By: Simon Button


Taking a beloved book franchise and radically reinventing it is a bold move indeed - but it’s one that writer-director Leigh Janiak has fearlessly taken with Fear Street.

Instead of picking plotlines and characters from RL Stine’s myriad novels, she has fashioned three films (the first of which debuts on Netflix on Friday) that capture the spirit of the author’s teenage horror universe but go off on their own gnarlier, gorier tangents.

“It was challenging at first,” admits the filmmaker, whose previous credits include the Panic pilot on Amazon and the Scream series on MTV. “I was a fan of the books and grew up reading them, so I wanted to be true to the spirit of them. But there are hundreds of these books and the amazing thing about the Fear Street world that Stine has created is that anything crazy that can happen in a genre universe happens somewhere in the Fear Street oeuvre.”

Opting for a trilogy of films - Fear Street Part 1: 1994, Fear Street Part 2: 1978 and Fear Street Part 3: 1666 - that cover the fictional town of Shadyside (which is in the books) and neighbouring Sunnyvale (which isn’t) across 300 corpse-strewn years, Janiak saw it as a balancing act between respecting the author’s tropes and creating a complete story.

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“And it was always about coming back to that core heart and spirit of the books, like horror, blood, violence, with a little bit of edgy sex in there but more than anything else just fun. When we were getting into each scene it was like ‘How can we make this crazier? How can we find the ‘Oh s**t’ moment?’”

There are plenty of ‘Oh s**t’ moments in the first film, where a massacre at the Shadyside mall leads a bunch of horny teens to uncover sinister secrets from the town’s past and… Well, that’s all we’re allowed to say, beyond the fact Part 1 is done as a homage to Scream and features some very inventive killings best viewed on an empty stomach.


The adult cast includes Ashley Zuckerman as Sheriff Nick Goode and Darrell Britt-Gibson as town resident Martin, with Gillian Jacobs popping up in Part 2 as a woman named C. Berman who is connected to the Friday The 13th-inspired summer camp killings from 1978.

Succession actor Zuckerman didn’t feel any pressure to please Fear Street fans. “It’s funny but it never felt like that because we were telling something entirely new,” he says. “When you do properties that are very important to people you do feel the weight of people’s passion for them. But for some reason on this we just didn’t carry that, maybe because of the clarity of the new story.”

Most recently seen in dark comedy Barry, Britt-Gibson stresses that the added guts and gore aren’t gratuitous. “Leigh has made it so you really care about the characters. Sometimes violence can just be used for violence’s sake, but with this you grow to love the characters so much and the stakes are really heightened. The gore and violence is much more powerful because you’re invested in the people and wondering ‘Will they make it or won’t they?’”

Like her director, Community and Invincible star Gillian is a fan of the novels and ponders: “I read the books but I don’t remember these characters being in them.”

Well, that’s because they’re not. While there are Goode and Fear families in the books, the characters in the films sprang from Janiak and her co-writers’ imaginations, as did the plotlines.

Might that irk some of the fans? “I have to think not because I am a fan myself and as we were writing and working on it, if anything felt untrue then it was like: ‘Wait, we have to still live in this universe," Janiak told

"Yes, we are doing new things but we want to preserve this great, cool thing that RL Stine created. The only thing I could trust was my own gut as a fan and I think other fans will also see that, fingers crossed."

Production took place in and around Atlanta, Georgia, across nearly six months, with the director encouraging her cast to listen to seminal songs from the '70s and '90s and schooling them in classic horror movies - including, of course, Scream and Friday The 13th.

Explaining why she honed in on those two films in particular for the first and second chapters, Janiak says: "For me it was about doing R-rated-style slasher movies, showing blood and violence, and not pulling any punches. Hopefully the audience is enjoying these movies, having fun and loving the characters whilst remembering that there’s real violent s**t happening."

The stakes, she adds, are high. "It’s not just safe movie fun-and-games. Keeping it pretty horrifying and graphic in that way was really important to me."

Read more: Watch the first five minutes of Netflix's Fear Street horror trilogy

Read our Fear Street Part 1 review and find out how to read the Fear Street books in order.

Fear Street Part 1: 1994 is on Netflix from Friday 2nd July, followed by part 2 and part 3 on the 9th and 16th. Visit our guides to the best series on Netflix and the best movies on Netflix.


Check out our Movies and Fantasy pages for more, or our full TV Guide.