Fear Street writers on their big third-act twist

July 16, 2021 Danny Munso

For your reading pleasure, please enjoy this preview from our interview with director/co-writer Leigh Janiak and co-writer Phil Graziadei for their Fear Street trilogy from Backstory’s brand new issue #44!
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Spoiler warning: Do not read unless you have seen all three Fear Street films


If you have seen the final entry in the Fear Street trilogy, you now know the big secret that all three films were hiding. Below Leigh Janiak and Phil Graziadei break down the emotional reasons they went with that ending.

The leads in Fear Street are mostly made up of individuals rarely seen as the central figures of horror films — namely, minorities and queer characters. It’s what sets the films apart and allows the writers an opportunity for some social commentary hidden among the screams and blood. “There are a million amazing slasher movies that have been made, so for me as a filmmaker thinking about this, it’s why,” Janiak says. “Why should we do this? Why should we revisit this genre? What’s the thing that’s going to make it unique? For me, it was being able to create a world that allowed these characters that had been traditionally marginalized within the slasher genre and give them their place in the sun.” The fact that Sunnyside is promoted as a place where outsiders are from is certainly not an accident. The leads see themselves as outcasts, and that’s how segments of society also see them—something the writers penned from personal experience. “We conceived of them from the beginning as a story of outsiders,” Graziadei says. “For me specifically as a gay man, for 100 years of horror movies, I’ve basically only been able to see people like me represented onscreen as victims or monsters. It’s not how I see myself, at least not always. So I don’t want to see it onscreen. Queer people don’t need movies to tell them how society sees us. We know.”

The scripts for Fear Street don’t simply change the sexual preference of a few characters and call it diversity. The feeling Graziadei speaks eloquently about is baked into the main story arc. (Final spoiler warning: Now is your chance to bail if you haven’t seen the movies.) The third film’s big reveal is that Sarah Fier is not the cause of the curse at all. She discovers the truth in 1666: that Solomon Goode has made a deal with the devil, and new sacrifices must be made each generation to keep the pact going. When she threatens to reveal the truth to the town, Solomon tells her he knows about her sexual relationship with her friend Hannah Miller—onscreen, Sarah and Hannah are represented by Deena and Sam to thematically tie the two eras together—and informs the town that their “immoral” and “unnatural” relationship is the real reason for the curse. The town predictably turns on the women, and Sarah is burned for her sins. Homophobia is literally the cause of everything that has gone wrong for over 300 years in Shadyside. “For queer people specifically, it’s this thing where in horror movies you’re often forced to scrounge around in the subtext looking for these little fragments in popular stories where you can see little pieces of you reflected,” Graziadei says. “It’s incredibly important to me that we take these characters out of the subtext and put them front and center. We were able to look at homophobia as a social circumstance that leads people to look at others as monstrous or villainous.”

If this all sounds like heady subject matter for a horror trilogy, there’s no need to worry because the Fear Street films are also fun as hell, throwbacks to bygone times of the genre that have largely been ignored for the past 15 years as horror descended into mostly psychologically based fare that can be emotionally taxing. Janiak and Graziadei were aware of this trend and were even a part of it. “Honeymoon was our first movie, and it was small and dark and reflected where the genre has lived the past 10 to 15 years,” Janiak says. “I personally love it, but for these I really wanted to do something fun. If I’m going to be living in this universe, I was thinking about what I would want to watch at night and be a part of every day on set. We could still do the things we’re talking about thematically with marginalized groups but just make it awesome and make you say, ‘Fuck, yes,’ when you’re finished watching.”

Like what you’ve read? Continue reading the rest of the article in Backstory Magazine issue #44 to find out more about Leigh and Phil’s process for bringing Fear Street to life

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