- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
At the beginning of Fear Street Part 2: 1978, Deena Johnson (Kiana Madeira) and her brother Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) are shaken and desperate. The previous week’s events — the murders at the mall, hospital and grocery store featured in Fear Street Part 1 — have left them with several questions. Who was Sarah Fier, the witch who haunts Shadyside? Why is she still after them? And, perhaps most importantly, how do they stop her?
A frantic search for answers leads the pair to the house of C. Berman (Gillian Jacobs), a reclusive, cagey woman haunted by her own memories of encounters with the witch. She reluctantly agrees to help the siblings by telling them about the night she survived a brutal massacre. “In Shadyside,” she intones, “the past is never really past.”
Fear Street Part 2: 1978
Airdate: Friday, July 9 (Netflix)
Cast: Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd, Ryan Simpkins, McCabe Slye, Ted Sutherland
Director: Leigh Janiak
Screenwriters: Leigh Janiak, Zak Olkewicz
As the middle child of the trilogy, Fear Street Part 2: 1978 has neither the luster of a premiere whose novelty immediately hooks viewers nor the fascination of a finale, with its promise of revelations and tying up loose ends. But that doesn’t stop director Leigh Janiak from having fun. Part 2 is its own exhilarating adventure that showcases a dynamic cast of characters and revels in lots and lots of bloody murder.
Janiak, with the help of production designer Scott Kuzio and costume designer Amanda Ford, also makes this film feel distinct from the last one, immersing viewers in the golden-hued psychedelic vibes of the 70s. Despite the sometimes tedious pacing and repetitive script, it’s a classic-feeling slasher that delights in gore — think Friday the 13th — and an affirming example of Janiak’s confidence behind the camera.
The story Berman tells begins on the morning of the Color War, an annual competition between the Shadyside and Sunnyvale attendees at Camp Nightwing. It’s July 1978 and the camp, which feels like a forced kumbaya between two rival factions, is brimming with chaotic energy. The bucolic grounds — a lake that glistens in the sun, wide open green fields — can’t mask the sinister history of the site: It’s where Sarah Fier made a deal with the devil in exchange for immortality.
Of course, that’s just a story told to scare campers. The real demonic energy, at least at the beginning of the film, comes from the bitter feud between the Shadyside and Sunnyvale campers, who take turns pulling dangerous pranks on one another. At the center of the most menacing acts are Ziggy Berman (Sadie Sink) and Sheila (Chiara Aurelia), two campers whose mutual disdain is limitless and frighteningly palpable. Early in the film, Sheila and her gang hang Ziggy to a tree and try to burn her alive.
Before any real damage is done, though, counselors Nick Goode (Ted Sutherland) and Kurt (Michael Provost) intervene. They set Ziggy free, but only after blaming her for initiating the fight and issuing a stern warning about her continued attendance at camp. (This is her fifth strike.) Ziggy, bold and unfazed, flips them off before running to Nurse Lane (Jordana Spiro), who helps her bandage the burn wound, and her older sister Cindy (Emily Rudd), who is less than comforting. Cindy, a camp counselor this year, admonishes her younger sis for getting into trouble again. Her primary concerns are her equally perfect boyfriend, Tommy (McCabe Slye), and saving up enough money to get out of Shadyside.
Many of the characters in Fear Street Part 2 behave in the same way as those in Part 1, which makes sense since the trilogy’s main interest is in cycles and repetition. Cindy embodies the Shadysider who aspires to escape against all odds, while Ziggy is more fatalistic. “No one gets out of this town, not even Miss Perfect,” she says. “Bet you’re on your way out and you get run over by a bus.” Their fight echoes a similar argument Deena and Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) have early in Fear Street Part 1. Despite the familiarity of their characters, though, both Sink and Rudd make the roles their own. Sink, whom many will know as Max from Stranger Things, nails the reckless and moody teenager certain that no one can relate to her.
But it’s Cindy’s transformation that becomes one of the most satisfying to watch. At the beginning of the film, she possesses an unwavering commitment to logic and a blinding refusal to believe in the supernatural. But everything changes the night of the Color War, when Sarah Fier’s spirit targets Cindy’s boyfriend, Tommy. He goes mad and begins hacking campers and counselors with an axe. The dangerous turn of events emboldens Cindy, who goes from being a tight-lipped nagger to a shovel-wielding trash-talker hell-bent on protecting her friends and younger sister.
For me, the best parts of Fear Street Part 2 are the ones in which the teen drama takes center stage — from the illicit romantic pairings to the crazy feuds and pranks. Genre purists will be relieved that none of that comes at the expense of grisly murder scenes; Janiak spares no one, and there’s no shortage of inventive deaths. As campers got mutilated or sliced in two, blood gushing from their innards and staining the shirts and psyches of those who survive, I shuddered to think what Part 3 has in store for us.
Production company: Chernin Entertainment
Cast: Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd, Ryan Simpkins, McCabe Slye, Ted Sutherland, Jordana Spiro, Gillian Jacobs, Kiana Madeira, Benjamin Flores Jr.
Director: Leigh Janiak
Screenwriters: Leigh Janiak, Zak Olkewicz, Phil Graziadei (story by), R.L. Stine (based upon the Fear Street Books by)
Producers: Peter Chernin, David Ready, Jenno Topping
Executive producers: Leigh Janiak
Cinematographer: Caleb Heymann
Production designer: Scott Kuzio
Costume designer: Amanda Ford
Editor: Rachel Goodlett Katz
Composers: Marco Beltrami, Brandon Roberts
Casting director: Carmen Cuba
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day