Running time: 105 minutes. Rated R (strong bloody violence, drug content, language and some sexual content.) On Netflix.
For a horror writer most associated with middle schoolers, R.L. Stine’s “Fear Street Part 1: 1994” has one of the more gruesome deaths onscreen so far this year. It involves a girl’s head and a bread slicer and results in splattered hippocampus.
The scene is freaky, but it’s OK. Nobody really needs a brain to enjoy this movie.
“1994” is the first part of the “Goosebumps” author’s horror trilogy, with the next two chapters — “1978” and “1666” — being released respectively by Netflix on July 9 and 16th. Each one is engineered, it would seem, to emulate the style of title date. (Except for 1666, which is roughly 200 years before movies were invented.) “1994” has hints of “Scream” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” for example. There’s even some “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” shoved in there.
Being rated R, it’s a teen movie that’s technically not for most teens. Not that that’s gonna stop those hormonal monsters.
This trashy good time is set in fictional Shadyside, Ohio — a working class town that’s an unlikely magnet for murder. Locals believe that the spirit of a spurned witch continues to appear and force unwitting residents to kill year after year. But people can’t leave because they don’t have the means. Shadyside also has a contentious relationship with tony Sunnydale, and the towns’ students have violent fights and “Romeo and Juliet”-like secret romances.
When yet another Shadyside girl (Maya Hawke) is offed by a masked assailant at the mall, the witch unleashes killers from years past and a scrappy group of teens (Kiana Madeira, Julia Rehwald and Benjamin Flores Jr. among them) tries to stop her demons.
“1994” plays more like television than a theatrical film. The more limited scope isn’t bothersome, though, because you can only watch it on your TV, after all, and two more films/episodes are soon on the way. I haven’t seen the rest yet, but they promise to change up the tone. “1978” is about a summer camp massacre, à la 1980’s “Friday the 13th.” It comes out Friday, July 9.