Netflix’s ‘Fear Street’: How Does the Curse of the Shadyside Witch Work?

Netflix released the first installment in its Fear Street trilogy on July 2, 2021, introducing viewers to a slasher film with a supernatural mystery at its core. That mystery involves the Shadyside Witch, whose curse plagues the teenage protagonists of the movie. Of course, how that curse functions might escape viewers too caught up in all the bloodshed unfolding onscreen. That’s why the film’s director, Leigh Janiak, outlined how the Shadyside Witch works — and why she kills the people she kills.

‘Fear Street’ director Leigh Janiak explains who the curse of the Shadyside Witch affects

When Fear Street Part 1: 1994 first opens, the teenagers that viewers follow are tempted to believe whoever is killing high schoolers in Shadyside, Ohio is doing so indiscriminately. As they unravel what’s actually happening, however, it becomes clear that the Skull Mask Killer is fixated on one person in particular: Sam (Olivia Scott Welch).

It’s not long after that the film reveals Sam is the victim of Sarah Fier’s curse, the result of accidentally disrupting her bones. Also dubbed the Shadyside Witch, Fier focuses on killing one victim — and she won’t rest until that person is dead.

Of course, the Shadyside Witch accumulates a body count throughout the first film, leaving fans wondering who gets to live and who dies. In an interview with Collider, Janiak explained that anyone who stands between Fier and her current victim is fair game.

“So the killers only kill Shadysiders unless someone is right in their path, then they will kill whoever’s in their path to get to the person who has disturbed Sarah Fier’s grave, so bled on her grave,” Janiak explained. “That’s the main mythology rules of what happens. So don’t disturb Sarah Fier’s bones or you’re f—ed, basically. And we obviously say ‘disturb’ is specifically if you bleed on them.”

The next two parts of Netflix’s ‘Fear Street’ trilogy will reveal how the curse was created

Netflix's Fear Street stars Olivia Scott Welch and Kiana Madeira looking at a newspaper in Part 1 of the series
Olivia Scott Welch and Kiana Madeira as Samantha and Deena in Netflix’s ‘Fear Street Part 1: 1994’

RELATED: Is Netflix’s ‘Fear Street’ Trilogy Based on a Book?’

Although Fear Street Part 1: 1994 offers some insight into how the Shadyside Witch chooses her victims, it doesn’t tell fans why she exists in the first place. It’s clear that Fier must have something tying her to the world of the living. It’s also obvious she’s angry and looking to take it out on her victims. What happened to make her this way, however, remains a central mystery of the story.

According to Janiak, the two Fear Street sequels will answer that question. Specifically, the conclusion — which takes viewers all the way back to 1666 — will tell Fier’s story, uncovering her motivations for haunting Shadyside’s teenagers all these years.

“We ultimately do answer the question of, what the f—, Sarah Fier?” the director told Collider. “Why are you such a b—- to Shadysiders and what happened? And that’s part of 1666 and then you kind of start to understand all of the little nuances of what happened.”

Netflix's 'Fear Street' director Leigh Janiak wearing a black and white polkadot dress and red lipstick at the film premiere
‘Fear Street’ director Leigh Janiak | Chris Delmas / AFP

Leigh Janiak had big plans for these adaptations

Although Janiak didn’t follow R.L. Stine’s books too closely when bringing her Fear Street trilogy to life, she did have big aspirations putting these films together.

For one, she wanted to ensure the slasher movies were more diverse and inclusive than the classics that influenced them. Netflix’s Fear Street Part 1: 1994 may reference Wes Craven’s Scream, but everything from the casting choices to the film’s central romance diverges from such films.

“As we started to break down the narrative across the three films, it made sense that everyone in Shadyside feels ‘other’ and feels like they’ve been told by the world that they’re not good enough for whatever reason, whether or not it has to do with race or sexuality or socioeconomic status or whatever it is,” Janiak explained during an interview with IndieWire.

Connecting all three films also makes Fear Street stand out from typical slasher movies, most of which have relatively contained stories. Janiak breaks that mold, allowing the mystery introduced in film one to span all three installments. That connection could continue to ‘wow’ fans when the sequels arrive later this month.