Fear Street Part 1: 1994 focuses on a short yet intense streak of murders that once again plague the town of Shadyside. The entire film is a hotbed of horror homages and nostalgia, especially for those of us who grew up reading the books as ‘90s kids. And, viewers who aren’t familiar with the series will still get a kick out of all the awesome references to books, movies, songs, and more from that era. There are likely some that may fly under our radar but these are the ones that certainly stand out in this series.
Before we meet our main cast, the film takes us to a place that many of us frequented as kids: the mall. Ahh, remember the good old days of hanging out with friends sans parental supervision? Back when you needed a payphone to get picked up and there were bookstores to raid for your next read. One of those famous stores was B. Dalton’s, a bookstore chain that is now defunct. In the 1990s, it was bought by Barnes & Noble and began to shrink to smaller numbers despite beginning a video game store called Software, Etc., now known as GameStop. (Fun fact: we also see Software, Etc. in Shadyside Mall) The final B. Dalton’s closed in 2013 to end a decades long era.
The Wrong Number, The Creepwalker, The First Evil, and Surprise Party
Of course, B. Dalton’s includes some ‘90s material, including a couple of installments from the Fear Street series, including The Wrong Number and Surprise Party. The former book includes a character named Deena, which this film pays homage to with its main character Deena Johnson. In Fear Street Part 1, the author of these books is Robert Lawrence, the name behind R.L. Stine’s initials.
Jackie Collins novels
As we continue to traverse the book store through the eyes of its doomed employee Heather, we see more book fare. There are far too many titles to name but Heather specifically stacks a few Jackie Collins books on prominent shelves. Collins was a prolific romances novelist during this time that many moms loved to read while their kids were out in the streets riding bikes and maybe fighting the undead.
“Closer” by Nine Inch Nails
It doesn’t get more ‘90 than Nine Inch Nails. The alternative rock band released their classic album The Downward Spiral in 1994 with “Closer” becoming a hit. The song’s lyrics and video were both rather controversial, combining self-hatred and sex into one dark package. It’s totally something that Heather would have been rocking out to during this time.
Dresses over shirts and wedge shoes
Speaking of Heather, she’s rocking a very classic ‘90s look. It was a weird time of wearing a dress over a long sleeved shirt. She’s also rocking those infamous wedges that no one can possibly forget. Many of us wore them proudly, putting our ankles at risk. They certainly couldn’t have helped Heather run any faster. Perhaps she should have lobbed one at the killer’s head.
A Phone With a Cord!
Once upon a time, you couldn’t carry a phone in your pocket. It stayed in your home and was sometimes attached to a cord. Fear Street takes us back to those good ole days before cell phones became a thing as we see Heather call 911. The poor girl tries to get help during her hopeless plight but it is to no avail. A cell phone certainly would have been useful during this time. In fact, we see a few phones through the series, including a clear one that Deena uses later on. And, of course, Sam is detained by a phone cord in the final moments of the film.
A Scream Opening Homage
Heather’s murder scene is undoubtedly straight from Scream. Everything from her talking to her killer on the phone (albeit without the odd mind games) to her running as he comes from behind her for the fatal stab in slow motion is a nod to the classic teen horror flick. The homage continues with Heather pulling Ryan’s mask off to see his familiar face, much like Casey Becker did during her final moments. Of course, there are differences, including us actually seeing the killer’s face and his death shortly after, but its cool to see Scream inspiring new horror films 25 years later. In a way, it makes this killer an original because if these events took place in the same universe, then Scream wouldn’t have happened until two years later.
Halloween Skull Mask
The killer’s outfit itself is an ode to yet another R.L. Stine book classic, aptly titled Halloween Night II. It’s yet another Easter egg from the book series for fans to enjoy. This particular book came out in 1993, so it would have been in the ethos of this universe for sure, especially with Halloween coming up.
“Only Happy When It Rains”
We meet Deena as this song blasts in the background. She’s perfecting her “I hate you” letter to her ex-girlfriend Sam to stick in a box of her belongings. Let the teen angst begin.
A Cassette Mixtape
There was perhaps no greater act of love (or maybe hatred) in the ‘90s than making someone a mixtape. We don’t know what songs are on Deena’s “Dear Sam” tape but we are sure it’s full of throwback bangers.
AOL chat room
What was your AOL name? It’s likely something that you’ll never forget as a ‘90s youth chatting with your friends. The film’s brilliant theorist Josh is Horrible8ilence and his preoccupation with his “internet fantasy nerd land” comes in handy later. AOL was indeed expensive for the average family back then but well worth the price.
