Fear Street director on Netflix horror trilogy's big reveal, ending | EW.com

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EW.com 16 July, 2021 - 12:57pm 2 views

How many books are in the Fear Street series?

Fear Street Saga Book Series (17 Books) amazon.comFear Street Saga Book Series

After a very bloody journey through the past, Fear Street ultimately winds its way back to 1994, where it began, for a surprisingly triumphant conclusion to its journey. Deena (Kiana Madeira) and her ragtag band of fellow survivors defeat Sheriff Nick Goode (Ashley Zukerman), whose family has been behind the curse afflicting the town of Shadyside from the beginning.

The trilogy's final entry, partially set in 1666, also reveals the true nature of supposed witch Sarah Fier: she fell in love with the town pastor's daughter Hannah, and the Puritan townspeople condemned her to die. (In a neat casting trick, Madeira and Olivia Scott Welch, who play girlfriends Deena and Sam in 1994, also play Sarah and Hannah, respectively.) It's the culmination of director and co-writer Leigh Janiak's subversion of slasher-movie tropes throughout the trilogy, which builds to a group of outsiders taking down someone who, historically, would be the protagonist of a horror film.

"We were letting the protagonists of our movies be the [characters] that would be the kind of body-count fodder in traditional slasher movies," Janiak tells EW. "And further than that, we're not just making them the protagonists; we're saying that they are actually winning. These are slasher movies, but they're also kind of this epic adventure mystery thing, and so we could change the rules there a little bit."

With the Fear Street trilogy now streaming in full on Netflix, Janiak spoke to EW about crafting the films' overarching narrative, why she loved giving the trilogy a happy ending, and what goes into killing people with axes and bread slicers.

LEIGH JANIAK: I think that was one of the cool things about the experiment, that we could evolve the tone a little bit as the story continued to be peeled back. Movie one is definitely, I think, super fun, and the characters are having fun even when bad s--- is happening to them. And then in movie two, there's still that element of fun in the world, but it's a lot more brutal, and it becomes a lot more violent and is very emotionally dark with the sisters. And by the time we get into movie three, we've really evolved to a very serious tone shift, I think. The scare is different, the suspense is different, there's stakes that have shifted from the fun of the supernatural. You have a town and people that are turning on these girls for being different, and we really get to see that those are the monsters, before we even get to the big reveal of who it was that actually made the deal with the Devil. I think it was cool to be able to be like, there's something bigger happening here that we're commenting on in the world of Shadyside and Sunnyvale, and what it means to be an outsider.

When me and my fellow writers were figuring out what big evil is driving everything in this town, we agreed that one of the scariest things for all of us is a human that feels entitled and driven to give themself a world that they believe they deserve. I think that that, obviously, is something that we feel in our everyday life. That this man could be driven to go to the ultimate extreme of saying, "Yeah, okay, I'm going to sacrifice a person every year to you, Devil, and then I will get what I think I deserve" — to me, that made sense. And, you know, the first version of this is Solomon Goode. He believes that he should have prosperity in this new world that he's not getting. He kind of has a crush on Sarah Fier, and Sarah Fier's not interested in him. That was a really important thing to explore, I think.

And then ultimately, I think the really interesting thing about the Goode family is that every generation, son to son, has to make a decision to continue this. That was a lot of the discussion that I had with Ted [Sutherland], who played young Nick Goode in 1978. Because young Nick has just made this decision to carry the family mantle, and he's not sure if it's the right thing to do, but at the end of the day, he did it and he sticks with it. And that is kind of insidious on a whole new level, because he's having these feelings of questioning, but at the end of the day he chose the family. He chose history, I guess.

I think that was the center of everything, this idea that there's a swath of people that have grown up in Shadyside generation after generation, thinking that there's no way out, and their fate has already been determined. To me, that's a very relatable feeling. And what we really wanted to do from the beginning was show characters that can win, and show that there's hope here, and that even though the story they've been told is one thing, there's a way to shift that narrative. For me, that was the big opportunity, because I think it's hard to do that when you just have one movie. But here we could go on this journey with them, and we could give them that hope.

