Movie Review ~ Fear Street Part Two: 1978

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The Facts:

Synopsis: 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.

Stars: Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd, Ryan Simpkins, Chiara Aurelia, Gillian Jacobs, McCabe Slye, Ted Sutherland, Drew Scheid, Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr.

Director: Leigh Janiak

Rated: R

Running Length: 109 minutes

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review:  Gotta start with a spoiler-alert right off the bat.  If you haven’t watched Fear Street Part One: 1994, we’re going to be discussing a lot of plot points from that film here, so I suggest stop reading now.

You ready?

OK!

Here we are in Week Two of Netflix’s fun, three-week schedule of releasing a trilogy of movies inspired by R.L. Stine’s classic novels.  At the end of last week’s film, poor Sam had all sorts of witchy things possessing her and her girlfriend Deena was willing to do anything to save her from the curse of Sarah Fier.  With friends Kate and Simon rather cruelly and gruesomely dispatched and with apparently no adults over forty residing in the town, Deena and her brother Josh call up the one townie they know might be able to help them.  That would be the person that has survived an encounter with The Witch of Shadyside before…C. Berman (Gillian Jacobs, Come Play)

Now, here’s where the film actually picks up and meeting the character Jacobs is playing is an interesting introduction.  While she was merely a voice at the end of 1994, offering a scant bit of advice to Deena, she’s front and center from the start in Part Two and director Leigh Janiak allows time for audiences to see how the recluse is living her life.  A creature of routines (her entire life is set by a variety of alarm clocks around the house labeled with various mundane tasks), she keeps herself locked away and is obviously still frightened of…something.   Of course, Deena and Josh easily find her house and have no trouble bursting in and instead of going full on panic attack at the teeth-gnashing growler demon Sam has become, C. Berman sits the two unpossessed teens down and calmly tells them how she faced Sarah Fier at Camp Nightwing in 1978 and lived to talk about it…and how her sister didn’t.

A rollicking summer camp straight out of every horror film of that early slasher film era, Camp Nightwing is all tube socks, lip gloss, athletic shorts, and friendship bracelets.  The counselors are always smoking dope and finding ways to frolic while the campers are largely learning by example.  Goodie two shoes counselor Cindy Berman (Emily Rudd) and her hunky boyfriend Tommy Slater (McCabe Slye, Destroyer) are the responsible ones while partiers like Alice (Ryan Simpkins) are of the lesser dependable variety.  Cindy’s sister Ziggy (Sadie Sink) is also at Nightwing, but the siblings go together like oil and water leading them to keep their distance while Ziggy is pursued by counselor in training Nick Goode (Ted Sutherland)

When the camp nurse (Jordana Spiro, To the Stars) shockingly tries to slice Tommy, it’s the first of many weird occurrences that lead to a night of terror and bloodshed for the campers…again, all without any adult supervision.  After one of the counselors becomes possessed with the urge to murder and does so with little care for age, race, or creed, it’s up to Cindy, Alice, Ziggy, and Nick, to kill or be killed before a rage-filled ancient torment can run its course through Camp Nightwing.  Who actually lives out of this group is surprising and has an impact on the latter moments of the film, leading to a cliffhanger ending which will be resolved in the final chapter next week.

With a new Friday the 13th film stuck, likely for a considerable amount of time, in development hell, this second chapter in the Fear Street series is sure to satisfy those who have missed a blood-soaked summer camp shocker.  It’s light on the T&A that saturated a number of slasher films but doesn’t hold back on the gore that helped define the taste of a generation of moviegoers and what they want to see in these particular types of genre entries.  It plays far more like a stand-alone movie than the middle chapter of a trilogy and that signifies strong writing. It’s actually when it comes back around to the present story where the structure starts to wobble a bit.  No matter, Fear Street Part Two 1978 builds strongly on what its predecessor had set into motion and gives the conclusion some excellent energy to start off with. 

 

Movie Review ~ Fear Street Part 1: 1994

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The Facts:

Synopsis: A circle of teenage friends accidentally encounter the ancient evil responsible for a series of brutal murders that have plagued their town for over 300 years.

