PLOT: In part two of the Fear Street Trilogy, we find out what happened in 1978 when the witch’s curse took hold of Camp Nightwing – where members of Shadyside and Sunnyside must work together to survive.
REVIEW: The second chapter in a trilogy can be the most problematic. While the first film sets everything up and the third finishes it all off, finding the balance of creating a middle section is a task in itself. Fear Street Part Two: 1978 manages to continue the story that began in 1994 – and will ultimately end in 1666 and beyond – and make a fun and compelling feature film that can stand on its own. Much like what they did with the music and the tone in the first film, the second feature has a little fun with the slasher films many of us grew up on, most notably Friday the 13th, and perhaps a little Halloween for good measure – notably the year this takes place. Much like Fear Street Part One, the latest is a fun, freaky, spooky, and atmospheric joy of a flick. If you dug the last one, 1978’s adoration for the ’70s and 80’s horror classics hits all the right notes for a satisfying genre treat.
After a quick reveal of what happened in part one, we meet the gang at Camp Nightwing, which includes citizens of both Shadyside and Sunnyside. For Ziggy Berman (Sadie Sink), going to camp hasn’t brought great childhood memories. Her rebellious antics have made the local bullies of Sunnyside quite angry. She also has a problematic relationship with her older, more responsible sister, Cindy (Emily Rudd). After the camp nurse (Jordana Spiro) has a moment of insanity and attempts to kill Cindy’s boyfriend Tommy (McCabe Slye), things start to get even more horrific. It appears the local legend about a witch may be coming true, which leads Cindy and her one-time friend Alice (Ryan Simpkins) – as well as Tommy, along with Alice’s boyfriend Arnie (Sam Brooks) – to investigate the legendary curse. Once they get too close, one member of Shadyside will be wielding an ax and brutally murdering campers. Can Cindy, her sister, and Alice stop the witches’ curse from turning Camp Nightwing into a bloodbath? This Friday, you can tune in to find out.
One of the charms of the Fear Street Trilogy is the unabashed love and understanding of the slasher film that director Leigh Janiak has. Considering both Part One and Part Two are damn near a two-hour run-time – which can be too long by some slasher purists – the pacing and the way the action keeps things moving is impressive. And much like your classic killer in the woods features, this latest chapter in the Fear Street world brings on the horror references and catchy tunes in an inventive and fearless way. And much like the first film, Fear Street Part Two is an R-rated feature through and through. There is violence and gore (some of which involve young campers), tons of language, and a surprising amount of nudity. This throwback to classic slashers does a far better job than the recent season of American Horror Story: 1984 that attempted to skewer a similar theme – while I personally enjoyed that last season of AHS, this is better.
Another one of Fear Street Part Two strengths is the cast. Both Sadie Sink and Emily Rudd stand out as sisters who struggle to understand each other. The two present two interesting characters, both are faced with grave horrors, and frankly, it’s easy to root for each of them. McCabe Slye has a unique task in the film, and he handles all of it perfectly. The actor gives a terrific performance that is equal parts sympathetic and menacing. And yes, the survivors from the first film are here as well to open things up, and perhaps more. There is an energy here with the casting and the kinds of characters that are collected on-screen. While there is a clear Friday the 13th inspiration, you could even say that this second film brings a bit of Sleepaway Camp to the table by casting a few younger-looking actors to make their ages more believable.
This script by Leigh Janiak and Zak Olkewicz manages to bring what we saw before and the new characters together in an inventive way. One that I feel will be most challenging with the arrival of the third and final film in the trilogy, 1666. Yet, here it works shockingly well. By bringing together what we learned about the curse and filling in some blanks, the continuation manages to expand this legend in a satisfyingly fun, engaging, and ferociously entertaining manner. Much like the classics that it is so inspired by, the new film takes time to set up the players before things go nuts – but that pace works in favor of the film. If you don’t give a crap about the many campers and counselors about to face bloody terror, it wouldn’t be nearly as exciting. Thankfully, Janiak truly understands this and has brought us one of Netflix’s best genre entries.
If you dug Fear Street Part One: 1994, you’ll no doubt embrace the latest. The cast is game for some bloody good fun. The script fully embraces the joy of the slasher film – one that many fans take very seriously – and the direction and music make for a celebratory take on this familiar tale. Perhaps this is not exactly what you’d expect from an R.L. Stine adaptation – considering the nudity, gore, adult themes, and violence – but that can be a good thing. Fear Street continues to bring a ton of energy and charm, and this middle chapter is maybe even an improvement over the last – which I enjoyed as well. It’s fantastic to see a movie like this fully embrace the slasher mentality, yet without feeling exploitive or overly meta. One that unabashedly celebrates why these movies have remained popular and probably always will be. Fear Street Part Two: 1978 is available now on Netflix, and it’s more than worth a visit or more.