Goosebumps, Fear Street, The Nightmare Room, The Haunting Hour, Just Beyond… R.L. Stine might be known as the king of children’s horror, but with that line up he should take on a second crown as the king of franchises. He’s written countless stories that have given kids and teens alike goosebumps for decades and he’s not showing signs of quitting anytime soon. In fact, most recently his teen book series, Fear Street, which first made its debut in 1989, was given new life as a trilogy of movies on Netflix.
The Fear Street films, which dropped weekly over the summer on Netflix, brought the cursed town of Shadyside to life as a group of teens try to stop an ancient evil responsible for terrorizing their town for centuries.
“Ultimately, what we ended up doing was, above all else, staying true to the spirit of the books, the fun of the books, the craziness of the horror and the world,” said director Leigh Janiak about the films. “We looked through the Fear Street Saga books to look back at families that had lived in Shadyside for generations. The Fier family, the Goode family, but we also took that and twisted it and evolved it.”
While not a direct adaptation of the books, the Fear Street trilogy follows three interweaving stories that take place in 1994, 1978, and 1666, taking inspiration from both the original books and classic horror and slasher films. Led by Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, and Benjamin Flores Jr, many of the cast members return throughout the three films to play different characters throughout the decades, particularly highlighting Black and queer characters that don’t typically survive slashers.
Janiak called Shadyside a “town full of outsiders,” and said once they cracked that code it made sense to tell this story and give “characters and people a chance to flourish on screen that normally would die very quickly in these horror movies.” Through this new take on the Fear Street stories, they were able to tackle systemic and societal issues through a teenage lens while also putting underrepresented groups at the core of a horror story.
So what scared R.L. Stine about the films? Seeing that R-rating!
“It was a horrible shock to me. I shouldn’t say horrible, should I?” He laughs. “I’ve never had anything R-rated before. Nothing. Even my life isn’t R-rated,” R.L. Stine told me at a press junket for his latest supernatural anthology Just Beyond. “[These films] were much scarier than Goosebumps and much more than Fear Street, but I was thrilled with the response. I mean each one of them made #1 on Netflix.”
In terms of what he’d like to see happen next with the Fear Street franchise, Stine said: “They were very well made films for what they are and I hope we do a bunch more.”