Though R. L. Stine is most well-known for his hundreds of “Goosebumps” books aimed at young readers, films based on his more mature horror series “Fear Street” will soon creep into your streaming watch list.
This summer, three full-length “Fear Street” film adaptations will release across three weeks on Netflix, and each one will be more frightening than the next. The series is expected to be an entertaining, creepy and nostalgic time. Stine’s books were a must-have for any spooky-loving young reader, and if you were one of them, you’re sure to be excited about this new direction for the famed author’s stories.
A Spooky Success
Robert Lawrence Stine, now mostly known as R. L. Stine, has been fueling children’s nightmares through fun and frightening stories for decades. After moving on from children’s humor books and reshaping children’s horror, Stine’s dominance in the genre is about to venture to new heights.
When asked why he started writing horror, Stine said, “It was completely by accident, a bit of an embarrassing story. I was meeting my editor at Scholastic for lunch. Till that point of time I had basically been writing joke books and never delved into scary novels. During our meeting, she said that she needed someone to write scary novels for teenagers, ‘You can do it! Go home and write a [horror] book.’” That book turned out to be “Blind Date,” Stine’s first novel in the genre.
A few years later in 1989, Stine started writing books in the “Fear Street” series, paving the path for the beloved writing he’s now known for. The original series was for young adult readers, and followed teens facing malicious characters such as murderers, ghosts, witches and other dangerous beings. Then Stine launched the “Goosebumps” books in 1992, aimed at an even younger audience, involving child characters who often found themselves in frightening and unusual situations. The books, known for their kid-friendly frights and clever plots, quickly shot to the heights of popularity and went on to sell over 400 million books worldwide.
For three consecutive years in the 1990s, Stine was named by USA Today as the No. 1 best-selling author in America. Since his humble horror beginnings, Stine has written nearly 400 books in the genre, and he remains one of the best-selling authors of all time.
“The thing that ties ‘Fear Street’ to people all over the world is that we all have the same fears,” Stine said when discussing the legacy of his horror books. “It doesn’t matter what country you’re in, everyone is afraid of the dark, or afraid somebody’s lurking in the closet, or afraid of being in some strange new place they’ve never been before. We all have the same fears.”
“Fear Street” and Beyond
As we get older, we grow to have different fears and experiences. Though the “Goosebumps” stories may still hold a spot in your heart, “Fear Street” will likely answer any fun yet adult-like horror cravings you’re looking for.
Directed by Leigh Janiak, the “Fear Street” film series follows a group of teenagers who discover their small town has been haunted for hundreds of years, and they must find a way to stop the Shadyside killings before they end up like the others before them — dead. Each film focuses on a different era in the Shadyside timeline. Part One is set in 1994, Part Two is set in 1978 and Part Three is set in 1666. Evidently, the series will take the viewers on a journey back in time, ending where it all began in Shadyside during the 1600s.
The films feature cast members who are no strangers to horror stories. Cast regulars include Maya Hawke and Sadie Sink, who were both in Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” along with Gillian Jacobs, Benjamin Flores Jr. and Jordana Spiro. While not all of the first film’s cast returns for every following feature, some of the characters are set to appear in at least two of the films.
The series will blend many classic elements of horror and teen films. Based on the trailer, viewers can expect a thrilling story about witchcraft, paranormal characters, gruesome murder and even teen heartbreak. Beyond such elements, the series will also take inspiration from well-known horror films, with nods to “Scream,” “Nightmare on Elm Street” and others. “As a filmmaker making ‘Fear Street,’ but also just as a movie lover, I was so excited to pay homage to some of the great eras of horror movies,” said director Janiak in a statement.
For anyone thinking the three-week release range for the films may be overwhelming, the filmmakers felt a similar struggle, but in the best way possible. “We filmed all three Fear Street movies over one crazy, bloody summer. It’s a dream that audiences now get to experience the story in the same way — back to back to back, with only a week of waiting in between,” Janiak also told Netflix. “I can’t wait to welcome everyone into the ‘Fear Street’ world!”
Hooked on Nostalgia
When the “Goosebumps” books were adapted into a television series in 1996, it was the peak of Stine’s career, so the show relied on regular fans as viewers rather than older fans who might have read the series in their long-ago youth. “R. L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour,” on the other hand, was a similar show released in 2010, which was perhaps the first of the adaptations to reel in new “Goosebumps” fans as well as those who enjoyed the books when they were younger — perhaps proving that, prior to the upcoming “Fear Street” films, the franchise can succeed by appealing to both newer audiences and nostalgic hearts.
Of course, Stine’s books were not the only horror stories to receive a recent nostalgia treatment. “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” a 2019 film based on the children’s horror series by Alvin Schwartz, was met with generally positive reviews from fans of the original tales. Similar to Stine’s works, the “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” books focus on short horror stories, and the film combined many of the stories to form a cohesive narrative.
Following several teens in a small Pennsylvania town as they make horrifying discoveries, the “Scary Stories” film similarly relies on the viewer’s nostalgia for the books, which were published in the 1980s and ‘90s. Clearly, the frightening tales of our childhood are slowly creeping back into our lives through the big screen and they’re successfully grasping the attention of new and older audiences alike.
However, the “Fear Street” films will include much more than your average teen slasher. Instead, the rating for Netflix’s “Fear Street” films indicates a different target audience. In response to this change in rating, Stine said, “The fans are in for a treat, and some major surprises. Readers know that the book series is rated PG. But the movies are rated R. That means a lot more thrills — and a lot more terror!”
Though the mature content is abnormal for creations from Stine, the author seems pleased with the final product regardless and urges his older fans to enjoy it in good fun. “I have seen Leigh Janiak’s epic trilogy and I can tell you the scares and the screams are more than I ever expected. What fun to see the horrors of Shadyside come to life!”
A July Fright
While Stine’s books are usually targeted toward kids and young teens, the now-grown millennials who are looking for violence while remembering their horror-filled youth are likely to get immersed in this fresh take on Stine’s work. With the added opportunity to binge every movie week by week and experience an unprecedented horror trilogy experience, the films are sure to please any viewers on the hunt for a creepy summer series.
Premiering on Netflix the first three Fridays in July, the “Fear Street” films will unlock your childhood memories of reading Stine’s books under the covers, though this time with more gore than your childhood self could have ever imagined.