Premise: Shadyside, 1978. School’s out for summer and the activities at Camp Nightwing are about to begin. But when another Shadysider is possessed with the urge to kill, the fun in the sun becomes a gruesome fight for survival.
“In Shadyside the past is never really passed.”
So the survivor of the Camp Nightwing massacre of 1978 tells our surviving heroes from Fear Street Part One: 1994 in part two of Netflix’s trilogy releasing weekly throughout July. Fear Street Part Two: 1978 picks up immediately after the events of Part One and, after some demonic wrangling and hermit convincing, Gillian Jacobs sits the kids down to tell the tale of the massacre that killed her sister and forever changed her life.
Despite having the events of 1978 recounted and referenced throughout Part One, Part Two still manages to captivate and surprise as the story and carnage unfolds. In fact, like any halfway decent prequel, the film utilizes the backstory established in the first film to its advantage to keep the audience’s attention at peak curiosity. The easter eggs and reveals run the gamut from small to lore shattering but still connect strongly with the overall narrative of the trilogy and keeps you on your toes. Something as simple as the way the killer in Part Two gains his Friday the 13th Part 2 inspired look comes about in an organic and fun way. This and other interior references to the Fear Street lore introduced in Part One make for an overall satisfying viewing experience in Part Two.
Thankfully, Part Two follows Part One‘s template of establishing homage without being dependant upon it. Setting the story at a summer camp is an obvious nod to the Friday the 13th franchise and there are several other winks to it as well. But again, this trilogy isn’t making a parody or ripping off what’s come before it. Nor does it let nostalgia fuel the story like Netflix’s juggernaut of a series Stranger Things is wont to do. Instead, things like the inciting incident at the camp serve as important exposition and mystery establishing while simultaneously being a clever (and at least sort of subtle) nod to the original Friday the 13th. It’s this level of script detail and genre reverence that sets these first two installments of the Fear Street trilogy apart from the more meta-heavy horror films of the past. It makes Fear Street‘s story and lore take center stage and it works well, for the most part.
Part Two isn’t immune to whatever the film trilogy equivalent of middle child syndrome is, however. While the storytelling and lore in the trilogy is engaging and interesting overall, there’s a lot of mythbuilding from Part One that’s rehashed or restated in Part Two. The repetition makes the implementation of the supernatural lore of Shadyside feel a bit tired in this film. Rules established in Part One are reasserted in Part Two and, although in a different context, it drags the tension and pacing of the film down considerably in parts.
Given that Part Two is a flashback with the 1994 survivors’ story framing it, the horror and action also feels like it takes too long to appear. Part Two is saddled with establishing characters in 1978 along with dynamics, rivalries, and drama after the film’s 1994-set prologue has already taken up a fair amount of runtime. It’s admirable that the film takes its time and puts forth the effort to establish these characters and Camp Nightwing itself. But after throwing audiences right into the horror with Part One‘s excellent ode to Scream’s iconic opening sequence, having to play catch up in the first act of Part Two made the film drag a bit.
Once the horror begins, however, it wastes no time delivering the bloody goods. As it was well established in Part One, this trilogy does not shy away from graphic kills with just the right amount of camera lingering. What Part Two does lack is variety in the mayhem. Part One saw a healthy spread of different kills perpetrated by different beings with different implements. Part Two suffers in that it depicts a singular killer with a singular murder weapon. There are certain kills that are thankfully left to the imagination and sound design but the majority of the horror set pieces involve axe swinging which runs the risk of becoming boring for lack of variety.
The bulk of Part Two‘s action follows characters in different locations in the camp, each led by the separated siblings (Sadie Sink as camper Ziggy and Emily Rudd as counselor Cindy). This does successfully give a freshness to the proceedings and diversity to the tension, despite the lack thereof in the kills themselves. Separating the characters especially works well considering Part One heavily featured a intact ensemble group battling the evil of Shadyside. Separating groups and characters in Camp Nightwing makes for engaging character interactions and intense horror moments.
The surprises throughout the last third of Part Two are welcome and well delivered in both the way they conclude the Camp Nightwing story and how they further explore the implications of characters in 1994 established in Part One. It’s admittedly strange and out of place to have the arc of young Nick Goode (Ted Sutherland) involve him wrestling with being poised to become sheriff, despite being a teenager. However, his interactions with the campers (Ziggy, in particular) make his 1994 counterpart’s involvement in the overarching story more rich and interesting. So much so that his involvement, and that of Gillian Jacobs’ character, in Part Three is more enticing than that of Part One‘s survivors and even of the impending origin story.
As the middle part of a trilogy, Fear Street Part Two: 1978 suffers pacing issues and rehashed ideas and lore established in Part One. While Part Two never quite reaches the levels of fun and inventiveness present in Part One, it does further deepen the lore of Shadyside and sets the stage for Part Three in interesting and surprising ways.
The trilogy’s conclusion has a lot to live up to with Part Three set to explore the world of Shadyside in 1666 and the origins of the cursed town’s witch, Sarah Fier. In addition to that, it will need to satisfactorily conclude the overarching storyline set in 1994. After two thrilling and engaging installments, there’s not a lot of doubt that Part Three will deliver a strong conclusion to the trilogy. With the amount of surprises and subverted expectations already playing out through the course of the previous two films, it stands to reason that the conclusion may well be the bloodiest and most surprising, despite covering plot that’s been covered throughout two films already.
Fear Street Part Two: 1978 premieres July 9th on Netflix.
Read my review of Fear Street Part One: 1994 here
About the Writer: Matt Hurt is the creator of ObsessiveViewer.com. He also created, hosts, and produces The Obsessive Viewer, Anthology, and Tower Junkies podcasts. He is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association and lives in Indianapolis with his cat Pizza Roll.
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