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Fear Street Part Two: 1978 Review

July 13, 2021 | Posted by Joseph Lee
Fear Street Part Two: 1978
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Fear Street Part Two: 1978 Review  

* Sadie Sink as Ziggy Berman
* Emily Rudd as Cindy Berman
* Ryan Simpkins as Alice
* McCabe Slye: as Tommy Slater
* Gillian Jacobs: as C. Berman
* Chiara Aurelia as Sheila
* Kiana Madeira as Deena
* Olivia Scott Welch as Samantha Fraser
* Benjamin Flores Jr as Josh
* Brandon Spink as Young Will Goode
* Ted Sutherland as Young Nick Goode
* Jordana Spiro as Nurse Lane

Story: Shadyside, 1978. School’s out for summer and the activities at Camp Nightwing are about to begin. But when another Shadysider is possessed with the urge to kill, the fun in the sun becomes a gruesome fight for survival.

It’s interesting that Netflix released the Fear Street adaptations as a trilogy of movies rather than a TV series, as they likely had enough material to make it an eight-episode season or so. Instead, they chose to make three movies and release them weekly. I guess it’s a good way to get interested parties to keep coming back and stay subscribed. Either way, it’s presented as more of a long-form TV show, complete with a “previously on” at the beginning and a trailer for the next installment at the end.

A lot of trilogies are unplanned, and so you get varying quality between them as writers have to come up with new stories and new characters to interact with the old. In this case, the trilogy was very much planned and so it’s the continuation of what had been previously established. In cases like that, it’s usually the middle installment that tends to come off as the least interesting as it’s both follow up from the first part and set up for the second part.

The movie picks up immediately after the last one, with only three members of that film’s cast left. They’re on their way to get some help after the ghost of Sarah Fier has possessed one of them. Only the survivor of the incident in this film can help them by explaining more about how she survived the witch’s onslaught when she was a resident of Camp Nightwing in 1978. With that set up out of the way, we go straight into another slasher movie.

The first thing I noticed about Part Two is that it moves a bit slower than 1994. In a way, that’s brilliant because the slasher movies that came out around that time period also moved slower than say, Scream. Whether or not that’s intentional I have no idea, but it does work for the type of movie we’re setting up. It also gives us time to become more acquainted with the new characters after spending so much time with the cast in the first film.

This movie didn’t have to do that. After all, we know for a fact that everyone dies in this movie except for one person, as it’s set up by the last film and the various trailers for this one. Even knowing that, the script still manages to create likeable characters (particularly the Berman sisters, who grow over the story) and bonds that give the scenes stakes. It also has a few tricks up its sleeve that will still leave the viewer guessing, playing with the conventions and formula that these camp slashers normally have.

If the first film used Scream as the basis for what it would be, then this one leans more on Sleepaway Camp. It does borrow from other, similar camp slashers, but that’s the one that sticks out the most. Not only does it have an “anybody can die” aspect to it that that film had (never once in a Friday the 13th movie did you ever feel a child was in danger), but some of the characters even feel like they fit certain types. Chiara Aurelia as Sheila is definitely hitting the “mean girl at camp” vibes with her character, going just as over the top as Karen Fields did in that movie.

There are multiple other familiar beats that really seem like this is going for that film’s aesthetic, but in the end it eventually is still its own thing. It’s still a continuation of the main story, after all, and the camp setting is here to be a slasher that sets up advancement of that. Luckily it does that and without sacrificing anything for this film’s plot. It would have been so easy to have the movie broken up as the story is told by cutting back to 1994. But the movie would have been lesser for it, and so it avoids it. In fact, the 1994 story is almost an afterthought, serving as more of a wraparound.

The biggest credit in the world goes to Emily Rudd and Sadie Sink, who carry the movie as the Berman sisters, who are vastly different and have a complicated relationship. We perhaps don’t get as much time to explore that as you might like (we’ve got a body count and more mythology to get to) but it does the best it can. Sink in particular shines in nearly every scene she’s in, whether it’s the easy chemistry with Ted Sutherland or getting some genuinely funny lines. The end of her arc is a real gut punch, and one that you know is coming from the moment the movie begins.

Fear Street Part Two: 1978 could have hit a lot of missteps that trilogies do, or even follow-ups to movies in general. Luckily it doesn’t. If the first film was fun, this one has more depth. There are plenty of kills and some of them are nasty, but it’s more about story than that, which is to its benefit. This is another good time in this series and hopefully it can end on a high note.

The final score: review Good
The 411
Rather than simply being a "middle part" of a trilogy, Fear Street Part Two has its own story to tell by going deeper into the mythology and letting its flashback stand on its own instead of simply being there to service the characters from Part One. In the end that makes it not just as enjoyable as the first part, but slightly better. So far so good with this trilogy, although it remains to be seen if it can stick the landing.