Note – These reviews usually refrain from spoiling any major details of the movie being reviewed, however with sequels it can sometimes be impossible to discuss the setup for a movie without potentially ruining plot points from the previous film. This is usually not an issue as sequels are normally released several years after the previous movie. However, in this instance, this is a movie that was released only a week after the previous movie. Because of this it’s worth noting that this review of Fear Street Part 2: 1978, might spoil some plot elements of the 1994 installment from last week.
While the promotional material was pitching the Fear Street trilogy as three horror movies set in three different eras, it was clear by the conclusion of the first movie, that these were meant to tell one single story against one antagonist, the witch Srah Fier. Unfortunately this meant that we knew where the story would eventually come to a climax and it wasn’t in 1978. The path from the first movie set in 1994 to the third movie set in 1666 was clear, and 1978 felt like just a pitstop on that road.
This movie doesn’t do a whole lot to subvert that particular issue. The movie starts and ends in 1994 with the main characters who survived the first movie and the 1978 segment of the movie is just a flashback. As far as what it contributes to the overarching story of the trilogy, the story being told in 1978 could have been a fairly quick flashback. We already had a lot of the necessary information about this Camp Nightwing massacre from it being discussed in the first movie. And any new critical information that we get in this movie could have been delivered in a much shorter flashback. However, because the idea is to present the story as a trilogy, the flashback is stretched out to feature length to add an entire slasher movie into the middle of the Fear Street trilogy. As far as contributing to the overall story though, this middle movie doesn’t feel that necessary.
But, when we get to the end result, we’re left with a movie that might not feel necessary, but that doesn’t keep it from being pretty good. Just like the first movie draws direct comparison from 1990s horror movies such as Scream, this movie takes great pains to recreate the feeling of watching a slasher film from the late seventies or early eighties. From the clothing, to the setting, to the music, to the plot structure, to the cinematic framing of the kills, this movie tries it’s best to look and feel like a movie from the time period that you maybe just never got around to watching before now.
At Camp Nightwing, we’re introduced to two sisters from Shadyside, Ziggy and Cindy Berman (played by Sadie Sink and Emily Rudd) away at summer camp. While the personalities of the two sisters are polar opposites, Cindy is a ever chipper do gooder while Ziggy is a rebellious kid who likes bugs and scary books, because they are both residents of Shadyside, they appear to be trapped under the same curse as ever other person who has lived in the town for as long as anyone can remember. When the camp nurse goes crazy, and attacks Cindy’s boyfriend, the camp counselors investigate what could have caused the nurse’s incident and discover a treasure trove of research into the Shadyside witch including her connection to the land that the camp had been built on.
Once it becomes clear who is going to be playing the “Jason” stand-in for the slasher portions of the movie, everything starts to fall into place. A game of capture the flag spreads the campers out in the woods at night so we can set up a series of creative kills. We even get the negligent couple of counselors who abandon their campers to fool around and are punished for it in the traditional slasher film way. It feels like a careful study has been done to break down what worked in every slasher movie from the era, and just like the 1994 installment, it’s been meticulously recreated here to serve as a beacon for nostalgia while weaving the overarching Sarah Fier storyline into the basic slasher plot.
Once the setup of the movie was clear it felt like the biggest downfall of the movie would be having to wait for the characters to catch up to where the audience already is. After all, assuming you’ve already seen the first installment set in 1994, you know a lot about the rules when it comes to the curse of Sarah Fier (blood touching her remains, etc.). But even that part of the movie feels like a slasher movie, as any movie released in the era came with the expectations of the audience knowing where the movie was headed long before the doomed characters on the screen. What could have been a stumbling block for the movie ended up being a sort of cornerstone to anchor the tone and feel as the movie descended into full blown slasher territory.
Ultimately, while the movie never quite escapes the fact that it is a feature long movie being used to reveal a ten minute flashback’s worth of information, it managed to pull it off while never feeling like it’s dragging to get to the feature length running time. It delivers on the promises made by teasing the killer in the first movie, and adds just enough to the mythology to make it feel like a chapter in a much bigger story. A story that will hopefully pay off with the final movie of the trilogy, set all the way back in 1666.