Released: 9th July
Seen: 11th July
Last week we got the first part of the Fear Street trilogy, a reverential love letter to the 90s horror classics that also opened up a larger story around the tale of Sarah Fier, a witch who cursed the town of Shadyside. When we left that film, we were about to meet up with the lone survivor of a massacre at a camp in 1978 and I was hyped because that told me we were getting a Friday the 13th style chapter and that’s a franchise I adore. So, does Fear Street Part Two: 1978 live up to expectations? Oh hell yes it does.
Fear Street Part Two: 1978 is told from the POV of the Berman sisters, Cindy (Emily Rudd) and Ziggy (Sadie Sink) who are attending Camp Nightwing for the summer break. Ziggy is a bit of a troublemaker, not exactly good at fitting in with the other kids and getting herself into large amounts of trouble. Cindy, meanwhile, is the perfect virginal girl who follows the rules and tries to do everything right. She’s also dating a boy named Thomas Slater (McCabe Slye) who, at some point, becomes possessed and grabs an axe and proceeds to do exactly what one expects someone with a large axe to do in a camp in a slasher flick.
Fear Street Part Two: 1978 might be a little more complicated than the original, since it’s not only answering key questions from the first part and setting things up for the grand finale, but for the most part it’s a straight forward balls to the wall Friday sequel that we probably should have had by now (cos, ya know, there’s this whole lawsuit going which is why we haven’t had another Friday the 13th movie in years) that racks up a high body count and a lot of great shock moments. It’s honestly pretty close to the exact thing I wanted when it became clear that this film would be playing in the 80s slasher sandbox (I know it says 1978 in the title but the first Friday came out in 1980 and it’s no secret what they’re referencing here).
What sets Fear Street Part Two: 1978 apart from a lot of the Friday-esque movies is that this film actually had great characters, which is a little odd for 80s slashers (or movies referencing that era) where the main element was how cool can the kills look and the characters were secondary. Beyond the fantastic leads of Cindy and Ziggy, there’s the bad girl Alice (Ryan Simpkins), the future sheriff Nick Goode (Ted Sutherland) and bitchy evil bully Sheila (Chiara Aurelia) among a slew of just fascinating fun characters that I really enjoyed. You end up actively caring about these characters, even ones we only see for a few seconds before they get butchered just have something about them that makes you want them to make it.
You can tell Fear Street Part Two: 1978 is a film made by people who grew up with this kind of horror film because they know what works about the slasher genre and improve on the little problems in order to create this lean, mean murder machine of a film. You never really know where the killer’s going to pop up, but you also absolutely believe how he can get around so fast because we’re shown how many ways there are to get around this camp. It plays on a lot of tropes, from the “Sex = Death” trope to the “stoners are the first to go”, everything about this genre is used to either give the fans what they want or to subvert expectations.
Where Fear Street Part Two: 1978 kind of falters is in two small areas, the first being that sometimes you could tell there was some CGI gore going on (or at very least the film sped up so much that it looked fake) and for an 80s knockoff slasher I expect practical stuff. It’s not even like the kills were that varied, mostly just a bunch of hacks with an axe which we’ve seen done practically in the FIRST Friday film. The second problem, and this one is just a personal gripe, is that the film looks too good to be 80s. There isn’t an ounce of grime anywhere on film, it’s in full HD and looks like someone shot an 80s film today. Just saying, a nice scratchy filter and some grime overlaid on the 80s sequences would’ve made it even more effective and hidden some of the seams.
Still, Fear Street Part Two: 1978 is nothing short of a delight, delivering on the shock value one expects from this branch of horror. It does suffer a little from being the middle part of a trilogy, so it has to do a ton of the leg work for the series, but the chunk of the film that takes place in 78 is so well contained that it still mostly works on its own. The first two parts of this series have been nothing short of stellar, so let’s hope that part 3 is able to stick the landing and bring this franchise home the way it clearly deserves.