Posters, Posters, Posters
Posters will never get old. But they were a key part of any ‘90s kid or teenagers’ personal space. Fear Street packs in a ton of them, including Beastie Boys, Guns & Roses, and LL Cool. Deena and Josh have great taste in music.
Deena snatches her Walkman from Josh before they get in the car to head to school. The music listening device was at the height of its popularity back in 1994. This yellow one appears to be a “Sports” Walkman, which was released back in 1988 but became a ‘90s staple.
“Fear of the Dark”
And, what was Josh listening to on that Walkman? Iron Maiden’s “Fear of the Dark.” It sort of suits him as a bit of a loner but the lyrics also fit the story too. It’s about a phobia that something (or someone) dangerous is lurking in the dark shadows, watching you and instilling righteous fear. Josh is certainly a big fan of the group, as evidenced by his Iron Maiden shirt he rocks in the film.
Plaid shirt and combat boots
Is there much more to say? Deena nails the grunge look of the era with her plaid shirt and black combat boots, a combination that continues to come back in fashion waves today.
The very short scene of Deena and Josh arriving at school and taking their respective strolls through Shadyside High’s dark hallways is an onslaught of ‘90s jams. The first one is “Machinehead” by Bush, a single from their 1994 album Sixteen Stone. It’s the perfect backdrop music to show Gen Xers streaming into school another day.
“Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover”
The music then switches over to make it clear that Josh has a crush on a cheerleader, of course. (We later get to know Kate.) This 1992 jam by Sophie B. Hawkins is about watching someone in a terrible relationship, wanting to rescue them, and the desire to be intimate with them.
We get yet another quick song switch to “Sour Times” as Deena sulks over all the young love she’s seeing in the hallways. The Portishead song includes lyrics like “Cause nobody loves me, it’s true…not like you,” to really amp up the teenage heartbreak angst.
Respect Yourself, Protect Yourself
As Deena exits the bathroom where boys and girls weirdly have conversations, a poster is on the wall right outside the door. This was a real AIDS campaign from the early ‘90s to encourage youth to use protection like condoms if they chose to have sex. In 1994, AIDS was continuing to take the lives of many, including LGBT youth like Deena, as a leading cause of death.
“Insane in the Brain”
Deena hops on the bus with some football players and cheerleaders to head to a game over in Sunnyvale. To punctuate their general chaos, Cypress Hill’s “Insane in the Brain” blasts in the background. Once again, a perfect song choice.
As the bus passes from Shadyside to Sunnyvale, the tone changes. Radiohead’s “Creep” speaks to what Deena and her classmates are likely feeling. We see gorgeous houses as the lyrics “I don’t belong here” play in the background.
This popular catch phrase comes from the wonderful world of WWF through the D-Generation X collective. However, this phrase didn’t become popular until around 1997, a few years after the film takes place. Either way, it’s a ’90s thing that we will let it slide. Perhaps Kate and her cohorts were simply ahead of the curve considering they didn’t do the popular arm cross to emphasize the phrase.
“More Human Than Human”
Josh is rocking out to this White Zombie song while ignoring his sister once again. It’s lovely and honestly refreshing to see a young Black kid listen to metal music because many shows and movies don’t depict Black youth from this perspective.
Always one to keep up with the latest, Josh is playing what appears to be Castlevania: Bloodlines. The game came out in March 1994 and includes its fair share of skeletons, which is what the latest killer rocks as his outfit.
It’s very brief but we see a Blockbuster video tape beside the TV as Deena learns details about the recent mall murders. A Blockbuster night was a staple for many families in the ‘90s.
Riot Like a Girl
Did you catch Deena’s “Riot Like a Girl” sticker in her room? She’s got a trove of many great things, but this one is an exceptional snapshot of the time and her personality. This stems from the Riot grrrl feminist punk movement of the early ‘90s, complete with its own set of ideology about women in society.
My So-Called Life
Kate is a great character. She is not a great babysitter. She promises her twin “helpers” that they will be able to watch My So-Called Life with her when they finish their illegal work. This short-lived drama made its debut in August 1994 and was popular among teens, certainly Shadysiders who could relate to this more realistic take on their lives.
“Gz and Hustlas”
This song is a brief yet interesting choice from Snoop Dogg’s now iconic rap album Doggystyle. It does fit Kate’s personality. She doesn’t wanna be an officer or firewoman. She wants to be a hustler, which is exactly what she’s doing as she slangs pills to her friends for cash.
The number one sign that you were into street pharmacy or some other interesting activities in the ‘90s. A pager or beeper. Honestly, people had them even if they weren’t a hustla like Kate. Oh the days of paging someone so they could hit you back.
