Netflix takes on RL Stine’s ‘Fear Street’ horror books for three new movies – Pasadena Star News


RL Stine has produced over 150 books under his “Fear Street” banner, and these teen horror books have sold over 80 million copies. When Leigh Janiak was given the reins to bring “Fear Street” back to theaters in 2017, however, the way forward was dark, creepy, and unclear.

Janiak, who had made a low budget indie horror film and a few horror television episodes, was hired to make a series of three films that could be binged and played back to back. There weren’t any other specific mandates, so she sat down with four other writers and said, “How do we make the audience feel like there’s a reason for this beyond just one? gadget?

The first thing Janiak and his team did was put Stine’s stories aside to create their own. The films open with a new series of murders in Shadyside, the wrong side of the tracks, where the lower class perpetually live in the shadow of Sunnyvale, land of milk and honey. When demons from the past are inadvertently brought back to life, five teenagers must try to put things right before more and more people die.

The first two films, set in 1994 and 1978, recognize and sometimes subvert horror conventions, following in the footsteps of classic slasher films of those eras; the third, which takes place in 1666, is less a horror film than a variation of Arthur Miller’s play “The Crucible”. Most of the key players appear in at least two or even all three films, which Janiak shot for 106 days.

It made for a surreal experience, says Janiak. “I was having a conversation with actors saying, ‘I know this is crazy, but let’s try to stay as grounded as possible. If an undead killer came after you or someone who had just chopped off your friend’s head, what would you do? “

The uniformly excellent cast includes names like Gillian Jacobs, Maya Hawke, and Ashley Zukerman, but is led by Kiana Medeira, Benjamin Flores Jr., and Olivia Welch.

While the trilogy might not be as ambitious as Jordan Peele’s “Get Out”, it has a lot more to it than the average horror series. The action-packed movies feature plenty of scares and a healthy (but not obscene) dose of gore, along with humor and a great soundtrack, but what adds weight to the narrative are the fully fleshed out characters. … At least until the ax meets the flesh. Their stories illuminate themes examining gender dynamics, gender identity, class and power, as well as misinformation and mob violence.

  • Here is a scene from “Fear Street Part 1: 1994” starring Maya Hawke. (Photo: Netflix)

  • Here’s a scene from “Fear Street Part 1: 1994” starring Benjamin Flores Jr. (Photo: Netflix)

  • Here is a scene from “Fear Street Part 1: 1994”. (Photo: Netflix)

The first film is released on July 2sd, the others will follow the following Fridays. Janiak recently explained to Zoom how she and “Fear Street” were shaped by “Psycho”, “The Man Who Sold The World” and “The Knick”. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q. Have you always liked scary stories and movies?

Yes. My first interaction with horror was in 5th grade sleepovers where we sneakily rented VHS tapes, like “Child’s Play” and “Nightmare on Elm Street”. My mom said, ‘Slasher movies, blah. You’re going to watch Hitchcock. So for my 6th birthday party, we rented “Psycho”, which was so much more [messed] higher than Chucky.

I was a huge fan of the Fear Street and Christopher Pike books. Then “Scream” came out when I was 16, and it blew me away. Stephen King was another. The Fear Street books hint at things, but Stephen King is next level for what his books have done to me. It’s a whole different world of discomfort and fear. I reread “It” a few years ago and I still feel uncomfortable; it’s weird and subversive but i love it.

Q. Your stories are not from Stine’s books.

There are hundreds of these books, all their own little stories, with no unifying mythology. So it was about how to preserve the spirit of the books – the fun and the crazy things that happen – while telling a full story that seems to have a driving force. We wanted you to feel that with each movie you are learning a new piece of the puzzle, not just to hover or revisit the story we just saw.

We’ve kept Shadyside and the Goode and Fier families, but we’ve built a mythology from the ground up – it’s provided us with this opportunity to make films that are actually about something.

Q. These movies are very different from recent horror movies.

One of the reasons I was so interested in the project is that the horror for the last decade has been very dark, I call it ‘blow your head’ movies that drag you down. I didn’t mean to do porn torture. These films gave me the opportunity to bring some fun back to horror films.

For me, the excitement of placing them in the ’90s and’ 70s was that we could nod to the beat of the horror movies of each period. There are edges of sex in the first movie – the moment Deena and Sam hook up comes straight from “Scream”, but in the 70s movie I thought, “You need a little bit of nudity. here – it’s the 70s and it’s a whole different ball game.

By creating the scares and the gore, I watched movies that I liked and thought to myself, ‘How would they deal with this?

But it had to be given a purpose, so it wasn’t just pure nostalgia and homage. It was a balancing act of watching what traditional movies would do and letting all of our action come from our characters and thematic ideas.

So it was exciting when we cracked the idea that Shadyside and Sunnyvale would be this microcosm of systemic oppression and our killers would be representative of that. It all came down from there to the idea that our characters could all be outsiders, versions of The Other. It motivated everything else. These are characters that usually don’t exist in mainstream horror movies… and if they do, they die very quickly. When a black actor told his mother he was chosen for this, she asked, “Oh, when are you dying?”

Q. Were you nervous about the move to 1666, which is less overtly a horror film and takes over with a third set of characters, but this time in period costume and with accents?

It was really scary. I think the costume department wanted to assassinate me. They had a lot of colors and I felt like we were going to look like a do Renaissance, so I decided our palace should be neutral. My worst nightmare is that we end up watching a high school theatrical performance of “The Crucible”.

You look at period pieces, and they often keep you at a distance. I wanted it to be very immediate, not stuffy, I used portable cameras to get the point of view of the character. I watched Terrence Malick’s “The New World” and Steven Soderbergh’s “The Knick” series, which had camera coverage that did an amazing job of making it feel modern.

Q. Music, especially “The Man Who Sold the World”, is crucial in the films of 1994 and especially of 1978. How expensive was it to get a license for all of these songs??

“The Man Who Sold the World” was the first song I wrote in the scripts. But as I was writing it, I thought to myself, “Nirvana and David Bowie are very expensive. I always knew it was going to be a battle – but when you make a movie every day there are a million battles – so I just put the songs on. Netflix has really stepped up. I felt so lucky. There were only a few clues, like a song from Metallica, that we didn’t understand, but I don’t feel bad about them. Preserving Bowie and Nirvana was the thing. Everything else was the icing on the cake.

Q. Was it easier or more difficult to shoot the three films consecutively?

It was both easier and more difficult. We shot 106 days and many nights. That’s a lot, but not for three films. It was a really high number of pages per day, and if you add stunts, some makeup work – it’s a really fast pace. It was kinda crazy. But growing up with the cast was good. Although it gets weird at the end – I did 1978 last time because there was more of his own cast, and so it was weird suddenly having new people to know.

Q. Women have historically struggled to get the director’s chair and horror is particularly dominated by men. Are things changing?

When I made my independent film, I obviously knew it was a horror film – it was supposed to be an intimate “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” – but I also thought, “I’m telling a tale. ‘love’, so I was surprised to be adopted by the horror community as we were.

And people are excited now, “Oh, a woman running horror,” so that has been really good for me the last few years. There are still a lot of changes to be made, but Hollywood is doing it, slowly.


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