TEARS FOR FEARS
Fear Street Part 3: 1666 (18)
Starring: Kiana Medeira, Ashley Zuckerman, Gillian Jacobs
Review: RJ Bland
So three releases in the space of a couple of weeks has seen the beginning and the end of the Fear Street trilogy. It's clear that they have struck a chord with many viewers and whilst we're not convinced that the first two were anything other than pretty average, they still mark an interesting (albeit small) juncture in the horror genre. Firstly, the release of a trilogy of films on a streaming platform in such quick succession is not something that has happened before and it's been a fun little experiment. Finishing a film and not having to wait years for a sequel is quite a refreshing notion on the face of it. It also has to be considered a (mild) attempt to kickstart the slasher subgenre too. It's the one that feels like the black sheep of the horror family. Slashers are often gratuitous and low grade but it's sort of why we love them and they've been in short supply these last twenty years or so. However, admirable aspirations don't mean squat unless the end product is half decent. After a shaky start, Fear Street picked up a little in the second part. But would it go out with a bang in Part 3?
FSP2: 1978 concluded with Josh and Deena reuniting the corpse of Sarah Fier with her severed hand. FSP3: 1666 resumes where we left off, with Deena having a vision of the events of 1666 from the perspective of infamous witch Sarah Fier. However when we begin our 1666 story thread, Sarah Fier (rather confusingly played by Kiana Madeira as well) appears to be a unremarkable young woman living in the town of Union, which is what it used to be called before it was divided into Shadyside and Sunnyvale. She lives with her father and her brother, George. Other union residents include some names referenced in the previous two instalments. There's the Pastor Cyrus Miller and his daughter Hannah, who Sarah Fier is in love with and Solomon Goode, the ancestor of Sheriff Nick Goode. After sneaking into the house of a reclusive widow who lives in the woods, Sarah and Hannah head off to a gathering of young people in the town, where they all get off their face on applejack. After being harassed by a fellow union resident called Caleb, Hannah and Sarah run off into the woods and start getting it on, until they realise that someone is watching them. The next day, Union begins to suffer a series of misfortunes and it isn't long before witchcraft is suspected...
If Part Three had continued the upward trajectory of the series (from a relatively low starting point we may add), then we may have ended up with an imperfect but entertaining modern slasher trilogy. However, instead of going out with a bang, the third and final act fizzles out a little and what we are left with are three uneven and unremarkable films. A quick look around the internet and you would think that these movies are instant classics, but despite an 18 rating and occasional attempts to ape other genre films – there's a strong case to be made that Fear Street are more teen melodrama than horror. In fact, there's not too much horror here at all.
Part Three is actually split into two parts itself, with the first half set in 1666, and the second finds is back in 1994. The former is better than the latter, with Janiak keeping everything very dark and moody and despite the ill-judged attempts at Irish accents, the folky horror angle makes for a welcome change. Unfortunately, much of the tension is gone because we know where this particular story ends up and although there is a 'twist' at the end of the tale, it's hardly a surprise to anyone that has seen the previous two instalments. Also, the decision to cast most of the lead 1994 actors as different characters in 1666 just doesn't really work. Kudos for not dropping a host of nostalgic bangers in though – although the 1666 setting effectively made that rather difficult.
When jump forward to 1994, the film tries but struggles to generate a sense of verve and energy. Perhaps it's because we've essentially just had one and a half movies worth of flashbacks – or perhaps it's because it's just difficult to invest too much care or attention to the protagonists who still feel a bit hastily drawn (and annoying). Stylistically, we revert back to the 90s hits and the neon lights and the references that are supposed to make us feel all nostalgic and gooey inside. But at this point it all feels more like window dressing than ever and although the film (and trilogy) concludes in a rounded way and ties up its loose ends, there are no shocks or surprises. For something heralded by some as being edgy and subversive, Fear Street plays it safe most of the time.
It's been an intriguing experiment and it's had its moments. All three films are good looking and Janiak proves that she's a real upcoming talent behind the camera. The love story at the heart of it is refreshing and fingers crossed, we'll see much more inclusivity within the genre going forward. It has also attempted to stir the slasher sub-genre from it's deep slumber. Many genre fans, ourselves included, were willing it on to succeed but as a whole, it isn't much more than a summer slasher dalliance. There will be more Fear Street entries to come, we just hope that they change up the formula a bit going forward.