Stars: Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Fred Hechinger, Julia Rehwald, Jeremy Ford, Charlene Amoia, Noah Bain Garret, Ashley Zuckerman, Maya Hawke

Director: Leigh Janiak

Rated: R

Running Length: 105 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review:  If you suffer from severe bouts of nostalgia that only a well-worn VHS copy of The Breakfast Club or a dog-eared first edition of your favorite Christopher Pike paperback can cure, you’re the target audience for a rad new trilogy of films Netflix has cooked up to make this sweltering summer just a wee bit cooler.  Inspired by the Fear Street series of novels written by R.L. Stine, the three films would each take place in a different time period, were shot back-to-back, and will be released one week apart starting with Part One, set in 1994.  Timing-wise, I’ve seen the first two but will only be reviewing Fear Street Part One: 1994 here.  Come back next week for my thoughts on Part Two and the week after that for Part Three.  If the first two chapters are any indication, this is a trilogy where the suspense builds as you go along.

The fifth Scream film is due out in 2022 but those who can’t wait quite that long will get a fun little amuse-bouche in a pre-credit sequence set in the after-hours Shadyside Mall where one B. Dalton employee has a terrifying encounter with a masked killer.  Sadly, it’s not the first such incident for Shadyside, which has a bloody history dating all the way back to 1666 when the townspeople killed Sarah Fier, believed to have been a witch.  Every few years, seemingly normal people snap and go on a rampage, leaving a trail of bodies in their wake.

While the killing doesn’t go unnoticed, it hardly registers for teen Deena (Kiana Madeira) and her friends Simon (Fred Hechninger, The Woman in the Window) and Kate (Julia Rehwald).  They’ve got their own problems to deal with.  Deena is feeling the sting of a break-up after her love interest moved to neighboring town Sunnyvale while Simon and Kate’s side-business of selling prescription drugs is constantly being threatened by exposure.   Coming face to face with her former flame, the still in the closet Sam (Olivia Scott Welch), at a sports event between the two towns leads to a prank that goes awry and stirs an evil curse from its slumber.  With the help of Deena’s brother Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) and more of the town’s history under their belt, the teens bond together to stop an unrelenting force and a barrage of Shadyside’s most infamous killers from finding them.

Part One is a bit of a strange beast and I think it’s almost helpful to know there are two more chapters that come after it.  Often I found myself wondering what purpose the other two movies would serve seeing that we already know what happens and even having footage of those two movies spliced in to prove it.  It’s like watching Friday the 13th and having clips from Parts II – IV cut in throughout – if we know where it’s all headed then why continue to watch?  Ah…but that’s where director Leigh Janiak and her co-screenwriters Phil Graziadei and Kyle Killen have some tricks waiting for you and, without any spoilers for this film or what’s to come, I’ll just say…keep watching. 

While that bodes well for the trilogy as a whole, it does leave Part One feeling very much as the introduction it firmly is.  I’d almost suggest waiting until Part Two is available so you can watch those back-to-back…or if you can wait then take in all three at once.  I like that Netflix is doling these out one at a time and hope they do this with future movies with similar themes but for me personally, Part One didn’t feel fully complete to me without having something to compliment it fairly quickly.  It also strains to make it past 90 minutes, with a number of conversations between Deena and Sam being stated and restated a number of times.  I know, I know.  Teen problems and all, but…there’s only so many times you can hear “I love you, but you moved.”  “I moved, but I still love you.” and not want to scream “Geography!  Get over it!”

These are also extraordinarily well-made films, with striking production values that don’t bop you over the head with period details (heck, they don’t even display any B. Dalton signage so the budget couldn’t have been THAT big) but instead focus on making things crisp and clean.  The gore is gruesome (and often unexpected) and people you may not think will get sliced get diced just when you’ve gotten comfortable.  The performances are good and, best of all, by the time it ends you’ll want to hop right into the next part…a sure sign that Fear Street Part One: 1994 is worth making a trip to.