Director Leigh Janiak’s creation of the “Fear Street” trilogy has to be one of the most impressive cinematic accomplishments this year. It’s tough to find a horror trilogy where every film feels different, but clicks together like a puzzle, so seamlessly. “Fear Street” had every chance of being a complete mess, especially with how it goes backward in time to fill in the gaps in its narrative. Not to mention the fact that it trusts audiences will return is ambitious and often impressive.
Thankfully, Netflix and Leigh Janiak’s “Fear Street” film series has mostly lived up to its promise, hype and potential, offering a trilogy of films that are entertaining, complex, and steeped heavily in classic horror and folklore. For horror buffs that love horror that revolves around mythology, legends and stories about the past, the “Fear Street” series has managed to deliver two fold with a legend that has managed to carry the films quite well.
One of the many aspects of “Fear Street” that always set them apart from the “Goosebumps” books is that RL Stine relied a lot on folklore. With the “Fear Street” series, it depended a lot on the folklore and urban legend aesthetic, exploring more universal themes usually found there. There were always ideas about revenge, and mystery killers, and inherent terrifying nature of Halloween, and yes, even vampires. Fear Street always had something new to offer readers, and the movie carries that tradition.
The first “Goosebumps” movie was a big surprise for me. While I was against it being a fluid narrative and not an anthology or adaptation of one of the books, it ended up being a great, heartfelt, and genuinely fun horror comedy. And Jack Black as RL Stine was such a nice little addition that helped what was essentially a love letter to RL Stine’s imagination. It pains me to say that, like a lot of others, I just did not like “Goosebumps 2.” It’s not only the fact that it tosses out a lot of what made the original film so much fun, but it also completely recycles the premise from the first film with a monster apocalypse… except, you know, on Halloween.
It is Halloween and Drew is ready to dress up as her favorite superhero and collect candy. It’s her favorite night of the year but her best friend Walker has no desire to go out for the holiday. That’s also because there’s been a string of mysterious disappearances over the last month, with four people gone without a trace. After successfully convincing her parents to let her go out at night, Drew convinces Walker to go out for Halloween, now that her friends from her old neighborhood Shane and Shana have come to town to pay her a visit.
What “Goosebumps” accomplishes, is not just paying homage to the joy of “Goosebumps,” but to the joy of reading and writing as well. It’s not many movies that can convey the idea of writing as something purely magical, and “Goosebumps” pinpoints how books can be a portal in to something entirely otherworldly, especially if you’re a fan of the world RL Stine has built for his fans since the 1990’s. More of a meta-horror comedy than an actual series of tales, “Goosebumps” is set in Delaware where Zach and his newly widowed mother are preparing to start their lives over. With Zach trying to adapt to his new school, he meets the gorgeous Hannah (Odeya Rush), a neighbor who is home schooled by her reclusive and strict father.
I don’t know how they keep recruiting these Disney stars to headline the RL Stine movies. Disney always seems to have such a tight grasp on them. In either case, “Cabinet of Souls” is the very definition of an RL Stine story, except with a much longer format. It surely sports the same mold and aesthetic with a small town, teen protagonists, and evil villains that seek to ruin their innocence somehow. It stumbles on occasion, and there’s a clear lack of wit that you can usually find with Stine’s yarns, but it’s a pleasing movie; especially if you’re a fan of Dove Cameron, Katherine McNamara, or Ryan McCartan.
When it comes to children’s television, networks and studios tend to get weird and air specials out of desperation. Often times it’s to test for a potential audience, which is why we got “Legend of the Hawaiian Slammers,” and other times it’s apparently to fill dead air; which is why we got “Ghosts of Fear Street” in 1997. I remember a lot about 1997, and my Friday nights typically was devoted to the scattered remnants of what was once ABC’s TGIF line up. For those final years we didn’t have much save for the last death gasp of “Boy Meets World.” Say what you want about the series, but those last seasons are terrible. There seems to be no record of “Ghosts of Fear Street” ever having existed. Save for some TV listings, and occasional screen caps, this isn’t even included in the resumes of its cast that include the lovely Azura Skye, and Alex Breckinridge, and the always odd Red Buttons.