examines sketch-like drawings of a woman hanging from a tree and cutting off her own hand. Teens paint a school hallway with bloody water to draw in ghoulish killers.
Someone ignites an aerosol spray as a flamethrower. Flammable liquids are used to start a massive fire which results in an explosion.
Thirty f-words and 25 s-words are joined by a handful of uses each of the words “a–hole,” “a–,” “d–n,” “b–ch” and “h—.” There are also uses of the words “lesbo,” “bull dyke” and “whore” in dialogue and music underscore, and exclamations involving crude references to male genitalia. There are more than 10 misuses of God’s and Jesus’ names (seven of those combining “God” with “d–n”).
Simon and Kate appear to be working together selling small baggies of prescription drugs to kids at school. They show Deena a hidden box full of pills and money. Kate even gets the young kids she babysits to help her bag up the various drugs. “And do not eat these,” she tells them after pouring out a pile of various pills. “These will make your little hearts stop and you’ll choke to death on your own vomit.”
We’re introduced to a nurse at the local hospital who supplies Kate with her drugs. And later, Simon breaks into the drug store where he works and steals lots of different prescription pills to help a girl purposely overdose like his brother once did. He walks her through all the various stages of her overdose. And we see her choking on the pills as she stuffs them into her mouth.
Someone jams a half dozen epipens into someone else’s chest in an effort to revive them after their heart stops.
We never meet Deena’s alcoholic father, but we do see her gather up his empty beer cans each morning. Kids smoke in a school parking lot. We catch a glimpse of cigarettes and a bag of weed on a desk by a school metal detector.
Simon gets excited about the “fun” side of a killer dressed in a skull mask. Josh steals candy bars. Kate and Josh steal an ambulance and Deena steals a police officer’s gun. Several people vomit at different times.
The just-releasing trilogy of Fear Street films (beginning here with Fear Street Part One: 1994) is based on a series of books by Goosebumps scribe R.L. Stine. Knowing that, it might give you the impression that this first horror pic in the series could perhaps be kid-friendly, family-friendly or, well, maybe at least people-friendly.
Let me suggest that you scrub that idea from your mind. Or maybe you should etch it from your brain with some industrial-strength hydrochloric acid. (Which seems completely appropriate given the cinematic context.)
There is indeed some R.L. Stine-like plot twists and inane horror pic humor to be found here. But in this case it’s the sort of extremely foul-mouthed, drug-abuse glorifying, sexually winking stuff (with very pro-LGBTQ content) that’s tailor-made to be what Hollywood believes a teen audience should be consuming nowadays, R-rating or no
Those movie-greenlighting producers are, however, sorely misled. The fact is, Fear Street Part 1 earns its technically teen-prohibiting R-rating on its brain-filleting gory content alone. Oh, and if you’re not a teen, I wouldn’t recommend you get within a dozen bloody axe handles of this flick either.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.