In ‘Fear Street,’ a Lesbian Romance Provides Hope for a Genre

They’re also the heroes. In a tender scene in “1994,” when Sam finally stops denying her feelings for Deena moments before the former becomes possessed, Deena makes a crucial vow to Sam. “Tonight, even though we are in hell, I feel like I have another chance with you,” she tells her. “I am not going to lose you again. Because you and me are the way out.”

This simple statement is often heard in horror, but it’s usually uttered by a man to his female love interest. In “Fear Street,” the promise of a future feels more significant: It signals a change that requires Deena to be sent back to 1666. There, as Sarah Fier, the queer woman who was persecuted as a witch and hanged on account of her love for another woman (also played by Welch), she can seek justice against the same kind of hatred and violence that keeps Deena and Sam apart in the present day.

In “1666,” Janiak wanted to highlight the idea that women who were accused of being witches back then were those who merely didn’t fit the standard.

They were labeled witches “because they were other, because they were looking too long at the other girl, or because they didn’t want to get married,” she said. “They weren’t falling in line with whatever societal lines were.”

As it turns out, the animus that humankind displays — as with Solomon (also played by Zukerman), who rallies an entire town to persecute Sarah in “1666” — is just as deadly as a witch’s curse, if not more so. It allowed Janiak to look beyond the supernatural scares to examine the evils of our fellow man. “That, to me, is always the scariest thing,” Janiak said. “I thought this was a cool opportunity that we could visit crazy genre villains, but then ultimately get to that underlying thing of ‘Who’s the real monster here?’”

Ultimately, the “Fear Street” films are aspirational — though there is obviously much carnage along the way. Deena and Sam help to save the town, but more important, they preserve their love for each other. “The trilogy allowed us to give a little bit of hope that I don’t think usually exists in horror movies,” Janiak said, and with a laugh added, “When you only have an hour and a half, you’ve just got to kill everyone. But the experiment of the movies allowed us to push and question and change things a little bit.”

And it was necessary.

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