CAST: Kiana Madeira, Ashley Zuckerman, Gillian Jacobs, Olivia Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Darrell Britt-Gibson, Fred Hechinger, Julia Rehwald, Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd, McCabe Slye, Jordana Spiro, Jordyn DiNatale, Jeremy Ford, Mark Ashworth, Randy Havens
RUNNING TIME: 112 mins
BASICALLY…: The town of Shadyside uncovers the true origins of its horrific, historical curse which dates back to the year 1666…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
As quickly as it began, Netflix’s Fear Street trilogy has come to a close. It’s been a very mixed ride, with all three entries indulging in classic slasher movie tropes that have given out some mild entertainment, but noticeably lacking in elements that should make us care, from compelling characters to an intriguing storyline. The trilogy has also been an exercise for the filmmakers to drip and ooze homages to the bygone slasher eras of the 90s and 70s, often to middling effect (and always with an extremely heavy decade-influenced soundtrack). Obviously, the majority of critics and audiences seem to have enjoyed these movies more than I have, but it’s not like these have been completely terrible; they’ve just not exactly hit my sweet spot when it comes to these kinds of horror films.
The closing entry, Fear Street Part 3: 1666, is no different; while it is perhaps my favourite of the three, it’s still got as many setbacks as its two predecessors, which goes along with how each of these films are very much cut from the same cloth, but it’s a merely okay cloth and nothing more.
We begin right where the second part left off, when – in 1994 – teen Deena (Kiana Madeira) attempts to save her girlfriend Sam (Olivia Welch), the latest Shadyside resident to become possessed to kill by a powerful witch named Sarah Fier, by reuniting Fier’s severed hand with her buried body. Deena ends up being transported back to 1666, where she inhabits the body of Sarah Fier herself, with other townsfolk in the small settlement of Union also played by other cast members from the previous two films (for example, Fear Street Part 2: 1978’s lead Sadie Sink pops up in a small role, as do slain members from Fear Street Part 1: 1994). We then go on to see what exactly started the curse that has plagued the town for centuries to come, and how Fier factors into everything; needless to say, it’s not entirely what you may think. It all provides answers that could help the heroes in 1994 stop Shadyside’s curse once and for all.
The reason this is probably my favourite of the three movies is because, unlike the previous two, it’s not exactly following the established formula, and is attempting something a little different. There isn’t another possessed serial killer stalking the 1666 landscapes here (except for one creepy instance, which is resolved fairly quickly), and it’s more about the vile hatred that these townsfolk have towards the people they deem to have caused the killer to come about, since they feel that their actions have summoned the devil to their provincial town. Because of that, the situation becomes a little more sinister when it’s numerous people hunting down one or two individuals, instead of the other way around, and you do feel more on edge as well as feeling more sorry for some of these characters. It also helps that, again unlike the previous two, there isn’t a blaring soundtrack made up of era-appropriate hits on constant display here; while there is a consistent orchestral score in its place, it’s at least a step up from having to listen to one classic track after another, with few pauses in between.
However, the film still has a number of flaws which match up with both of its equally-flawed predecessors. Once again, the characters aren’t interesting enough to fully care about, and the plot takes a few predictable turns that you’ll have figured out long before the movie even begins addressing them. The decision to have previous cast members show up as new characters here is certainly interesting, but aside from 1994’s leads Kiana Madeira and Olivia Welch here playing both the doomed Sarah Fier and her more-than-just-friends friend Hannah respectively, the choice doesn’t really amount to much else; plus, it doesn’t help that a lot of them are stuck giving some pretty bad “Oirish” accents that might make Sean Connery in The Untouchables blush with embarrassment. Once again, it’s a horror movie whose flaws are too noticeable to fully recommend, but at the same time it’s hard not to appreciate what director Leigh Janiak has attempted to do with her trilogy of films, by having each one of them pay tribute to certain eras of slashers and supernatural horrors, while also being typical examples of those types of genres. This one, in my opinion, just does it a little better than the others.
Things eventually come to a head when we return to 1994, for an all-encapsulating climax which concludes virtually every loose plot thread in as meaningful and satisfying a fashion as possible. This is where things do start to get a bit more fun, especially as we finally know the truth behind all these curses and who’s been turning the key all this time; certain performances suddenly become more over-the-top and silly, but in a way where you can enjoy it rather than groan about how ridiculous they’re becoming. It does serve as a satisfactory wrap-up of the whole trilogy, and of the main characters’ arcs which are handled in a pleasing enough way, even if you’re still not entirely able to warm to a number of them. There’s violence, creepy atmosphere, and Home Alone-style traps to make most people feel like their time has been well-spent watching these movies, even those who haven’t enjoyed them as much as other people clearly have.
While I can’t say that I was ever in love with any of these Fear Street movies, I also can’t say that I was ever hating them either. Although they did mostly go in one ear and out the other for me, I did at least appreciate the ambition to try and bring slasher movies back into the mainstream, especially on Netflix as a means to reach more people than a simple theatrical release might have ever done. Personally, I’d rather sit through plenty of other slashers like A Nightmare on Elm Street or Halloween than the Fear Street trilogy again, but at least I tolerated sitting through them the first time.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Fear Street Part 3: 1666 is the better entry of the slasher trilogy for its deviation from formula and genuine suspense alone, but it still contains just as many flaws as its predecessors, and despite concluding things on a reasonably satisfying note, this and the other entries amount to a series of slashers that are just “okay”, but never great.