Review: 'Fear Street Part Two: 1978' another successful entry in expanding slasher saga
Courtesy of Netflix
If “Fear Street Part 1: 1994” was a spiritual cousin to “Scream” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” then Leah Janiak’s lively sequel/follow-up “Fear Street Part Two: 1978” is in the same ballpark as “Friday The 13th” and “Sleepaway Camp.” Here we have a slasher sequel that not only keeps the momentum of R.L. Stine’s “Fear Street” adaptations flowing, but manages to outdo its predecessor in sheer nostalgia and kill creativity. Complete with a banging soundtrack and all the prime staples of summer camp slasher classics, booze, drugs, and lots of bunk sex, “1978” is far from original, but another successful, if not better, entry in this expansive slasher saga.
“1994” was a surprisingly effective little chiller that managed to recontextualize R.L. Stines’ kid/teen friendly novels into hard R rated mayhem. Such inspiration is privy in “1978” which leaps back in time to flesh out a character’s arch from the previous installment, while trying to explain how good citizens of Shadyside morphed into bloodthirsty murderers. But “1978” isn’t weighed down by lame slasher-sequel mechanics, thanks to Janiak’s specific character details and plotting, since most of the groundwork was laid in “1994,” it allows certain moments and themes to breathe and the audience gets to have some fun.
“1978” picks up at the tail end of “1994,” after our surviving teens received a call from C. Berman (Gillian Jacobs), a local woman who reportedly bucked the Shadyside curse by dying and then getting resuscitated back to life. She warns though, such luck won’t happen again, making it extremely difficult for our heroes to thwart their common enemy. To add context, we’re transported to Camp Nightwing 1978 where C Berman explains how the curse never stops. From there, the narrative shifts focus to Ziggy (Sadie Sink, of “Stranger Things” fame) a rebellious teen with a target on her back and has an affection for Stephen King (naturally); and her overzealous big sis, Cindy (Emily Rudd) with the expectation one of them probably won’t survive the night.
All the obligatory and stereotypical characters get introduced, jock, stoner, geek, cheerleader and the virgin, before the slayings begin, but Janiak adds heft to their pedigree. Giving us wholesome individuals worth investing in before they inevitably get an axe to the face. A rarity in this genre, but such inventiveness wouldn’t work without an ensemble who knew how to play the game. Sink is a blast to watch alongside Rudd who both crawl, punch, and stab their way through the film with the energy and presence of a young Jamie Lee Curits. And “1978” doesn’t shy away from the gore and dismemberments either, building on the practical effects and jump scares of “1994,” but solidifying its own identity from the entire trilogy. The stakes feel higher as one of the strong and muscular campers becomes possessed by Shadyside witch Sarah Frier who then goes on an unstoppable killing spree. Nobody is safe. Including young campers stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It’s doused in silliness, but the cast and the filmmakers go above and beyond to make “1978” accessible and not another lame retread, especially with the cheesy witch subplot. The next installment, “Fear Street: 1666” out July 16th, is going to wind back the clocks further to where it all began. An interesting strategy I’m eager to see unfold. Could “Fear Street” be one of the few horror trilogies that delivers three exceptional pieces of horror cinema? Tune in next week.
FEAR STREET 1978 streams on Netflix Friday, July 9th