Return to Shadyside in the second instalment of Netflix’ horror trilogy event, Fear Street Part Two: 1978! It’s 1978 and the fun of Camp Nightwing is about to get underway, but not before yet another Shadysider is possessed with the urge to kill – sending the entire camp into a panic as they fight to survive the night.
The first entry in the franchise took on a similar vibe to slashers such as Scream (1996) and Halloween (1978), nailing the balance between homage and originality. This sequel to Fear Street Part One: 1994 adopts a much darker tone, going in a direction that’s more brutal, bloody, intense and violent as it pays homage to an all-time classic – Friday the 13th (1980). From the setting to the tone and the style of horror, everything about Fear Street Part Two feels like it’s been drawn directly from Friday the 13th. But what’s incredible is that despite feeling eerily similar to that horror classic, it still forges its own path and feels like a unique experience, and that’s in part due to the world building set up in 1994. So much of this story links to the first film, answering some lingering questions, whilst also adding fuel to the burning fire of mystery with what happened in the year 1666. The interconnected nature of these films is brilliantly orchestrated. It feels like a 3-episode anthology, where each episode is connected through some clever through-lines, rewarding audiences that stick through the whole thing.
The narrative structure this time around is interesting because we’re going into the film with some prior knowledge of what’s about to go down and what to expect. From the first film and the opening to this sequel, we know a little about what went down at Camp Nightwing, but not enough to be able to piece this whole story together from the get-go. The writers capitalise on this and actually manage to weave in quite a few surprising story developments that I certainly didn’t see coming. That being said, the core narrative of this sequel has its ups and downs. The first half does run a little slow – it spends a lot of time setting up these new characters, giving us some insight into their history and relationships, before shit hits the fan. Much of this is actually interesting and crucial to the development of these characters, but some of it feels like it’s dragging a little too much, especially considering we know roughly what’s coming. At the half way point of the film, it feels like this sequel isn’t hitting the quality horror notes of its predecessor.
That being said, once the second half gets underway, it’s all chaos all the time! The latter half is packed full of non-stop thrills, kills and brutality that more than make up for the extended time spent building to these moments. The Friday the 13th connections are still present, but this latter half even evokes very strong The Shining vibes, for reasons that will become apparent when you watch. It really shows off just how much darker this film is when compared to its predecessor, not holding back in the slightest.
When it comes to the horror and scares in the film, it’s a very different style of horror slasher. There aren’t so many outright ‘scares’ in this one. Rather, it seems to be going for more of an atmospheric/brutality approach to horror – choosing to let creepy imagery, a chilling score and bloody violence bring the scares. As I mentioned, the tension in the last half of the film is non-stop. It’s jam-packed full of gripping, edge-of-seat thrills that makes anything that happened in 1994 look like child’s play! It really does give off the feeling that these kids are going up against a truly unstoppable force.
This entire film is elevated in every way thanks to Sadie Sink’s brilliant lead performance. She really commands your attention in every scene – exhibiting near-flawless line delivery and enhancing the tension of the horror moments. She presents such a strong, loveable character that it’s easy to be on her side from the moment we meet her. There’s no question that she’s fully committed to the role and by far the best element of the film. Sadie also exhibits a great deal of chemistry with her co-star Emily Rudd, who plays her on-screen sister. Emily is also quite likeable and delivers a solid performance, enhancing the emotional connection between the sisters throughout the narrative.
In the end, Fear Street Part Two: 1978 is a fantastic followup to 1994, doing something different while still feeling like a part of the same world. It takes inspiration from different classic horror films, resulting in much darker and more brutal sequences than anything seen in its predecessor. As for which I prefer, that’s hard to say. The first half of this film does sit on the slower side, spending perhaps a tad too long setting everything up around camp, while the latter half is a brilliant series of thrills better than almost anything we got in 1994. If anything, the great performance from Sadie Sink may just get this film up a notch. The world building is still intricate and engaging, and only creates more anticipation for the finale – which hopefully lives up to the quality set by the first two instalments.