Editor’s Note: This review is mostly spoiler-free.
Every trilogy needs that middle to fill in any loose holes, enforce elements introduced in the previous part, and move the story forward without mucking up the journey to the end. R.L. Stine’s Fear Street Saga trilogy was a prime example of that, though its second book, The Secret, suffered from classic middle book syndrome. As Netflix’s FEAR STREET TRILOGY approaches the release of FEAR STREET PART 2: 1978, there was a concern from me as to whether or not viewers would be headed into a slump. While at times there is some expositional info drops, and a fair amount of repetition that served to call back to Part 1, it didn’t detract from the installment’s overarching theme of healing old wounds. Readers, I do strongly advise you to watch Part 1 prior to diving into this next installment (which you can read more about in my spoiler-free review). As the trilogy is set up, you will be a bit lost if you just jump into PART 2 blind.
PART 2 starts off roughly where viewers ended with Part 1 in 1994, but don’t worry. We won’t spend too much time in that year. For anyone wondering how exactly the writing team was going to transition the story into 1978, the time we spend briefly towards the beginning of this installment provides the proper transitional method to launch viewers into Camp Nightwing circa 1978. Camps in horror movies are a staple of the genre, and it is no surprise that writer-director Leigh Janiak would take the story there. There’s plenty of referential material like Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp to pull from, and the production design from Scott Kuzio, and the set dressing done by Jess Royal easily helps to immerse the viewer in.
While PART 2 might feel a little bit like expositional filler to help the audience learn more about elements from the previous installment, Janiak has crafted the story in a way that makes us invest despite an occasional info dump. A huge part of this is something that I failed to mention for Part 1 as well, but a huge part of this has to do with how we see the characters develop onscreen. Janiak has created characters that are multi-dimensional. While the viewer is introduced to the characters initially aligning with a certain trope, the more the story progresses, the more we can’t help but want to reach through the screen and protect them. At least, this is the case with the Shadysiders. As viewers will learn in the previous installment, the citizens of Shadysiders are self-aware as to where their lives will lead. And that heavy weight on these poor Shadysider shoulders is abundantly clear in how we see the violence in PART 2 play out.
Oh, yeah. Speaking of violence, the team really goes there with the gore. Then again, if you had already watched Part 1, you would have known this due to a certain death scene towards the end of the film. The kills are guaranteed to satisfy slasher fans, especially since there will be moments where you question how far the violence will go. If you’re looking for violence that’s more downplayed, or realistic, FEAR STREET PART 2 may not be your cup of tea. Another note as it pertains to the violence in both installments so far is that the kills wouldn’t have the same impact if the characters weren’t so likable. The build-up that allows the viewer to drop their guard is used with maximum impact here, and is guaranteed to continue that spree of stabbing our hearts with feels.
Part of how viewers will get kicked in the feels is in part due to the performances delivered onscreen. As mentioned in my Part 1 review, casting had a huge part to play in how connected viewers will feel to these characters. Props again need to be given to Carmen Cuba for casting done in 1978. Sadie Sink, who many know from Netflix’s Stranger Things, slips into angsty territory with her role as Ziggy Berman, but it’s not unwarranted given what viewers will learn. Emily Rudd’s Cindy Berman might be immediately dismissed early on for embodying that innocent uptight final girl energy but, like most Shadysiders, there’s a lot more underneath the surface. Rudd’s performance, as well as Ryan Simpkins’s performance as Alice, are notable standouts in this particular installment. In fact, Alice is easily one of my favorite characters from FEAR STREET PART 2, and I’m dying (not literally) to know how others will warm up to the character.
Continuing on with the performances, McCabe Slye is definitely one to watch in the future. While in Part 1 we knew of what his character had done, it pales to what viewers will see onscreen. His gradual transformation from sweet, seemingly perfect Tommy Slater to the infamous Shadyside Killer we learn about in Part 1 is something to behold. Chiara Aurelia, hot off Cruel Summer, is perfectly nasty as Shelby, the gal who really has it out for Sink’s Ziggy. Drew Scheid doesn’t get much screentime as Gary, but he makes great use of it with his lighter comedic timing. The same can be said for Jacqi Vené’s Joan who is literally the embodiment of the hippy-dippy type (though, a decade too late perhaps.) Ted Sutherland plays the trope-ish hero of PART 2, but there are some nuances he adds into his version of Nick Goode that I have to note viewers should return back to once the entire trilogy is out.
Where some viewers may take issue with are, perhaps, potential redundancies in how the film callbacks to previously introduced scary points. Knowing how certain events are triggered, it does undercut certain story beats as the viewer might have the expectation of what is to come. However, I’d argue that Janiak handles these instances in a way that still manages to deliver a heartfelt impact on the soul. In one particular moment, while we know what has happened with a trio of characters, the massaging of how the scene plays out manages to deliver surprises. Another issue, which again will be of personal individual opinion, may be the needle drops. While not as many as what was featured in Part 1, there are quite a few songs in PART 2. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Given how FEAR STREET PART 2 ends, viewers will be thrusting their hands up in the air with frustration that the final part is not available immediately after viewing. After all the build-up surrounding the origin of the curse, and left with a cliffhanger, all anyone will be able to do is twiddle their thumbs until the following week. However, much will be revealed in the final installment, so stay tuned!
FEAR STREET PART 2: 1978 releases globally on Netflix on July 9, 2021.
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