And so on to the second part of the staggered horror trilogy. Fear Street Part Two: 1978 takes us further back in time to witness how a massacre at Camp Nightwing in the late 70s impacted events from the first movie, set in 1994. Based on the book series of the same name by R. L. Stein (of Goosebumps fame), Fear Street wields the familiar formula of chucking teens under the axe of a psychotic maniac, except with a larger three movie narrative of witches and an ancient town curse for extra flavour.
It’s summer camp time. A place full of bullying snooty girls, dumb but hot jocks, sarcastic druggy dropouts, and siblings butting heads. As with Part One: 1994, the affluent Sunnyvalers and perpetually doomed Shadysiders (from whose ranks a plethora of nasty serial killers have emerged throughout the town’s existence) are at each other’s throats.
The upcoming ‘colour war’ – where each team must hide in the dark woods to evade capture – only exacerbates their antagonism and their vulnerability. And oh there’s that big tree I pointed out in my last review (here), where we learn that witch Sarah Fier was hung back in 1666. That doesn’t bode well, does it?
Where Fear Street Part One: 1994 suffered from a dearth of characters worth bothering with, Part Two: 1978 is a vast improvement. Ziggy Berman (Sadie Sink, Stranger Things) is on the receiving end of the aforementioned snooty girls’ ire, but spits fire in return. Feeling abandoned by her exasperated goody-two-shoes sister, Cindy (Emily Rudd), Ziggy’s sense of betrayal makes for a strong central dynamic and both actors mine every ounce of sisterly frustration out of their scenes. Chemical high chasing Alice and Arnie bring a punky attitude, as well as the arbitrary ‘horny teens, are gonna get got’ element, and Alice is even gifted a whole development arc and everything. Fancy that!
Part One threw a whole bunch of different killer archetypes at you whereas Fear Street Part Two sticks to the one classic summer camp slaughterer, the axe-wielding maniac. We’ve already met him in Part One because of *plot reasons* but now armed with the knowledge that the curse of the witch drives otherwise nice Shadysiders to killing sprees we can wait with baited breath for the inevitable to take place. At a pinch, the deaths are less varied this time around, but perhaps more brutal because the ages of the victims are frequently younger than is entirely comfortable.
As a result of having a better roster of characters to get behind, the action directly benefits by successfully splitting into two arenas. On one side, Ziggy and a young Nick Goode (who was town Sheriff in the first movie) nurture a growing attraction when not fleeing ever stalking death; and on the other Cindy and Alice spark with bitter talk of past friendship splintered as they stumble into big rotting hunks of important plot, both growing as a result. Fear Street Part Two: 1978 takes the ‘curse of the witch’ supernatural spine and clacks the bones together in a way that never feels divorced from the time-honoured slasher bloodbath that is Fear Street’s primary weapon.
As our jaunt back into 1978 ends (with a satisfying surprise, no less) the bookended ‘present day’ parts are richer by proxy. Deena’s battle to escape the curse is all the more desperate for the weight of time and inevitability we’ve just witnessed, and as the movie wraps with a sneak flash into where it all began back in 1666, Fear Street Part Two achieves trilogy middle film holy grail: free from needing to start or end, it can have the most fun.
If I were to rummage around in the guts of negativity I could plop out a thought that by revelling in nostalgic roots, Fear Street Part Two can feel like it is hunting through classic horror checkmarks. After all, since Friday the 13th the formula has tapped blood saturated immovable roots deep into bedrock. Yet the ‘witch curse’ narrative festering underneath hoists the movie up above mere (albeit expertly crafted) homage into a joy in its own right. With a cracking 70s rock and punk soundtrack (not as blunt force deployed as last time) and a great cast constantly on the verge of gushing pints of blood everywhere, there aren’t many better ways to spend your summer this year.
Words by Mike Record