I think about traditional slasher movies, and while you occasionally will have a final girl that makes it to the end, you often kill her in the next one or something. It was just really important to me that, at the end of the day, the characters won, for lack of a better word. You know, I've had this conversation with Darrell [Britt-Gibson], who plays Martin. We introduce Martin in the first movie, and you're kind of like, "Why the hell is he here?" and you're surprised when he doesn't die. And then you meet him again in part two of movie three and you're like, "Okay, now they're going to kill him." And then he gets to live! We don't kill any of our major characters at the end, and that was something that I felt like we could only do because of this [three-part] structure.

With movie one, it was actually a little easier than with movie two, because we used suburbia as our battleground in [Part 1]. With movie two, it was a little more difficult, because we really were bound towards Tommy as being our primary villain and [using] his axe. So it was kind of like, "How many ways can you destroy someone with an axe?" I feel like Gary's death is so incredible in that movie, and then obviously when we get to the end with the sisters, you're like, "Oh my God, how much is she getting hacked to pieces?" I think that the line for those kills, and throughout even the first movie, was, "Let's make this really brutal, but hopefully in service of the emotion of caring about these characters that are dying," and not just blood for the sake of blood.

When we get into movie three, we obviously kill all of those children. The pastor takes out their eyes, and I hope it's a very striking, weird, emotional place when you see all of these dead children. But for me, the most intense part of all three movies is honestly the hanging sequence with Sarah Fier. Feeling that brutality of the mob, and letting this happen, and kind of realizing that the story that's going to be told throughout history in Shadyside is that this girl who was just in love with the wrong person got destroyed.

That's my favorite, I'm going to be honest. [Laughs] And Julia was just so convincing. She's an amazing actress, but the level of pain and pure desperation that she gave in that scene was so intense that it kind of made everyone uncomfortable while we were shooting. It was just so visceral. And we ended up using the on-set production sound and blaring it over speakers during other scenes while we were shooting, because it was so effective. I remember the first time that Kiana and Olivia heard it; we were filming the part at the lobster tank where Deena's trying to kill Sam, and we started playing Kate screaming. They were like, "Oh my God, what did you do to Julia?" [Laughs]

Absolutely. There's this abhorrent tradition of queer characters not ever having a happy ending, and part of that, I believe, is codified by the Hays Code, with this idea that if you're showing a character that is quote-unquote morally outside, something bad has to happen to them. That was a conversation that I had a lot with Phil [Graziadei], my writing partner, who grew up as a queer person in the '80s and '90s. He's talked to me a lot about what it meant to see how every time there was a representation of him or someone like him, it didn't feel like they were deserving of a happy ending. That was something that was very, very appealing to me about the trilogy, and specifically about the story that we tell in movie three. The unfortunately traditional ending to the relationship happens with Sarah and Hannah, but then to be able to come back to '94 and give Sam and Deena that great ending was really cool. I hope that people respond to it, because I think that that's something that certainly has not yet had the opportunity to happen within the slasher genre.

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‘Fear Street’ and the Revolution of the Rapid-Release Film Trilogy

The Ringer 17 July, 2021 - 04:01am

The circumstances around Netflix’s series of horror movies are unique, but the trilogy may be a blueprint for the streamer in the future

Loosely based on R.L. Stine’s book series of the same name, Fear Street was originally being developed at 20th Century Fox in 2015, which intended to release the three movies across three months—essentially, a more accelerated version of The Lord of the Rings trilogy shooting back-to-back-to-back with three consecutive December release dates. But by the time Fear Street went into production in March 2019, 20th Century Fox’s long-gestating merger with Disney finally became official, leaving the fate of the R-rated homage to slasher films uncertain. (It goes without saying, but Mouse House isn’t exactly known for its horror movies; just ask The Empty Man.) In the end, Netflix swooped in to acquire Fear Street as part of a broader first-look deal with its production company, Chernin Entertainment. And for the past three weeks, the streamer has dropped installments every Friday.

