As if adapting the best teen horror series of the 1990s wasn’t enough, director Leigh Janiak turns up Fear Street Part 1: 1994’s nostalgia factor even higher with a soundtrack full of everyone’s favorite hits from back in the day. There’s Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Garbage, and more, all working alongside Janiak and Phil Graziadei’s script to create the millennial’s dream slasher.
With nineteen songs from a golden era of alt-rock, the Netflix movie pays homage to the teen comedies of the ’90s that are chock full of then-hits. Nothing gets you more excited than the opening notes to a song you know and love. And don’t worry, Fear Street Part 1 knows that. Perhaps a little too well; the movie sometimes goes overboard in its attempt to evoke that alt-rock vibe with back-to-back songs that feel a bit too on-the-nose for the scene at hand.
I’ve ranked all of the needle drops on the Fear Street Part 1 soundtrack, not on the quality of the song but on how well they function within their scene. What does it add to your experience of the movie? While each of these songs has a special place in my heart, some choices are more inspired than others, akin to a record scratch.
19. “Thursday” by 99 Tales
This first needle drop doesn’t have that nostalgia factor since the song was released just this year. While 99 Tales does embody that ‘90s grunge, alt-rock vibe, it doesn’t pack the same punch as the other moments on this list. It also plays so quietly under Deena speaking with her ex-girlfriend’s mother that it doesn’t add much to the moment other than soft ambient sound.
18. “Creep” by Radiohead
Radiohead is a great band! The song “Creep,” while overused, is also great, especially when you’re feeling exceptionally moody. But here, when Deena puts on her headphones, presses play on her Walkman, and lays down on the green vinyl seat of a school bus, it is extremely on the nose. She is contemplating how much of an outcast she is, not only socially but economically, too. While such a moment of introspection makes sense here, especially as the Shadyside students head to the wealthy town of Sunnyvale, it feels a bit trite.
17. “Insane in the Brain” by Cypress Hill
The lyrics “insane in the membrane” blare as Deena is boarding the bus to a football game in Sunnyvale, decked out in a flamboyant band uniform, complete with a giant hat. The tone of this song, especially paired with the quick transition to “Creep,” is pretty jarring, but still pretty exciting. It matches the energy of the bus full of excited football players, cheerleaders, and band members, but it plays so quickly that the viewer gets whiplash. This is one of those moments in Fear Street Part 1 where the soundtrack feels a little over-the-top and unnecessary, like as many songs were crammed into the film as possible.
16. “The Day I Tried To Live” by Soundgarden
This particular needle drop doesn’t stand out on the first watch of the movie. It seems like just another opportunity to play a song from the ’90s while also providing some diegetic music in the background as Josh types in a chatroom, a scene that echoes the first time we meet him at the film’s start. However, it does indicate a quick tone shift from Deena being stabbed to Josh’s obliviousness to the situation at hand, adding in a dash of unexpected comedy. This speaks to the film’s tone as a whole where Janiak wants to balance the gore and violence with moments of humor that keep Fear Street Part 1 from falling into something too serious.
15. “You Always Hurt The One You Love” by The Mills Brothers
As Ruby, one of the supernatural serial killers stalking the group, approaches her victim, she starts to creepily sing “You Always Hurt The One You Love.” It’s so incredibly off-putting and hair-raising. But when she attacks Simon for the first time, her singing transitions to the original version by The Mills Brothers. While not as creepy as Ruby’s own acapella rendition, it adds a melancholy yet slightly more upbeat vibe that matches the scene’s terrifying tone.
14. “Sweet Jane” by Cowboy Junkies
The first and only intimate scene of Fear Street Part 1 is actually three scenes spliced into one as Deena and Sam make out, Josh and Kate kiss, and Simon masturbates in the bathroom. While “Sweet Jane” matches the quieter, more romantic vibes of the two kissing sequences, it is incredibly jarring, yet hilarious, as Simon examines himself in the mirror and reaches down his pants. That moment, in fact, is when the needle drops, which makes these other tender moments feel comical instead of genuine.
13. “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper
While this one isn’t necessarily part of the film proper, it does play over the teaser for the next installment, Fear Street Part 2: 1978. If a particular needle drop higher up on this list can set the tone of the first movie, “School’s Out” sure sets the vibe for the sequel. It captures both that excitement of summer vacation and going to camp, while also adding in that grungy, intense vibe that doesn’t feel so innocent.
12. “Killing Me Softly with His Song” by Roberta Flack
The melodramatic “Killing Me Softly With His Song” plays in the halls of the dingy and dilapidated Shadyside hospital over tinny speakers. As Deena tries to get the attention of a bored nurse, the soulful tones of Roberta Flack drift through the awkward silence. These two elements stand in such stark contrast to one another and make for a phenomenal comedic moment and release in the midst of tension and horror.
11. “Hey” by Pixies
When Deena finally gives Sam the mixtape and they finally press play, Pixies’ “Hey” begins with its deep bassline and Black Francis’ raw vocals. While this is a moment when the two can finally be intimate, the lyrics of the song feel a little less than romantic. The line “there must be a devil between us” also, unfortunately, foreshadows that very situation as Deena learns that Sam is in fact possessed by the ghost of Sarah Fier. It’s one of the cool needle drops on the Fear Street Part 1 soundtrack that seems like an odd choice but slowly reveals itself to make sense as the scene unfolds.