“It was that big fangirl moment for me. I remember I was so sweaty and disgusting. I was like, ‘Oh no! This is the moment I meet RL Stine !?'”
Posted on July 22, 2021
It is not the Fear street you may remember your childhood. Although RL Stine’s horror novel series contained creepy themes and violence, they were still young adult books aimed at a teenage audience.
New to Netflix Fear Street Trilogy movies, on the other hand, are not for the faint of heart. The tweens are brutally murdered, there are plenty of graphic stab wounds, and one particularly memorable scene finds a disgusting new use for a bread slicer. The three slashers – Part 1: 1994, Part 2: 1978 and Part 3: 1666 – released on consecutive Fridays in July, perhaps the most memorable cinematic event since theaters closed last spring.
So what inspired this horrible interpretation of Fear street franchise, and what does author RL Stine think about the overhaul of his books? We chatted with director / co-writer Leigh Janiak about her teenage love for Fear street, paying homage to the slasher movies of the ’70s and’ 90s, and her embarrassing “fangirl moment” when she finally met RL Stine.
Please note that the interview below contains spoilers for all three films.
How familiar were you with RL Stine’s writing before you started this project?
I had read the books when I was a teenager, kinda in the mid 90’s. I had read them, I loved them, I was a big fan. And then they kind of sat in that memory of adolescence. Then when I was approached in 2017 by my producers in Chernin [Entertainment]I was of course very, very excited about this possibility. And then I was like, “Oh no, there are hundreds of these books! How can we go about this? What do we do ? We ended up getting to this place where we were creating a new narrative and a new mythology, but definitely living in the spirit of the books and where that memory resided.
Were you also a Goose bumps child? Or was the wrong time?
It was too young for me. He was my brother. My younger brother was a Goose bumps child. I was a little older.
Did you work with RL Stine in the process of making these films?
I had a few meetings with people who deal with his estate while we were still at the script stage. Through them he embraced the idea of adaptation – bringing a new kind of vibe and a new world to his work. The first time I met him was when we were shooting the third movie, which was actually the second movie we made. the 1666 part. We were in this village in the middle of nowhere in Georgia, and it was this big fangirl moment for me. I remember I was so sweaty and disgusting. I was like, “Oh no! This is the moment I meet RL Stine !?” But it was lovely. He was very nice, and since then I have interacted with him several times and he has been very, very nice to the movies. It is a great relief.
Did he comment on the films?
Just that he liked it and was so excited about it. I think there was a comment that said it was a little more brutal than the books, but he was happy with it.
It was my reaction to watching the movies. I thought, “Shit, I don’t remember Fear street fine, but has anyone got their head poked through a bread slicer in the books? “
No, they sure haven’t. I knew it was going to be mostly slasher movies, and I felt when you do a slasher you have to have blood and violent deaths and unique types of ways to die. So that has always been important to me. And then the other thing was to trust my memory of the books, which is to say that they are quite subversive. They felt very nervous for me. Reading them at 14 or 15, it was more intense. I just reread [Fear Street novel] The wrong number it’s been about a month now, and I was surprised it wasn’t as intense as I remembered it. So it was also important: to preserve that feeling of reading the book for the first time.
Why the 90s and why the 70s?
The ’90s seemed good to me, because that’s sort of around the time the books were written. It was as if the present of the movies took place in the 90s made sense. Plus, as a movie lover and as a filmmaker, being in the mid-90s, I felt like we could pay homage and send a love letter to this new wave of slasher [films], which I think was really ushered in with Scream – where you have a change of tone, compared to the slasher movies of the 70s and 80s. I thought it would make sense to live in a world that is very fun, bombastic, self-aware and sarcastic. And then, because we were dealing with these ideas of generational trauma and history repeating itself – and we wanted to show a little bit of young Nick Goode’s story in the ’70s, and then also the origin story of C. Berman – it was a good time to be able to do the late 70’s which was also the birth of the modern slasher.
What are your favorite slashers you were looking for when you were doing Fear street?
Well, certainly Scream, as it should be very clear. Fly shamelessly, shamelessly Scream every moment we can. I’m trying to twist it a bit to make it something new, but Scream for sure. Halloween. Freddy. These are all my favorites. But we watched a lot Friday 13 also – the whole franchise – doing the 70s. But Halloween and Scream are my all-time favorites I would say.
The 90s and 70s have real slasher traditions. Where were you looking for inspiration for 1666?
The 1666 part of this third movie isn’t really a slasher. The slasher elements of it really are, like Solomon chasing Sarah through the tunnel. That kind of classic pursuit. But he’s a person, and he’s not the person we always thought was our villain. So tonally it was a different place. The village was a big one. The witch. We watched The crucible, sure. And then that of Terrence Malick The new World was another. And it obviously wasn’t for the horror, but rather to look at the decay of the place and figure out how to keep some sort of modern energy in this period world.
Were there any nostalgic details that you were particularly happy to include from the different time periods?
I was a teenager in the 90s so all the 90s stuff was super satisfying and exciting. I think I learned to type with AOL Instant Messenger chat, because I was on this computer night after night, chatting with my friends. Then [including] it was a big problem for me. And “The queen of air and darkness” – [email protected] was my first Hotmail address. And then some of the other names are friends of mine – their original IM names. So it was really fun.
And then the mixtape. I think this is one of the things that we have lost as we move forward as a civilization. I really miss doing the collage, put it in the cassette container, and then do the whole tape. The CDs were not the same. I have since done this with flash drives. I did it for this movie – I made a playlist on flash drive. But it is not the same. There is something missing here.
What are your future projects with Afraid of the street?
The promise of Fear street, for me, it’s so exciting. If you read Goose bumps, you know there is an infinite world before you. And it’s the same with Fear street. I think there’s a lot of room for some amazing standalone movies that maybe follow some of the killers we’ve alluded to or haven’t had time to explore. Or television, or whatever. And then also, obviously, at the end of our trilogy, you see someone grabbing the book. There is definitely a little room for the next thing.
Is there a new Fear street ongoing project ?
There are certainly whispers in the air, let me say that.