That context is important, if only because Fear Street feels like such a perfect fit for Netflix that it might come as a surprise that the movies weren’t made in-house. The trilogy is set in the fictional town of Shadyside, where a history of brutal and spontaneous murders stands in stark contrast to the neighboring Sunnyvale, which is as prosperous as it sounds. Shadyside’s woes go back to the 17th century, when a woman named Sarah Fier was accused of witchcraft and hanged—but not before she supposedly cursed the land. The first Fear Street takes place in 1994, following a group of Shadyside teens who get roped into the witch’s curse; its sequels, mostly set in 1978 and 1666, revisit an earlier massacre at a summer camp and Sarah Fier’s origins, respectively.

Just as Stranger Things leans into the nostalgia of ’80s classics like E.T. and The Goonies, Fear Street gleefully embraces its slasher movie influences. Fear Street: 1994 most explicitly nods to Scream, all the way down to an opening sequence in which one of the most famous actresses in the ensemble, who also happens to be a descendant of Hollywood royalty, is stabbed to death by a person in a mask. Meanwhile, the “Camp Nightwing Killer” in Fear Street: 1978 owes a debt to Jason Voorhees—though instead of using a machete, the guy settles for an ax. The slasher references in Fear Street are about as subtle as its era-appropriate needle drops, but like Stranger Things, that’s the point. (In an odd twist of fate, filmmaker Leigh Janiak, who directed the trilogy, is married to Stranger Things cocreator Ross Duffer.)

Even if the Fear Street movies didn’t also borrow a couple of the show’s actors in Maya Hawke and Sadie Sink, comparisons to Stranger Things’ nostalgia-baiting seem inevitable. But to Fear Street’s credit, the films have a nastier streak more befitting of their R-rated influences than anything from the Upside Down. The trilogy doesn’t skimp on the gore, highlighted by a fiendishly creative kill involving an industrial bread slicer—a gross-out moment that already belongs in the slasher hall of fame—and a summer camp bloodbath that goes farther than the Friday the 13th franchise ever did. Most refreshingly, Fear Street adds new wrinkles to the slasher movie formula by centering its story on a queer romance, while the most virtuous character in Fear Street: 1978—someone who is the most obvious through line in horror’s storied history of Final Girls—tragically meets their demise.

And as far as matching up to Stranger Things’ pedigree, the early returns for Fear Street are promising: Reviews for the first two entries have been favorable, and as of this writing, the first two films remain in Netflix’s Top 10 most-viewed programs in the United States. (Fear Street: 1666 arrives on Friday.) But perhaps the most impressive aspect of Fear Street isn’t necessarily defined by metrics, but the sense that there’s been sustained interest in the trilogy—something the streamer has taken advantage of by, for instance, breaking down the infamous bread slicer death scene with scientists. Even Netflix’s buzziest original programs—Stranger Things, Ozark, The Witcher, and so on—have a comparatively short shelf life in the nebulous online discourse, arguably the biggest downside of its preferred binge release model.

While other streamers like Amazon (the latest seasons of The Boys and The Expanse) and Disney+ (The Mandalorian, the MCU shows) have used the weekly release model to great effect, Netflix has adopted it sparingly prior to Fear Street. The circumstances here are a little different—after initially being intended for a unique three-month theatrical rollout, Fear Street’s release on Netflix essentially amounts to a three-week streaming event for a trio of feature-length films made on a major studio budget. But while Fear Street splits the difference between Netflix’s Hollywood aspirations and its continued streaming dominance, the end result is the same. The movies have drummed up interest in the lead-up to Fear Street: 1666, which (minor spoiler alert) should satisfy viewers by answering all the lingering questions about Sarah Fier and Shadyside’s, well, shady history.

Netflix plans to capitalize on Fear Street’s appeal by creating more teen-oriented horror movies, much in the same way that the company revived romantic comedies and brought cheesy Hallmark-esque holiday specials to streaming. (Janiak, for her part, is open to making more Fear Street films.) But it remains to be seen whether the streamer will take the right lessons from the trilogy’s success. It’d be tricky to totally replicate Fear Street—it’s not often that a production company goes all in on shooting three movies at once because of the inherent risk involved. On the other hand, it’s a lot easier to embrace the philosophy of releasing a project in weekly morsels, and letting hype take care of the rest.

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