The Fear Street Trilogy (Netflix, 2021) - Is there such a thing as "feel-good horror?" If so, I think this trio of Fear Street movies is exactly that.
I have to admit, I've never read the source R.L. Stine series.
Each of the three movies in this trilogy feels like something you've seen before; at least they start out that way. In the first, a masked teen serial killer stalks other teens, not unlike the Scream movies. In the second, a killer stalks teens around a summer camp, not unlike Friday the 13th; in fact, summer camp horror could be considered its own sub-genre. Finally, the third goes way back into an early US settlement village where religious fanatics turn mob over alleged witchcraft. This is not unlike The Witch or other films that look to the Salem Witch Trials for inspiration.
But again, this is the starting point. Each feels like you're sitting down to a popcorn sort of horror and feels even a bit nostalgic for long-time horror viewers. Then things change. Within the first half-hour of the first movie, we learn about a supposed curse, that the teen murder we saw was not an anomaly but a pattern of tragedies that repeatedly happen in this town. The curse seems like superstition, but the evidence and the history suggest otherwise. We proceed to learn that there is more going on than one mere slasher killer, much more.
The three stories turn out to be braided together, with connecting characters even though they take place across three time periods, all centered on this curse. It turns out to be a fun, engaging layer added on top of what might otherwise have been three popcorn-type horrors.
One step further, there is even an element of social justice and equality at play. I wouldn't go as far as to put these films in a category with Get Out, or the horror series Lovecraft Country in terms of social justice being a backbone to the plot, but it still adds an element that makes the themes a bit deeper, a bit more consequential than a mere scary story, or series.
It's also worth mentioning that the films being released virtually all at once was a great decision. I think the braiding between films, the connections would have faded for viewers and been harder to follow and enjoy if we'd had to wait six months or a year between the installments. I watched all three films within one week, and I recommend others do the same if they can.
Ultimately these were just really fun movies. Since R.L. Stines book series has something like a hundred installments, I'm hopeful we'll see another set in the next year or two.