Leigh Janiak’s three-part adaptation of the beloved R.L. Stine horror series is back for a second and even more gory instalment this week, as the survivors of the 1994 Shadyside attack head back to the Ohio town’s dark past for answers. The horror anthology charts the supernatural mysteries linked to the Fier witch, which have plagued and seemingly cursed the townsfolk. With the survivor of a similar incident at summer camp Nightwing back in 1978 proving key to our young heroes thanks to some key knowledge, the trilogy delves into cyclical nature of violence with a fascinating central mythology and a refreshing take on the genre.
Directed once again by Leigh Janiak, Fear Street Part 2 heads back in time to the fateful Summer of 1978 at Shadyside’s Camp Nightwing. Following a shocking revelation that campmate Tommy (McCabe Slye) will meet his fateful end (“one way or another, you’re going to die tonight. I saw your name written on the stone”) things begin to take a creepy turn at the campsite. As the ‘capture the flag’ game begins between rival towns Shadyside and the affluent Sunnyvale, the fun in the sun turns into a gruesome fight for survival as a campmate is seemingly possessed into a killing frenzy.
The second horror instalment picks up straight after the events of the first, as Deena (Kiana Madeira) and her brother Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) try and find key answers from Camp Nightwing survivor C. Berman (Gillian Jacobs) to help stop Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) from being possessed. Heading back to the late 70s with an American horror camp setting does feel a little clichéd, and Fear Street Part 2 definitely isn’t as fun or as fresh as the first outing. Feeling more like a direct homage to 1970s slashers such as Friday the 13th and The Burning, with plenty of genre references like Carrie and Stephen King, 1978 delves much more into the classic slasher elements. There’s sex, more drugs and definitely more gruesome deaths due to the seemingly unstoppable power of the sack-masked axe murderer (one of three former servants of Sarah Fier we’ve previously seen.)
While there’s a number of generic elements driving the surface level narrative, what Fear Street Part 2 excels at is pulling back some of the layers of the core mystery. Janiak delves further into the supernatural driving forces which connects the three instalments, with a big hint that the Goode family (Nick Goode, the local sheriff from the first part) might be more involved and know more than we previously thought, with a direct connection to the Shadyside Mall. There’s definitely more of an emphasis on the supernatural elements as we begin to delve into the vengeful 17th century witch with a key discovery of a map, a certain artefact and an integral tree. Janiak also explores more of the social commentary this time round, with a clear animosity between the downtrodden kids from Shadyside and the elitist families from neighbouring Sunnyvale.
While the main drive in 1994 was the sweet central queer love story, this instalment champions the enduring love for family, as sisters Cindy Berman (Emily Rudd) and Ziggy Berman (Stranger Thing’s Sadie Sink – the real standout) attempt to battle the odds and help each other survive the night. Once again the young cast all excel, particularly the dynamic between Ziggy and a young Nick Goode (Ted Sutherland), with their Romeo and Juliet-esque forbidden romance. However, with only one main killer on the loose – the deaths aren’t quite as inventive as the fist instalment, plus there was also one specific section where the violence towards women felt far too visceral and went on for too long. Once again, the soundtrack is on point – featuring time appropriate needle drops which Star-Lord would undoubtedly love, such as Blue Öyster Cult and Redbone!
While it doesn’t quite live up to the entertaining and inventive first instalment, Fear Street Part 2: 1978 is a darker and bloodier entry which should please fans of the sub-genre. The closing moments intriguingly set up a fascinating dive back in time once again, heading back to the beginning of it all – 1666.