This story contains spoilers for “Fear Street Part One: 1994”
“Stranger Things” season 3 came out on Netflix two years ago over the Fourth of July holiday — and this weekend Netflix has launched another nostalgia-driven horror thing — “Fear Street: 1994,” the first movie of a trilogy based on R.L. Stine’s books.
And if you’ve watched the film, there’s a very good chance that “Stranger Things” popped into your head right from the get-go.
Both “Fear Street” and “Stranger Things” play on the nostalgia factor of the era, lovingly recreating their time periods — the early ’90s and the mid-’80s, respectively — with plenty of detail and dozens of time-appropriate needle drops on the soundtrack. The characters in each are self aware young people armed with movie and pop culture knowledge. And each film is smartly made and shot in ways that pay homage to classic directors and horror movies of their day.
But there are more obvious parallels, too. “Fear Street Part One” and the third “Stranger Things” play out in a big-box, neon-lit suburban mall. Maya Hawke appears in both — another “Stranger Things” alum, Sadie Sink, will show up for “Part Two: 1978” next week — and it’s definitely not a coincidence that those two have popped up in “Fear Street.”
On top of all that, “Fear Street” director Leigh Janiak is married to “Stranger Things” co-creator Ross Duffer (“the better one” of the Duffer Brothers, she joked to TheWrap). But, as mentioned, it’s not random that Janiak cast Hawke to star in the film — with the intention of getting her killed off within the movie’s first 10 minutes.
“Maya was chosen because I obviously wanted to pay homage to the Drew Barrymore moment in ‘Scream.’ We’ve got an It young actress and then we’re going to kill her. Immediately,” Janiak explained, referencing another ’90s horror touchstone that inspired “Fear Street.”
But Janiak was writing and developing “Fear Street” around the same time as “Stranger Things 3” and got a look at Hawke before the season had come out, making her feel like she had “insider knowledge” that Hawke would be a breakout on her husband’s show.
Those parallels between both properties did however cause a little tension between Janiak and Duffer as they each worked on making their own period horror franchises.
“There’s the healthy competition of, ‘What do you mean you’re putting a mall in your season? I have a mall!’ It’s that thing of like, well we don’t own malls. Malls are everywhere,” Janiak said. “There’s those little quips, but generally it’s good to have the support of someone else that does what we do. So just healthy competition I would say.”
Although “Fear Street” has the look of “Stranger Things,” Janiak makes it far more violent than you’re at first led to believe and was determined that the films would be R-rated. Janiak explained Stine’s “Fear Street” books were “edgier” than their “Goosebumps” counterparts and aimed at an older audience. And sure enough, Janiak packs the trilogy with sex, drug use and buckets of blood and gore that are definitely not for young kids.
“It’s one thing to have a PG-13 haunted house movie. It’s a very different thing to have a PG-13 slasher movie. And to be true to the spirit of what slasher is, you gotta have all the things! You’ve gotta have the blood and the crazy deaths and you have to have the sex. You have to have a little bit of all of that,” Janiak said. “I think back to when I was 10, 11 or 12 and sneakily watching ‘Child’s Play’ or ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ at sleepover parties. And for me the sweet spot of having ‘Fear Street’ was having the authenticity of people that are my age so that you can experience the nostalgia, but if you’re a younger teenager, you feel like you’re doing something a little subversive. Am I allowed to watch this? Am I allowed to sneak into the theater or stream this?”
As for what info Janiak can share about the eventual fourth season of “Stranger Things,” well, all she can say is that it’s “big and crazy and very exciting.”
Read more from TheWrap’s interview with Janiak here.