Fear Street Part Two: 1978

When I looked at the first part of this movie trilogy on Netflix, you probably got the rough idea that I was happy with it. Yes, I had to calibrate my brain back into teenage, angsty, 1990s, horror/comedy territory. But I got there, and the story really drew me in. I enjoyed watching it, hands down.

There was no such calibration required this time. The second part won me over almost instantly. It kicked off with the survivors of the 1994 story meeting up with a woman who’d encountered – and survived – ‘the witch’ back in 1978. She tells her story and we’re transported back to that year.

Like the first instalment, this means playing snippets of 70s songs over and over and over in all the early scenes. I get why they do this, but it feels so heavy handed. It’s like the film expects the audience to be a bit slow and needing it reinforced again and again and again that this is the 1970s as if the fashions or indeed, the year ‘1978’ being splashed across the screen in a massive, bloody font weren’t enough. It’s not subtle and it’s kinda annoying. I feel this way about anything which underestimates its audience. Doctor Who does it presently with episodes full of exposition, as if the audience can’t be trusted see what’s happening on-screen and connect the dots for themselves. But I digress. This is a small issue for Fear Street and, like the first film, it calms down to a large degree after 20 minutes.

I found this middle segment of the trilogy to be funnier than the first part (besides the obvious gore and dismemberment which we’ll discuss soon), and seemed to evoke the era better. I think the summer camp setting helped a lot here. It just screams 1970s, whereas a lot of the locations in the 1994 episode still felt totally contemporary; like some people in 1990s fashion had been placed on a 2020s street. Obviously more effort had gone into it than that, but the setting here was better.

I also found the cast to be as good as the first part – perhaps even marginally better. This being primarily due to Stranger Things‘ Sadie Sink (she plays Maxine “Max” Mayfield if it’s been too long between series for you, dear reader), playing a main role in this film as Ziggy Berman. As in that other homage to an earlier decade from Netflix, Sink is extremely likeable and you really root for her. Something that was harder in the first film as the core group of teenagers were all brand-new to me. Here it was like, “Oh look, it’s Max from Stranger Things… I hope she does OK…” from the start. Notably the first movie had another Stranger Things alum, in the form of Maya Hawke, but it’s hardly a spoiler to say she doesn’t last much beyond the opening scenes, so barely factors into it overall.

The story also felt more grounded in this instalment. Partially, I think it was better-written and more interesting overall, but having all the set-up made in the first film meant that this one was easier to immerse in and it could just tell a story – even though it’s set 16 years before the previous part.

Last time I looked at Fear Street I mentioned profanity and this time around I’ll mention blood and gore. While the first film had its fair share of gory moments – and quite imaginative ones at that, if anyone cares to recall the bread slicer at the supermarket? – this film seemed to ramp it up.

There’s one scene in particular which I won’t describe in detail for fear of spoilers, but it’s just brutal. I could scarcely believe what I was seeing and felt uncomfortable with it from the point of view of, “How is this entertaining?” Of course I get that it’s a slasher film, and people are going to be killed because – duh – that’s the whole point, but this particular scene seemed to linger a little too much on the character being assaulted, again and again and again. I was like, “OK, {character} has been murdered… do we need to have the scene go on and on and on?” Again, who is that sort of thing for?

But overall, I do want to leave you with the idea that I really enjoyed the film. It grabs the storyline from the first part and really runs with it with a rug pull at the end which I kinda saw coming maybe halfway through the film (and hoped would be true, actually). My expectation that it would be a flashback for the benefit of the characters from the first film was correct. Interestingly, the third part set in 1666, seems to feature actors from the first and second films, all playing historical roles. That will be really cool, actually, as it’s a chance to bring back people who were murdered in the first two parts and see them on-screen again, albeit as different characters. And we’ll finally get to the bottom of ‘the witch’ of Shadyside. Folks, this isn’t my usual Netflix fare by any measure, but it’s quite fun.

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