Movie Review: “Fear Street Part Two: 1978”

Carrying on the events of Fear Street Part One: 1994, the sequel, aptly named Fear Street Part Two: 1978 continues the Netflix series’ homage to the slasher genre, this time writing a bloodstained love letter to the campground mayhem of yesteryear. As I prefaced in my earlier review, although the earlier film may not have reinvented the wheel or broke new ground, I had fun with it and thought it had the chance to achieve a level of cult status, especially for the younger audiences that’d grow up with it. I still find it so cool that Netflix decided to release an entire horror trilogy in the same month, and more than Fear Street Part Three: 1666, I was very excited for this film.

With Leigh Janiak once more behind-the-camera, 1978 sees a new cast led by Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd, Ryan Simpkins, and Ted Sutherland to name a handful, the first of which you’ll most likely recognize from her performance as Max in Stranger Things. The film is set in Camp Nightwing and sees a group of teenagers thrown into the midst of a massacre, pitted against a possessed counselor on the verge of a murder spree.

As you’d no doubt expect, the latest in the R. L. Stine series is ripe with homages and inspirations, most obvious being the Friday the 13th franchise. Our masked assailant looks like he stalked his way straight out of the second Friday the 13th, back when Jason donned a burlap sack and flannel, and the film was even filmed at the same location as Friday the 13th Part 6. The soundtrack is composed of about a million-and-one familiar songs, telling us a substantial part of the budget was spent (successfully) realizing a specific thematic vision.

Similar to the last film, I believe some of their decisions can also make the film feel very highly produced and manufactured, which is either a compliment or an insult dependent on how you choose to look at it. Features like The Burning or, of course, Friday the 13th, have a certain rawness to them, accomplished by a minimalist, laidback approach, but sometimes that, too, can make the films feel incohesive or meandering.

This film, like its predecessor, is very cinematic and story-driven. It’s interested in its characters and their plight, as well as the overarching lore that binds the series together, and feels very unique from many camp slashers in that regard. I like that, personally, and I like a lot of this film overall. In fact, I would argue the film is a slight improvement over the original film. I found that the thematic dissonance, that is, the young-adult storytelling with heavier themes melded more consistently, or, at the least, didn’t have as many moments where it stood out. I found that this film more seamlessly blended its teen-drama with the genre, similar to how series’ like Stephen King’s IT blended a coming-of-age horror story with supernatural horror.

The last one felt in some ways, akin to the live-action Goosebumps film, which makes sense, if you think about it. The Goosebumps film had all these different characters popping out from the Goosebumps books, which were, in turn, inspired by classic monsters and horror stories. The first Fear Street had all these different characters as well, but skewed more toward the slasher genre. It had this sort of celebration of the genre feel to it, but, because the story of this film is more self-contained, it can feel more distinct and less like an homage, while at the same time being one.

The performances are solid, and the set-design and visuals are praiseworthy, with an attention to detail and lore-building that is not often affording to the genre. The violence and bloodshed serve a purpose and are driven by inspired ideas. Like 1994, I believe there are occasions when the storytelling can feel contrived or, to use the phrase again, very “young-adulty”, which is entirely serviceable to what the films intend and who they’re most specifically intended for.

Like its predecessor, I had fun with Fear Street 2. In fact, I liked it a little bit more, I think. Once again, it doesn’t blaze new ground, but that’s okay, as it accomplishes a solid, high-production valued straight faced slasher, and those are in very short supply these days. I look forward to the third film and whatever is next for Leigh Janiak.

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