Fear Street Part Two: 1978 (2021) ☆☆☆(3/4): …And then it goes back to 1978

Netflix film “Fear Street Part Two: 1978”, which was released on last Friday, tries to bring some fresh air into its genre territory just like its predecessor. Again, we are served with a gruesome horror tale of serial killing coupled with some supernatural elements, but the movie still provides a fair share of fun and thrill before opening the door to the final chapter of its trilogy in the end, and I found myself more entertained than expected.

The story starts at the time point not long after the cliffhanger ending of “Fear Street Part One: 1994” (2021). Its two main characters, Deena (Kiana Madeira) and her nerdy younger brother Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.), managed to survive another horrible night of murder in their cursed hometown Shadytown, Ohio in addition to saving Deena’s girlfriend Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) from a bunch of serial killers controlled by the malevolent spirit of a powerful witch in the 17th century, but, alas, Sam subsequently becomes possessed by the spirit of that witch, and Deena and Josh must find any possible way to solve this new trouble before it is too late for Sam.

It seems that the solution may come from the sole survivor of one of the previous serial killing incidents in the past, so Deena and Josh hurriedly go to the house where that sole survivor lives at present. That person in question is not so cooperative while quite resigned about what has been going on in Shadytown for many decades, but that person eventually agrees to tell Deena and Josh about what happened at a local summer camp in 1978.

The movie accordingly moves back to that summer camp in 1978, and we are introduced to Ziggy Berman (Sadie Sink) and her older sister Cindy (Emily Rudd), who are not so particularly close to each other due to their personality difference. As trying to be as exemplary as possible, Cindy hopes that her participation in the summer camp program as a camp counselor will be another stepping stone to a better life outside Shadytown, and she often regards her more laid-back Shadytown colleagues with disdain. In contrast, frequently bullied and ridiculed by the campers of the neighboring town which is better than Shadytown in many aspects, Ziggy, who is naturally included in the Shadytown camper group, does not think that is possible, and she is usually annoyed by her sister’s haughty and fastidious attitude.

At least, there comes a little consolation for Ziggy while she goes through another miserable day at the summer camp. There is one kind and compassionate male camp counselor from that neighboring town, and this lad not only saves Ziggy from her latest humiliation but also helps her a bit when she later plans a little sweet retaliation against one of her bullies.

However, of course, there soon comes a big trouble when Cindy and her several fellow Shadytown camp counselors go into the surrounding forest during the following evening. Using the records left by a camp nurse who suddenly tried to kill Cindy’s boyfriend for no apparent reason, they eventually locate a certain spot associated with the old dark history of their town, and, as many of you have already guessed, that eventually leads to the beginning of that infamous night to remember.

What follows next is not so far from “Friday the 13th” (1980) and its countless sequels, but the movie, which is based on the popular book series of the same name by R.L. Stine, often toys with our expectation as swinging back and forth between twisted humor and bloody horror as required. I particularly like how the sequence involved with a very smelly underground space is swiftly punctuated by one gory moment of shock later, and I was also tickled a bit by a little homage to the killer character in “Friday the 13th Part 2” (1981).

Although the ending is already predetermined from the very start, the movie keeps engaging us as never losing the focus on what is being developed among its main characters, who have more life and personality compared to those disposable human targets in many lesser slasher horror films out there. As some of these main characters try their best under their increasingly perilous situation, we come to care about them more than expected, and that is one of the main reasons why the expected climax works with considerable dramatic effect.

Under the competent direction of director/co-writer Leigh Janiak, who directed all three films of the trilogy, the main cast members in the film dutifully fill their respective spots. While Sadie Sink and Emily Rudd complement each other well as two contrasting sisters who come to depend on each other more than expected along the story, Ryan Simpkins and Ted Sutherland are fine as two substantial supporting characters in the story, and Gillian Jacobs, who has been mostly known for her supporting turn in TV sitcom series “Community”, shows the more serious side of her talent during her brief appearance in the film.

On the whole, “Fear Street Part Two: 1978” is a fun genre exercise as entertaining as its predecessor, and you will be more curious about how everything in the series will be resolved in the following last chapter of the trilogy. So far, the series has been fairly satisfying, and I guess I can have a little more expectation on whatever we are going to get on the upcoming Friday.

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