If you grew up in the 1990s, there was this moment of triumph when you graduated from Goosebumps to Fear Street books.
Both popular series were written by R.L. Stine, but the Fear Street books were aimed older, at young teens. If you were old enough to read Fear Street , it meant you were old enough to read about gory deaths or teen romances.
But Fear Street was still PG.
Not so the new movie trilogy starting on Netflix this week. Adapted loosely from Stine's books, the movies are bloody and violent, packed with grisly murders, axes scything through the air and into faces, and human and supernatural malevolence.
Directed by Leigh Janiak, the films are taking their cues more from the teen slasher genre and the likes of Scream , Halloween , Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street than it is from Stine's pages.
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In fact, Stine was surprised when he first saw the finished movies, though an old horror hand like his wasn't scared.
“I don't get scared by movies; horror makes me laugh, ”he told news.com.au with jocularity. “I never get scared. In all honesty, I was shocked because I've never done anything R-rated before and the films are rated R and my work is PG.
“The Fear Street movies are scarier than Goosebumps and they're scarier than Fear Street [books].
“But I think people who read them back in the 1990s and are now in their 20s or 30s, they're going to be very pleased by them. The movies have grown into their taste, and there are so many more screams and so many more killings and blood. They're going to enjoy it more. “
The Fear Street movies seem to be aimed at two different audience groups – teens and those who grew up poring over those gruesome pages.
The films are set across three time periods – 1994, 1978 and 1666 – but the 1994 story is the framework for all three of them. It's a double punch of nostalgia for '90s kids with a youth that was defined by flannel shirts and a soundtrack featuring Garbage, The Prodigy, White Town, Radiohead and Oasis.
Some of the songs are anachronistic (“Your Woman” wasn't released until 1997) but the vibe is on point, right down to the too-cool nihilism of its teen characters, played by Kiana Madeira, Olivia Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr, Julia Rehwald and Fred Hechinger.
Across the three movies – and it really works better as a trilogy than as stand-alones – the characters will unravel the secret to Shadyside's deadly legacy.
And in between the bloodcurdling screams and slasher action, there's a surprisingly astute critique about class and how power is used to demonise those who are different.
Stine knows the appetite for a Fear Street screen adaptation is out there – his fans have been telling him so.
“People have been waiting for these films for all this time,” he said. “That’s all I hear on Twitter. Half my tweets are, 'When are you going to do a Fear Street movie?' Or 'Why haven't you done a Fear Street movie? '”
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Stine and his editor wife's company Parachute Press, which owns the rights to the books, didn't have any involvement in the creative aspects of the films beyond script approval but he said it was fun for him to see how other people could take Fear Street and its 300-year story history and come up with something different.
He didn ' t impose any parameters or dictates on the filmmakers – except for that script approval – because he knows “no one wants the author around”.
While the movies veer from the books, fans will recognize certain elements have been drawn from Stine's series, including from the Cheerleader series and the beloved Fear Street Saga books.
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Stine admitted to having a particular soft spot for the Saga books, which delved into the bloody history of the Fear family – “Those are the best ones that I did, and I found that if I can go back in time, I can be a lot more gruesome and violent.”
There's no shortage of gruesome and violent in the movies and despite Stine's initial surprise, he understands why the filmmakers made that choice.
“They wanted to do real, all-out horror. They wanted to do real splatter movies. It was very smart on their part. I think they're very enjoyable. “
Fear Street is rated MA in Australia, and rated R in the US, which is closer to the Australian MA rating
Fear Street: 1994 is available to stream now on Netflix while Fear Street: 1978 will be available on July 9 and Fear Street: 1666 will be released on July 16
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