REVIEW: ‘Fear Street: Part Two 1978’ Pays Homage While Building its Own World

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Fear Street Part 2

The Fear Street series of books hold a special place in my heart. They were the books I sought out at every Goodwill trip, hoping to find used copies . They were also the largest series I have ever collected. Some kids had Magic Treehouse, but I had Goosebumps and Fear Street. That magic of young adult horror is present in Netflix’s new Fear Street Trilogy. Three films telling one story is a new way of storytelling for the platform. Fear Street: Part One 1994 gave mall slasher vibes with some possession thrown in, understanding the 90s assignment perfectly. Now, with Fear Street: Part Two 1978 (Fear Street Part 2), the story of Sarah Fier takes viewers back to a summer camp, sibling issues, mean girls, and more – all with a slasher making their way through the camp.

Last film, the foundation was set. The town of Shadyside has a cursed history, one that involves a long list of Shadyside killers who had become possessed by the spirit of Sarah Fier. Sarah was a young woman killed for being a witch and is now looking for revenge. This is your pretty standard world-building for intergenerational horror, but with Fear Street Part 2 1978 we get to see how Netflix pulls off one story, across three films, with each one focusing on a specific point in time. The film is directed by Leigh Janiak, with a screenplay by Janiak and Zak Olkewicz.

While the film takes place mostly in Shadyside, 1978, we get to the story by Deena (Kiana Madeira) desperately trying to find a way to save her possessed girlfriend.  In order to find out more about Sarah Fier, she has to go learn about the others who have dealt with her. This leads us to see what happened in the past at Camp Nightwing. Told from Ziggy Berman’s (Gillian Jacobs) perspective, we see what happens when another Shadysider is possessed with the urge to kill.

Now, Fear Street Part 2 is amazing because it acts as a time capsule of 1970s horror. The summer camp aesthetic, sex included, that became the iconic location for slashers of the time is in full force. The fashion sells the immersion and the soundtrack, much like it did in Part 1, and it seals the deal. Every bit of this film is a look into 1978 that replicates the time period in general, but also the horror that accompanied it. That said, the film also takes the time to build out its characters just as well. Especially when it comes to the Berman sisters, Ziggy (Sadie Sink) and Cindy (Emily Rudd), whose relationship serves as the emotional connection that grounds audiences while mayhem ensues.

Ziggy is bullied a lot. Like tied to a tree and burned while mean girls chant about Sarah Fier kind of bullied. But she doesn’t let it phase her too much, or at least not to the point of changing who she is. Ziggy is unapologetically herself, even if those around her hate her. Cindy, on the other hand, is overly concerned with appearances. From the Polo shirt she saved up to buy to the perfectly styled hair, Cindy is all about winning the favor and approval of others above even her own self-interest.

This dynamic is one we’ve seen many times before before. That said, it works well in Fear Street Part 2 because it has each sister moving independently of one another and meeting at the same point: Sarah Fier. While one feels vindicated, the other begins to change her perspective and accept that the world is not what she wants it to be and that pushes them close together by the film’s final act. That said, the sisters aren’t the only characters in the film. The supporting characters are tropes, but they are used in a way that acknowledges the trope they embody by understanding the other characters in the horror canon that they pay homage to.

Additionally, Fear Street Part 2 is the best example of updating iconic tropes within their time frame for modern audiences. The film is pure 1970s, tropes and all, but they avoid some of the more problematic elements of slashers of that era. The best example of this is how the film uses sex. We see characters engaging in sex, but we never see gratuitous moments of nudity that dehumanizes female characters – a trademark of the early slasher.

While the film is strong, there is one element of Fear Street Part 2 that leaves me wanting more: the kills. Yes, the kills are creative and paced well for the ax-murdering character, but the characters that are killed are random and have no weight to them. While I definitely appreciate characters that exist to be slasher fodder, the first murder of the film is someone that doesn’t warrant their gruesome end. In fact, the standard death fitting the character’s time on screen doesn’t seem to exist in this film, and while that’s fine overall, it lacks the weight that lets the kills be more than just a moment on screen and really impact the narrative.

Overall though, Fear Street Part 2 is both strong as a standalone story and as a sequel. Plus, the film embodies everything we love about summer camp slashers and 1970s horror. While I initially questioned how seamless the trilogy would fit together, Part 2 is perfectly connected to Part 1 and ultimately expands on the narrative and lore we were given. Plus, with the film’s finale, the stage is set for a stellar Part 3.

Fear Street: Part Two 1978 is streaming now, exclusively on Netflix.

Fear Street: Part Two 1978
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

Fear Street Part 2 is both strong as a standalone story and as a sequel. Plus, the film embodies everything we love about summer camp slashers and 1970s horror. While I initially questioned how seamless the trilogy would fit together, Part 2 is perfectly connected to Part 1 and ultimately expands on the narrative and lore we were given.