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Fear Street Part 2: 1978 (Movie Review)

Fear Street Part 2: 1978 (Movie Review)
7 10

READ OUR REVIEW OF FEAR STREET PART 1 HERE

PLOT: Tormented by the spirit of the witch Sarah Fier in 1994, teens seek the help of a woman who survived a summer camp massacre carried out by a Fier-possessed maniac in 1978.

REVIEW: Director Leigh Janiak's Fear Street Part 1: 1994 set up the idea that the spirit of a witch named Sarah Fier has been possessing people in order to carry out murders in the cursed town of Shadyside, Ohio ever since 1666. One of those murder sprees happened at Camp Nightwing in 1978, and that's the focus of this sequel that Janiak directed from a screenplay she wrote with Zak Olkewicz - based on a story they crafted with Phil Graziadei, and of course on author R.L. Stine's series of Fear Street novels.

Friday the 13th is my favorite horror franchise, and because of that I love to watch summer camp and backwoods slashers in general, so Fear Street Part 2: 1978 is the entry in Janiak's Fear Street trilogy that I have been looking forward to the most ever since these movies were first announced. While watching it, Friday the 13th was on my mind in a major way, and not just because it was filmed at Hard Labor Creek State Park in Rutledge, Georgia, the same place where Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI was filmed. The Friday the 13th movie it made me think of the most was one we never actually got to see, as it never went into production. It's one that director David Bruckner and screenwriter Nick Antosca were developing a few years ago, with their approach being to make their film "the Dazed and Confused of Friday the 13th movies"; which is to say, it was going to be a period piece (set in the '80s) and would focus heavily on the characters while featuring a lot of awesome music. We'll never get the movie they were planning, but what Janiak has delivered with Fear Street Part 2: 1978 is very much along the lines of what they were going for. It's a summer camp slasher, a period piece, it focuses heavily on the characters, and it's packed with awesome music fitting for the time it's set in. If you watched 1994, you know Janiak is definitely a fan of needledrop tunes, there were times in that movie where it felt like there were too many songs being used, and the needledrop party continues here.

Fear Street Part 2: 1978 Camp Nightwing Leigh Janiak

While the sounds of David Bowie, Neil Diamond, Foghat, Captain & Tennille, The Runaways, Cat Stevens, Blue Oyster Cult, Buzzcocks, The Velvet Underground, Thelma Houston, and Kansas (some may shy away from using "Carry On Wayward Son" after its fifteen year association with Supernatural, but not Janiak) fill the air, we're introduced to troubled camper Ziggy Berman (Sadie Sink), an outcast at Camp Nightwing and the sister of "stuck-up priss" counselor Cindy Berman (Emily Rudd); straightlaced counselor Nick Goode (Ted Sutherland), who has a secret interest in Stephen King novels and that weird girl Ziggy; Cindy's wild former friend Alice (Ryan Simpkins), who now considers Cindy to be a narc; Alice's drug expert boyfriend Arnie (Sam Brooks); and Cindy's boyfriend Tommy Slater (McCabe Slye). There are over fifty kids at the camp, a mix of youths from Shadyside and their supposedly higher class neighbors Sunnyvale, so there are also some prominent side characters played by the likes of Chiara Aurelia, Jacqi Vene, Dylan Gage, and Drew Scheid from Halloween 2018, with Jordana Spiro making an appearance as the camp nurse, who has a connection to one of the other Shadyside killing sprees. Spiro has done a lot of work in the last twenty years, but she'll always be Reece from From Dusk Till Dawn 3 to me.

I've seen 1994 get some pushback for the amount of attention it paid to the romantic relationship at the heart of the story, but spending so much time on relationships proves not to be unique to that particular Fear Street film, because a whole lot of time is spent focusing on the relationships in this one - the sisters that don't get along and come from a broken home, the friends who have hit a rough patch, the potential romance between Ziggy and Nick. So much attention is paid to these character interactions that the axe-wielding maniac doesn't even enter the picture until more than 40 minutes into the running time. Sure, some of the early minutes are spent showing the survivors of Part 1 seeking the help of the surviving Berman sister (played as an adult by Gillian Jacobs), but still... 40 minutes is a long time to wait for the first slashing in a slasher. There are definitely some moments that could have been trimmed throughout the film that not only could have allowed it to get to the action sooner, but also would have kept it from reaching the overly long running time of 110 minutes. On the bright side, the cast handles all of the drama very well.

Having a slasher loose in the camp with over an hour of movie left to go does allow for a good amount of mayhem, but don't expect to see much along the lines of inventive kills. The Nightwing Killer doesn't do much more than swing his axe; it's a shame that nothing in this camp slasher comes anywhere near the standout death in the previous Fear Street film. The Nightwing Killer is certainly no Jason Voorhees, and he's hindered further by the fact that it takes him a while to get the mask we saw him wearing in 1994. But even though the killer has shortcomings and lacks variety, there are some good gore effects along the way.

Fear Street Part 2: 1978 Emily Rudd Sadie Sink

And while Fear Street Part 2: 1978 is kind of slow to get going and has a bit too much chit-chat before and between the kills, it is an entertaining movie that adds some interesting twists and turns into the overall story Janiak is telling with this trilogy. It really got me with one of the swerves it takes, and it was fun to be surprised in the way that this movie surprised me. If you really like old school slashers, this one is worth checking out. You might not find it to be on the level of favorites from past decades, but it's nice to see a modern movie that plays in the camp slasher sandbox getting a healthy budget put into it and being sold as a major "event" release.

I'm on board to see how this is going to get all wrapped up in Fear Street Part 3: 1666, even though the 1666 time period holds very little appeal for me and I have to assume that one's going to be severely lacking in the music department.

Fear Street Part 2: 1978 will be available to watch on the Netflix streaming service as of July 9th.
 

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