Note: This review will include some SPOILERS for Fear Street Part 1: 1994
The saga of the curse of Shadyside travels back in time to a killing spree at a summer camp in Fear Street Part 2: 1978. With her girlfriend Sam Fraser (Olivia Scott Welch) having been possessed by the revengeful spirit of Sarah Fier, Deena (Kiana Madeira) and her brother Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) desperately go to visit the reclusive C. Berman (Gillian Jacobs), who survived a 1978 killing spree at Camp Nightwing and she proceeds to tell them her story that ends with the death of her sister. At the camp, Ziggy Berman (Sadie Sink) is a relentlessly bullied outcast, while her councillor sister Cindy (Emily Rudd) tries to keep the peace with Ziggy while also trying to forget her status as a cursed citizen of Shadyside. However, after the camp nurse, Mary Lane (Jordana Spiro) goes crazy and tries to kill her boyfriend Tommy Slater (McCabe Slye), Cindy finds a diary with a map in the infirmary. Together with a fellow councillor and her former best friend Alice (Ryan Simpkins), Cindy and Tommy follow the map, which leads to Sarah Fier's underground witch's lair. Meanwhile, Ziggy and counsellor, and future sheriff, Nick Goode (Ted Sutherland) have to fend for their lives as an axe-wielding killer begins offing counsellors and campers alike.
Fear Street Part 2: 1978 is the second in the trilogy of films directed by Leigh Janiak, based on the long-running series of young adult horror novels written by R.L. Stine. Following a recap and opening bookend scene that picks up immediately after Fear Street Part 1: 1994 ends off, the plot rewinds back to July 1978, where we are immediately introduced to Ziggy Berman, played by Stranger Things' Sadie Sink, being bullied by a group of Sunnyvale campers lead by the wicked Shiela (Chiara Aurelia). Ziggy is saved from further unnecessary punishment by Nick Goode, a sympathetic Sunnyvale resident, who is destined to inherit the role of sheriff from his father. Meanwhile, Ziggy's older sister Cindy tries to keep the peace with Ziggy, though she has her own problems with the constantly drugged-out Alice, who at one point was Cindy's best friend. However, all differences must be put aside when a Shadysider becomes possessed and begins a killing spree across the camp.
The main challenge of Fear Street Part 2: 1978 is being both a follow-up to Fear Street Part 1, while also being a relatively standalone homage to films such as Friday the 13th. Like the previous film, Fear Street Part 2: 1978 takes the original books by R.L. Stine in a very R-rated direction, with the film featuring much course language, gory violence, and, in keeping with the horror films of the era, a couple of scenes of sexual content. However, with this second film in the trilogy, it is becoming increasingly obvious that a by-the-numbers formula is being followed by director Leigh Janiak, ranging from character stereotypes to the relentless period soundtrack, with the resulting film being much duller to watch this time around.
However, I have to make note that Fear Street Part 2: 1978 is still somewhat successful in continuing the world-building of the cursed town of Shadyside and its seemingly perfect neighbour of Sunnyvale. Specifically, Fear Street Part 2: 1978 adds some backstory for the supporting character of Nick Goode, who is the sheriff in the 1994 present (played as an adult by Ashley Zukerman), who in Fear Street Part 1: 1994 came off as a character who believed in the curse, but whose responsibilities as a police officer made him forbidden to admit it. The events of Fear Street Part 2: 1978 show Nick Goode as a direct participant in the efforts to save the camp from the serial killer, who ends up being much different than the burlap-masked killer seen in the first film. Also, while the soundtrack of both films is relentless, I did appreciate the use of 1990s covers of 1970s songs to illustrate the parallels between time periods, which look to continue big time in the concluding third chapter Fear Street Part 3: 1666, which looks to be going in a more folk horror direction.
Altogether, despite solid efforts at advancing the overall story, Fear Street Part 2: 1978 is a somewhat mediocre middle chapter of this trilogy.
Fear Street Part 2: 1978 is available to stream on Netflix beginning on Friday, July 9, 2021, with the concluding chapter Part 3: 1666 following on July 16.
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