It’s hack ‘n’ slash time with some retro vibes in these two throwbacks to the final decades of the last millennium. Sounds like fun…right?
FEAR STREET PART 1: 1994 (2021)
1994 is one of those instances in which for everything that the film has going for it, it also has something going against it. For instance, if a movie takes us back to the 90s with plenty of references and a total Scream opener homage…it has to live up to the reputation. In this case, the reputation is lived up to in the first ten minutes, but the rest of the movie and doesn’t quite go along for the ride.
While the B. Dalton bookstore setting at the beginning is 90s awesome, not only because bookstores were booming at the time but also because the Fear Street books were booming as well (I worked at a Barnes & Noble superstore through the 90s and it ruled), the rest of the film doesn’t try too hard to completely capture the feel of the decade. However, the soundtrack is perfect, including the likes of:
Nine Inch Nails “Closer”
Garbage “Only Happy When It Rains”
Sophie B. Hawkins “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover”
Cypress Hill “Insane in the Membrane”
White Town “Your Woman”
Cowboy Junkies “Sweet Jane”
The group of kids is likable and includes our two main girls…a lesbian couple. Yay because it’s lesbians for a change instead of gay guys, and…boo because it’s lesbians instead of gay guys. Heh heh.
This isn’t your usual masked killer slasher. Yes, there’s a masked killer, but as high school peers begin getting sliced and diced, our main group suspects the murders are the work of an old witch ghost of town legend. Luckily, one of the boys is totally into serial killers, so we basically gets glimpses of what to expect from the stories in the next two films. I’ll just say those killers look like fun…
But back to this story. The plot is kind of a mess in an early 2000s supernatural horror slasher way. And by that I mean it’s like a series of disconnected scenes as the kids simply run from one location to another all over town being chased by an evil entity while they try to stop it. The only thing that saves this kind of chaotic structure for me is the delivery of brutal kills, and 1994 definitely delivers on that front. There’s even a sex break montage. Yay! But again…you know…lesbians, not gay guys.
As for the killer “identity”, that just adds to the chaotic plot thanks to the supernatural aspects, and it simply didn’t keep me totally enthralled. Not to mention, the film doesn’t carry the near 2-hour runtime the way, say, Scream did. For me, unless the next two films can better solidify the value of this film’s plot, this isn’t a slasher I simply must have in my personal film collection.
VICIOUS FUN (2020)
I feel like I could just copy and paste most of what I said above to hit the points on Vicious Fun, which takes place in 1983. For a short time early on there’s definitely a 1980s vibe, with plenty of neon light, some 80s horror movie references, faux synth instrumental music, and even use of the awesome Drab Majesty throwback track “Too Soon To Tell” at a bar. However, once the plot takes over, the 1980s aspect becomes irrelevant and ignored.
The opener scene is another killer, even if any veteran horror fan will see the “unexpected” part coming from a mile away.
Then we meet our main guy, a sort of geeky and awkward horror critic. He goes to a bar, gets drunk, and then accidentally walks in on a serial killer support group, which includes familiar faces such as David Koechner (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Krampus, Piranha 3DD, Final Destination 5), the creepy janitor from Urban Legend, horror hunk Robert Maillet (A Little a Bit Zombie, Septic Man, Monster Brawl), and young horror veteran Ari Millen (I’ll Take Your Dead, The Hexecutioners, Hellmouth, Exit Humanity). The performances of the psychos in the film help elevate what I otherwise found to be a really bland take on a cliché concept.
Our main boy is soon found out, and his only way of escaping the psychos that don their masks and makeup to hunt him down is the help of the one female killer in the group. But can he really trust her?
Considering the title of this film, I really expected some vicious fun. Instead, I thought the movie was slow, lacked solid humor, and even failed to impress with gore because the gore presented felt like default gore for gory movies. Does that make sense? We simply go from a long, drawn out cat and mouse at the support group meeting location to a long, drawn out cat and mouse at a police station over the course of 100 minutes (insert me saying this movie should have been edited down by at least ten minutes here).
And considering the main guy is supposed to be a horror lover, it just seems he should have been better equipped to handle his predicament. The main actor tries really hard to make himself appealing and charming as the simple dude thrown into a complicated situation with a crazy but possibly caring female, but he just wasn’t given much to work with. Although it’s not a horror movie, if you watch Gun Akimbo starring Daniel Radcliffe and Samara Weaving, which is sort of similar in basic concept, you’ll experience a funny, gory, action-packed, fast-paced thriller with strong chemistry between the male and female leads. In other words, the movie that better deserved the title Vicious Fun.