Fear Street Part 2: 1978 (photo courtesy of Netflix)
The moment Samantha Fraser accidentally encountered Sarah Fier’s grave in Fear Street 1994, the writing was on the wall. With a centuries-old grip on the town of Shadyside, the witch’s whispering threats have claimed the souls of countless victims, their names carved onto the underground walls of Fier’s haunted cave to represent a nightmare set in stone. The writing was on the wall, and it was only a matter of time before Samantha would be in danger. Fulfilling the promise of more anticipatory mystery, Fear Street 1978 (Part 2) picks up where Part 1 leaves off, with Deena promising to get Sam back. To understand their conundrum in present-day, Deena and Josh revisit the past by approaching C. Berman (Gillian Jacobs), the only person to have seen the witch and lived to tell the tale. Berman’s story, which sees Deena and Josh huddled near her like listeners around a spooky campfire, takes Fear Street down a winding road to 70s horror.
Adapted from R. L. Stine’s best-selling books, Fear Street 1978 follows a group of teenagers, including Berman sisters Ziggy (Sadie Sink) and Cindy (Emily Rudd), at Camp Nightwing in Shadyside. School’s out for the summer, but when a Shadysider is possessed with the urge to kill, fun in the sun becomes a gruesome night for survival. Part 2 accelerates the Fear Street level of gore with a brutal series of axe murders that leave a disturbing trail behind. In addition to the horrific kills and eerie 70s atmosphere, Fear Street 1978 tells a resonating tale of two sisters grown apart who find a way to reconnect. The pair represents different perspectives of being a Shadysider; while Ziggy often falls into trouble and is considered an outcast by rival Sunnyvale kids, Cindy chases the myth of perfection to make the truth of her town disappear. Both are determined to see the world how they wish to see it, often resisting each other’s reasoning. Tough and quick to brush off what Sunnyvalers say about her, Ziggy leans fully into the witch’s curse as an explanation for why her life is the way it is. Guided by a strong moral compass, Cindy rejects witchcraft “rumours” in favor of logical explanations. She’s fueled by her strong desire to be more polished and educated, in order to shed the reputation Shadysiders have as “crazy”. The curse is tied to a town she wants to get away from. While the two sisters don’t share a ton of screen time, the weight of their relationship is felt so deeply. Sadie Sink and Emily Rudd do a wonderful job conveying the friction between these characters, while also tapping into a layer of history hinting at how close they once were. At the emotional core of the film is Ziggy and Cindy’s relationship, which spirals in unexpected ways.
Emily Rudd and Sadie Sink in Fear Street Part 2: 1978
Working with co-writers Phil Graziadei and Zak Olkewicz, writer-director Leigh Janiak weaves camp slasher horror with strong character dynamics and a potent 70s vibe. Part 2 brings a lot more gore, spookier scares, and the eerie impulse to look over your shoulder when it's all over. As the majority of the film takes place at Camp Nightwing, Janiak builds onto the fear of being in an isolated setting and evokes the eerie ambiance of cabin fever. The sense of place is incredibly strong, and the use of setting is impressive. Janiak finds ways to incorporate so much of this campsite, and raises the stakes for characters with frightening scenarios at the hands of witchcraft. Part 2 delves into deeper exploration of Sarah Fier’s lair, the potentiality of putting an end to the Shadyside curse, and how C. Berman’s never-ending nightmare truly begins. The story makes neat and cohesive connections to possessed characters that were introduced in Part 1, including Ruby Lane and the axe murderer. To further unravel the Fear Street mystery, 1978 introduces Mary Lane (Jordana Spiro), camp nurse and mother to Ruby. Nurse Lane, known by campers as the one whose daughter “went crazy,” firmly believes the witch’s curse is to blame for what Ruby did. The nurse has a sixth sense for the witch’s whispering threats and sees the writing on the wall. She knows who the next Shadyside victim will be.
