Major spoilers are ahead. Shadyside is cursed and it's all thanks to a 300-year-old witch. In Fear Street Part One: 1994, we're told that Sarah Fier was hanged in 1666 for being a witch, but instead of dying, she stuck around the Ohio town, turning innocent people into psycho killers.
By the end of the first movie in Netflix's Fear Street trilogy, inspired by the R.L. Stine book series of the same name, the witch takes hold of local teen Sam (Panic's Olivia Scott Welch) and turns her into her newest hench(wo)man. To save the town, Sam's girlfriend Deena (Kiana Madeira) and her brother Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) have to take down Sarah Fier. How will they defeat the witch in the Fear Street trilogy? Well, don't go looking to Stine's books for answers.
Fear Street director Leigh Janiak said the slasher films are inspired, but not based any specific novel in the series, which was first published in the '90s. Instead, Stine's books act as a jumping off point for the film trilogy. "The spirit of the books is definitely infused throughout — it’s embodied in our story, our characters, and the overall craziness that ensues," she said in a Netflix press release.
The narrative of the Fear Street trilogy is entirely new, built off the creepy world that Stine built all those years ago. The movie, like the books, is set in the cursed town of Shadyside. The films also include the Fier family, who are subject of The Fear Street Saga, a historical fiction trilogy that gives the origin of the Shadyside clan, who were originally known as the "Fears" until changing the spelling. Hence, the title of the series.
In 1993's The Betrayal, the first book of the Fear Street trilogy, we learn of the Fier family, the founders of Shadyside who were cursed during the Witch Trials. It has to do with the Goode family — a name that also pops up in the Netflix trilogy. (The sheriff in Part One: 1994 is Nick Goode, who makes a call to someone to let them know, "It's happening again.")
In Stine's book, Edward Fier, the son of town magistrate Benjamin Fier, falls in love with sweet, but poor Susannah Goode. His dad doesn't approve of the match so, to stop it, he accuses Susannah and her mother of being witches. The two are burned at the stake, but Susannah's father William Goode seeks revenge on the family. Turns out, he's actually a witch and the one who puts the curse on the Fiers.
But Sara Fier is not a character in Stine's series and the mythology behind her witchy ways was created solely for the films — with the author's support. ("I'm always excited to see what other people can do with my stories," he said in a Netflix press release.) Janiak built the trilogy on this idea of "systemic rot," that "there's been this one scapegoat throughout this town’s history — a witch who’s the source of everything bad that happens," she said.
Fear Street Part One is really just the beginning of this witch's tale. After turning mall rat Ryan Torres (David W. Thompson) into the Skull Mask Killer, we see the power she still holds over the town. The next film, Part Two: 1978 goes back in time to learn more about the mysterious C. Berman (Gillian Jacobs), who survived the Camp Nightwing killer and Sarah's wrath.
Though, C. Berman doesn't seem to have the answers either. In the final moments of Part One, she calls Deena to let her know that Sarah hasn't stopped haunting her after all these years. "You haven't stopped her. You can't," she says. "She makes the rules."
While there are no clear cut solutions for how to get rid of Sarah Fier, there may be clues hidden throughout Part One. The nursery rhyme in the first movie goes, “Before the witch’s final breath, she found a way to cheat her death. By cutting off her cursed hand, she kept her grip upon our land." Would finding her arm somehow release her grip on Shadyside?
But the trilogy also begs its audience to ask the question, Is Sarah really a witch? The 1600s were a time of literal witch hunts, not the ones Trump likes to talk about, in which women were accused of being witches when in reality they were just different. They were the outcasts, those perceived to not be good enough. Like Susannah Goode in the books, and now Deena and her friends in the film. Is it possible Sarah Fier isn't the root cause of Shadyside's problems, just its first victim?
We probably won't get any clarity on this until Part Three, which takes place in 1666, the year Sarah Fier was hanged. It's also the same year Shadyside was tormented by its first murderer: The Pastor, who kills kids by cutting out their eyes. Clearly Sarah has been at this for a long time. So long that the town has leaned into the myth in interesting ways. (Shadyside High School's mascot is a witch, FYI.)
With the movie, Janiak wanted to show the cycle of oppression that the town has faced since 1666. How Shadyside's horrifying past has repeated itself over and over again to the point that the murders don't even resonate with those who have seen this too many times before. "You see it in Part One and Part Two," she said in a press release. "How these innocent people, who were just different and didn't quite fit into the world that they were born into, became put-upon." Luckily, Deena and the town's other misfits are ready to fight against fate and to save whatever good still lives in Shadyside.