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SLASH AND GAB
Fear Street Part 2: 1978 (18)
Director: Leigh Janiak
Screenplay: Zak Olkewicz, Leigh Janiak, Phil Graziadei
Starring: Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd, Ryan Simpkins
Review: RJ Bland
R.L Stine is a name that will forever be associated with the Goosebumps books – a series of novels aimed at young readers that whilst not horror, were about as close as you can get when it comes to reading material for 8-10 year olds. He also wrote a selection of Point Horror books too, which were read by millions of young teenagers worldwide. Again, they were more teen drama than anything else but it was still an important gateway into the genre for many people. However perhaps Stine's most successful literary franchise was Fear Street, which he began in 1989 and that to date, have sold over 80 million copies. There were around 50 books in the original Fear Street series and they offered readers a chance for something a bit more gruesome and edgy than either Goosebumps or Point Horror. Stine wrote several spin-off books too but it's taken over thirty years for his work to be adapted for the screen – with Netflix releasing a trilogy of Fear Street movies this month. The first, (Part One: 1994) was a somewhat disappointing attempt at 90s slasher nostalgia, so we were hoping that the sequel, Part Two: 1978, would provide something of an uplift...
Part Two continues straight on from where Part One finished, with Deena and her younger brother Josh having tied up Deena's possessed girlfriend Sam and on their way to the mysterious C. Berman's house to seek help. Although initially reluctant to get involved, the reclusive stranger eventually allows them inside and tells them a story of the massacre that happened at Camp Nightwing 16 years ago. A night where she lost her sister. So we head back to 1978 where Cindy and Ziggy Berman are in the midst of the annual summer camp. Cindy (Chiara Aurelia) the older sister, is a camp counselor and is doing her best to rid herself of her Shadyside roots by assimilating with the Sunnyvale peeps. Her younger sister Ziggy (Sadie Sink) is one of the campers but is not having a good time. Her bristling attitude and Shadyside heritage make her deeply unpopular with her fellow campers and her relationship with her sister is at breaking point. However, family angst takes a backseat when Cindy's boyfriend, Tommy, is attacked by the camp Nurse – who claims that Tommy is going to die that night, regardless. Although Tommy survives the attack unscathed, rumours persist that the nurse was possessed by the infamous local witch, Sarah Fier. When Cindy and her friends find a book on Sarah Fier in the Nurse's office and Tommy begins to act a little 'off', it becomes apparent that they're all in very immediate danger...
Although some of the frustrating elements from 1994 (the incessant need to play the greatest hits from that decade, the padded plot and having to say the word fuck every 20 seconds), have not gone away, on the whole this is a slightly better film that its predecessor. Some may argue that it less fun, however that partly depends on how much you enjoyed/bought into the interplay between the main gang in the first movie. For our money, we're more willing to invest in the sibling rivalry/love of Ziggy and Cindy than any of the relationships or characters from 1994. Sure, most the people that populate 1978 are not much more fleshed out than any classic camp slasher but they are noticeably less annoying. Sink's blend of fierce and vulnerable mean that she's the stand out star here too.
Like a lot of sequels, a lot of time is spent expanding upon the central mythology and at times, that works to the film's detriment. A couple of central characters spend about half the movie basically just being Basil Exposition - and it gets a bit repetitive . The script is a bit bloated too - ten minutes or so could easily be cut from the first half of this film and it wouldn't have much of an impact. But Janiak's energetic and brash film-making means that it rarely feels dull. The film has that Sabrina like aesthetic where there's lots of darkness and the light is ambient and warm and cosy and there's no denying that it's perfect for this. And although this look isn't necessarily in keeping with the whole 70s/80s slasher vibe, the amount of bloodshed (and sex) is definitely reminiscent of Friday 13th and other stalk'n'slash fare. And whilst most films set in summer camps usually put the adult counselors in harms way, the kids are always safe. That's not the deal here!
However, we're not quite sure 1978 is quite as subversive as some are claiming it is. There aren't too many surprises and tropes are generally adhered too, not broken. No new rules are set. To be fair, it feels as if it more concerned with building certain backstories and filling in some gaps but the result is that it doesn't always feel as loose and fun as it perhaps could (or should). Although there is a commendable level of carnage to enjoy, the slashing is definitely a little bit better than the stalking and 1978 is perfectly happy to eschew a lot of potential suspense and tension in favour of efficiently brutal kills. And although the ending sets things up nicely for the third instalment, the 'twist' ending is also rather predictable too.
But hey, the story is still interesting enough to want to follow and as indifferent as we are to most of the remaining characters, we'll definitely be tuning in next week to see how this all ends.
Whilst it's darker and a little more serious than it's predecessor, 1978 is a better movie. It feels a little bit less of a nostalgia exercise and although it's still a little bit bloated, there's more than enough action and blood to make the follow up feel like a must see.
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