Movie Review ~ Fear Street Part Three: 1666

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The Facts:

Synopsis: In 1666, a colonial town is gripped by a hysterical witch-hunt that has deadly consequences for centuries to come, and it’s up to teenagers in 1994 to try and finally put an end to their town’s curse, before it’s too late..

Stars: Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Ashley Zukerman, Fred Hechinger, Julia Rehwald, Jeremy Ford, Gillian Jacobs, Emily Rudd, McCabe Slye, Sadie Sink, Ted Sutherland, Jordana Spiro, Michael Chandler

Director: Leigh Janiak

Rated: R

Running Length: 114 minutes

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review:  OK – here we are in the final week of Netflix’s bam-bam-bam release schedule for a trilogy of scary releases based on the books of R.L. Stine.  Inspired by that author’s phenomenal roster of slim novels for young adults that everyone had tucked in their Jansport backpacks during the late ‘80s and ‘90s, the movies were pitched as an event saga for July and after the first two weeks I can say that I was truly looking forward to the final chapter.  Unlike Part One and Part Two, Netflix made press wait a bit longer to take in Part Three, likely to keep some of the more revealing spoilers at bay, but you know I wouldn’t dare dampen your fun.  With that in mind, if you haven’t yet seen either previous film you should steer clear of my review below because we’ll be covering the events of both movies.

Are you sure you want to go forward?

You’ve watched Part One: 1994?

You’ve come back safely from Camp Nightwing? (Part Two: 1978?)

OK…we’re a go for Part Three: 1666.

Some weeks back I expressed a gnawing trepidation in my review of the first in the Fear Street trilogy, set in 1994, feeling that by the end I wasn’t sure how the subsequent two films would continue to hold viewer interest.  That original film covered a lot of exposition that gave viewers a pile of backstory and overall history of the towns of Shadyside and Sunnyvale and the supposed witches curse that has haunted the land for over three hundred years.  With Sunnyvale and its citizens prospering with horrible things happening to those in Shadyside, by 1994 it’s just accepted that the less popular province is simply the epitome of the wrong side of the tracks.  After another killing spree puts the town on edge and high school flames Deena (Kiana Madeira) and Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) become involved with the witch’s curse, they watch as their friends fall victim to a bevy of resurrected killers from the past.

Thankfully, Part One was just an entertaining bit of groundwork that set the stage for the larger framework constructed during Part Two.  Fashioned as more of a summer camp slasher movie than an outright continuation of the story that began in Part One, the 1978-set film was quite fun as we saw a possessed axe-wielding killer with a face covered by a burlap sack hack his way through the camp on a rampage.  With only two once-bickering sisters to stop him, their sacrifice leads back into the 1994 present where Deena makes a connection to a time even further back than a previous decade.  As we saw at the end of Part Two, by making contact with the earthly remains of Sarah Fier, Deena now has a psychic bond and is able to “see” the part of the Shadyside/Sunnyvale creation story they haven’t been teaching in school.

This origin story forms the basis for most of Part Three and once again director Leigh Janiak and her co-screenwriter Phil Graziadei have brought in a third, Kate Trefry, to help flesh out some of the finer story points.  I’m so interested to see what the writing process for this was like because while there have been new writers on each film, there’s a collective voice and through line that has given them all a consistency and coherence.  While we’ve seen these stories of a person transported back in time a million times before, this isn’t that.  Deena isn’t “Deena” in the past, she actually “is” Sarah living her life.  For all we know, everyone else is “seeing” the real Sarah Fier (Elizabeth Scopel) and we are only seeing the actress playing Deena because that’s a character/actress familiar to us.  That’s also why actors from previous films (I’m not saying who) pop up, sometimes as veiled nods to who they play in earlier entries.  Perhaps this suggests their family line predestines them to certain behavior…

Janiak and her writers clearly have thought this one out because while the solution becomes readily apparent upon the appearance of another modern-day character, it’s well-explained and carried forward when the timeline inevitably jumps again.  When that happens, it’s another brilliant piece of ingenuity (and a clever way for Janiak to actually break the movie into a tetralogy right under our noses) and keeps the final act energy hurtling forward at breakneck speed.  It does get a little Home Alone-y but I almost wouldn’t have wanted it any other way – it’s all in keeping with the spirit of all three films.

What fun this series has been and who knows, perhaps another project like this could get made and readied for next summer. While this wasn’t based on a particular R.L. Stine Fear Street book by name, there are definitely a long list of titles that could be chosen from if they needed inspiration for the future.  They’d have to have this trilogy to contend with though, one that starts off strong and only gets better as it goes along.

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.