If Fear Street Part One: 1994 made it seem like director Leigh Janiak was infatuated with 90s slashers, then Part Two: 1978 should make it clear that’s not the case. Director Leigh Janiak is infatuated with slashers, full stop. Throwing back all the way to Friday the 13th, 1978‘s main story takes place at a summer camp with a plaid jacket wearing brute murdering teens with an axe. And you know what? It might be better than the last one.
Picking up right where 1994 left off, Deena and Josh have Sam – now possessed by the witch Sarah Fier, the immortal evil that has caused the long history of serial killers in Shadyside– tied up and are trying to figure out what to do. They know of only one other person who has seen the witch and survived, so they track her down to hear her story.
C Berman, played by Gillian Jacobs, was a teen in 1978 during the massacre at Camp Nightwing, and her narration forms the frame of this story. Cindy and Ziggy Berman (Emily Rudd and Sadie Sink) were both there that summer, estranged by Cindy’s efforts to shed her Shadyside past and Ziggy’s anger at being stuck there. However, it doesn’t take long for Cindy’s boyfriend Tommy to become possessed by the witch and go on a murder spree, and for this movie to pay homage to the great slasher films of the 1970s.
Once again, the period details are exquisite, everything about Camp Nightwing feels like it was lifted straight out of a Friday the 13th sequel, and the costumes feel authentic instead of just retro. Plus, the filmmaking is on point as well, with the camera work and lighting once again feeling like the production team spent a lot of time studying the slasher they’re paying homage to.
As with 1994, what really makes the film sing is that they get the characters right. Slasher films are fun, but they only truly work if you care about the characters –and relationships between them– that are being hunted down and brutally murdered. The sisters Berman estrangement and rebuilding their relationship form the backbone of this story, much like Deena and Sam in 1994. Both Emily Rudd and Sadie Sink invest their characters with depth beyond what’s on the page, with Sink in particular as the “weird one” really shining.
Gillian Jacobs, who appeared in a quick voice cameo in the first film, also owns her role as the sole survivor of the 1978s massacre, and I particularly love the characterization that she is still tormented to the point of not even wanting to sleep 16 years –over 5000 days– since those events.
1978 also threads another important needle, being both a meaningful expansion of the lore of this series and the story. I didn’t talk much about Sarah Fiers in my review of 1994 as I didn’t want to spoil anything for anyone, but her story is already compelling, and the reveal of how she manifests the killers she has possessed through the centuries is gruesome in a good way.
The connective tissue between the two stories is also well-executed. Despite characters from 1994 being recast as teens, it never really seriously impacts the level of suspense at any given moment.
All in all, Fear Street is two for two so far. They are clearly made with a lot of love and respect not only for the source material but for the horror genre, and with both a 1990s and 1970s style slasher under their belt, I can’t wait to see what they do with the 1666 setting in part three.
Fear Street Part Two: 1978 premieres on Netflix on Friday, July 9th. Part One: 1994 is available now, and Part Three: 1666 will follow on July 15th.
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