Leigh Janiak’s adaptation excels at drawing out the witchy mystery just enough without killing anticipation for the final installment, which promises the origins of Sarah Fier’s curse. The groundwork is certainly being laid for Shadyside history to come full circle. Part 2 includes some striking visual echoes and a few twisty character reveals that recall moments from Part 1. The glowing tree planted in the 90s town mall is home to a sought-after key to the curse…one that Nurse Lane tried digging for, as the numerous X’s marked on her Camp Nightwing map indicate. 1978 also elaborates heavily on the axe murderer/Nightwing killer, a subtle homage to a hybrid of Jack Torrance and Leatherface, whose possession wreaks gory havoc on the campers. The killer unleashes during the biggest night of the summer, the ’78 Color War where Shadysiders and Sunnyvalers tag each other, putting counselors in a scramble to locate all the campers and bring them to safety. Part 2 splits into various storylines and covers multiple campsite locations, which builds on fearful anticipation for what will happen next. It’s a great way to introduce new characters, and get to know more about the dynamics they share. Cindy, her former friend Alice (Ryan Simpkins) and their boyfriends Tommy (McCabe Slye) and Arnie (Sam Brooks) find themselves underground in search of clues to end the witch’s curse. Alice in particular is an intriguing character, masking sadness with a chaotic energy and exuding a fearless quality that she misses in Cindy. The two of them end up finding a lot more in common as the story progresses. Meanwhile, Ziggy is exploring a budding relationship with Nick (Ted Sutherland), whose role as one of the camp counselors raises eyebrows about boundaries being crossed. She also dodges the devious relentlessness of Sheila (Chiara Aurelia), the Sunnyvale queen bee who seizes any opportunity to bully Ziggy. Much like 1994, Fear Street 1978 incorporates memorable characters that drive the story to engaging places.
Ted Sutherland and Sadie Sink in Fear Street Part 2: 1978
Fear Street Part 2: 1978 (photo courtesy of Netflix)
As demonstrated in Fear Street 1994, there’s an endearing and fun appreciation for the horror genre through references to iconic titles. What makes the references work so well is a combination of subtlety and application. 70s horror vibes shine through the dialogue, visuals, camera movement, characters, and soundtrack of Fear Street 1978. Leigh Janiak infuses homages in a myriad of thoughtful ways, and maintains her own clear vision in the process. Inspired by 70s and 80s summer camp slasher films, Part 2 creates a campsite design that feels secluded and almost illusionary in its sense of leisurely togetherness. The impending doom marks a countdown to insanely gruesome kills reminiscent of Friday the 13th (1980), and claustrophobic cave scenes that echo The Descent (2005). Part 2 also throws in neat references to Carrie (1976), visually with a prom-style trap and narratively with Ziggy’s supernatural reputation among the Sunnyvalers. From the visuals to the spirited score and awesome soundtrack, Part 2 lays the setting of its era on well. The film builds on familiar horror elements and makes spooky use of secluded cabins in the woods. While Janiak succeeds at creating something of her own within the source material, the story falls into a few eye-rolling tropes often seen in horror movies. Elsewhere though, the Final Girl trope is refreshingly turned on its head. The film raises an interesting thought about the witch’s murderous scapegoat, and how this parallels a chase for perfection, for example. That no matter how much characters try to distance themselves from entertaining a Shadyside reputation, no matter how much they want to reach an idea of perfection, the truth of this town reaches from beyond the grave to shatter the illusion of escape.
For a second time, Leigh Janiak makes her mark in the horror genre with a distinct Fear Street adaptation and pays homage to classic titles without stumbling into carbon copy territory. Part 2 turns back the clock on Shadyside to explore a story of siblings, sacrifice, and uncovered secrets about the evil grip on the town that has C. Berman frozen in time. Fear Street 1978 hits the sweet spot of summer horror, incorporates a new group of memorable characters, and tells a resonating tale of two sisters. The filmmakers continue to find success by unleashing the fear on a weekly basis, this time around leaving room to savour the first two installments and anticipate the final chapter.
Fear Street Part 2: 1978 releases July 9th exclusively on Netflix at www.netflix.com/FearStreet.
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