The word “wack”
Wack is certainly not in use among the youths today. But, “wack” was everywhere in the ‘90s, from Kriss Kross declaring that not wearing your clothes backwards is “wiggity wack” to the “ Crack is Wack” anti-drug slogan. In Fear Street, Josh says breaking in and threatening Simon and Kate while kids are in the house is wack. And he’s right.
Things go awry at the hospital as the crew runs out to escape the skull masked killer. They seem to be the only ones noticing that something is wrong though. A waiting room of people are sitting back and watching Unsolved Mysteries with a deadpan look on their faces. The very creepy show was a TV mainstay about some murders that are, well, unsolved.
This song by The Prodigy is a bit of a cheat considering it didn’t actually release until 1996. But it still encapsulates the dark horror vibes that the film sets up.
A phone book
The gang figures out that one person survived a massacre back in 1978. So, what do you do when you wanna track down a local person in 1994? You bust out a phone book and look them up, something that post-millennial generations know nothing about.
Deena promises her lover Sam that they will listen to the Pixies and smooch all night long after surviving this night from hell. The band began their rise in the 80s but had a short run into the ‘90s before disbanding in 1993. (The song they listen to later is from 1989.) So, for Deena and Sam, there’s some nostalgia there and hopes that they will get back together.
Technics 24 cassette player
Things seem right with the world as Deena and Sam snuggle and listen to music on a Technics 24 tape player. Oh the days of mixtapes and chilling with no adulting responsibilities.
“The Day I Tried To Live”
While Deena and possessed Sam go at it upstairs in the kitchen, Josh is back to his usual duties. This includes chatting online and listening to more great music. This time, it’s this jam from Soundgarden from their 1994 album Superunknown. And, like the song says, they will have to go one more time around with Sam as they try to save her for good this time.
Surprise!! Fear Street gave us looks back in time but the series had a few more ’90s references to lob at us during its concluding chapter. We will keep the spoilers at a very low minimum because it’s not about the story, it is about those nostalgic things that remind us of a great decade.
For hip-hop fans, it doesn’t get more ’90s than Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. The West Coast quartet was one of the most popular grounds during this time and this song comes from their album E. 1999 Eternal, which came out in 1995. Yes, there is a little playing with the timeline here. Yes, we will allow it because we get to see Deena, Josh, and adult Ziggy cruising around and listening to it.
Remember Gadzooks clothing store?#ChicagoHistory pic.twitter.com/BhXJMWvORy— Chicago History ™️ (@Chicago_History) December 21, 2015
Things go full circle with some action back at the mall again. One store that we didn’t see before is Gadzooks, a popular teen clothing store. It reigned supreme in many ’90s and early 2000s teens closets before the retailer was bought by Forever 21 in 2005. The stores all eventually shut down within a few years.
Super Soaker guns
There was nothing like a hot summer day back in the ’90s, especially when water guns were involved. And, the grandaddy of all water guns was the Super Soaker. In Fear Street, we see the Super Soaker 50 which, as its name suggests, shoots water at a high velocity for up to 50 feet. It’s pretty hard to find one now, especially after a legal issue between the gun’s creator and Hasbro that led to them no longer being sold.
There aren’t very kind words spoken about this portable CD player. Specifically, it is called “dumb” because it is bigger than a tape deck and skips if you breathe. And, you have to carry more than one CD with you if you like variety. This is all facts. The Discman came out in 1984, later changing its name to the more familiar Walkman in 1997. Suddenly, we want one now for pure nostalgia purposes.
Yes, we heard Josh say this to himself briefly in Part 1 when facing Kate. But he says it again to Deena, revealing his reason for saying “up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start.” Josh says it is the ultimate secret code for extra lives, which helps him survive through bad things. It’s a sweet and very nerdy moment that gives us comfort, too.
“Come Out and Play”
Every showdown needs a great song. And, The Offspring’s “Come Out and Play” is great for the moment. This song dropped in 1994 on the band’s Smash album.
A CD Ripper
We see Martin, the innocent custodian, once again as he tries to convince kids to buy into his device. He believes it is better than the Discman with no CDs, tapes, and skipping. It’s not clearly exactly what he was but, considering it is 1994, it is likely a CD ripper of some sort in a hard drive. This would have been a way to technically listen to music on the go but it was far too big. Oh well. Maybe Martin invents something iPod like in this universe.
The last ’90s song of this trilogy is an upbeat tune, an appropriate way to end things. (We get a couple of Pixies songs but those are the ’80s) The Oasis song came out in 1994 and brings a smile to our faces as we see what happens with everyone after all is said and done.
And, lets not forget the biggest ’90s reference of all: general lack of parental guidance. Because we were all on our damn own as ’90s youth.