Part two of Netflix’s R.L. Stine young adult book series adaptation, aptly titled Fear Street Part Two: 1978, amps up the gore and action of 1994. The horror trope of kids getting killed off at camp, memorably seen in such greats as Sleepaway Camp and Friday the 13th, is a slasher goldmine for the very reason that its simple setup provides the perfect setting ample for horror. A tried and true concept, 1978 keeps that supernatural backbone while instilling this with a fresh throwback feel akin to those early hack-n-slash entries.
As soon as you hit ‘play’ on this sequel, a “previously on Fear Street” reel feels remarkably like a show. It serves as a great recap of the highlights from the first, and then it picks up right where we left off. Deena (Kiana Madeira) still has her girlfriend tied up in the trunk. She travels with her brother Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) in the hopes that the mysterious woman named C. Berman (Gillian Jacobs), who called her at the end of 1994, will somehow be able to help solve this mystery. The ultimate end goal is to defeat Sarah Fier for good, but is this even a possibility? Berman’s only advice at first? “Run far as you can, fast as you can!” The answers may lie all the way back in the year 1978, the year when C. Berman lost her sister…
Welcome to Camp Nightwing! The activities are about to begin, including a big Color War, where everyone can play on two separate teams! Cindy (Emily Rudd) is an extremely uptight camp counselor, and Ziggy (Sadie Sink) is her outcast camper younger sister. Cindy’s new boyfriend Tommy (McCabe Slye) is a goody-goody virgin who seems like the perfect fit. So why is his name scraped into a stone slab along with names of other killers? Destined to become a killer himself, Tommy is seemingly possessed by Sarah Fier through some witchy hijinks, going straight into Jason Vorhees mode. As their two stories converge, Ziggy and Cindy must come together in order to defeat the evil and survive the night!
The cast is filled with many young actors whose work I admire, from Stranger Things alum Sadie Sink to Rise’s Ted Sutherland to Insatiable cutie Michael Provost. This is without mentioning the actors who bookend this story, linking it directly to that first movie. Of the new characters, both sisters are compelling—Ziggy is an obvious favorite for me. I loved seeing Provost play a horny evil counselor (who gets to show off his bare bum after a sex scene set to “Slow Ride”, and has a personal vendetta against weed—“that better be skunk!”), and Sutherland as a leading man was fun to watch.
Cruel Summer’s Chiara Aurelia shows up as an uber bitch who gets the Carrie treatment, only with a bucket full of roaches to greet her in an outhouse. Each lead has distinct character arcs and intrigue: Nick (Sutherland) is just trying to make his father proud, knowing he’s the legacy and future of the family; Alice (Ryan Simpkins) has a history of cutting and self-harm that she uses as a coping mechanism to live in Shadyside; straight-laced Cindy longs to escape her Shadyside past and embrace a different type of life; Ziggy thinks they’re all cursed, and destined to live out numbered days.
I was most excited for Gillian Jacobs. While she doesn’t have the largest role, she is vital to the action unfolding in 1978. When the group comes to her, it is Berman’s time to shine as she recounts the story from her youth (one that resulted in the death of her sister). Jacobs makes the most of minimal screentime, reflecting the confidence and fear factor of her past counterpart. Consistency from film to film remains one of the crowning achievements of Fear Street; both 1994 and 1978 are two of the best pure slasher films I’ve seen in quite some time. The world building is reminiscent of Stephen King’s It.
The great thing about 1978 is that amongst a larger body count and a shifted time period, the mythology of Sarah Fier continues to be built up in a satisfying way. It makes me think Leigh Janiak (who directed all three of these Fear Street flicks) knew exactly what she was doing when she came on board. There’s a fun element to this, featuring deep characterizations, that I absolutely loved. Any time you can get some depth beyond simple caricature in a setup as simple as a summer camp, I am thoroughly impressed.
This doesn’t make those kills any less jaw-dropping to watch. Like 1994, there’s a hefty weight to each murder. The deaths are mean and violent; that R-rating makes all the difference. The bread slicer kill is yet to be topped, but an axe-slash attack in the final act left me nearly as flabbergasted at the level of brutality alone. A stunning outhouse decapitation happens so quickly that I was still in shock after the body hit the ground. Not even Friday the 13th was willing to kill off the camping children (unless you count Jason himself!), so it was both refreshing and shocking that 1978 went for the jugular in this regard. The soundtrack is killer too, full of gems like “Cherry Bomb” and “Carry on My Wayward Son.” While Fear Street Part Two: 1978 will not win any awards in originality, it is the 80s throwback I needed right now. 1978 is an intense delight that left me hungry for more.
Fear Street Part Two: 1978 is taking camp counselor applications, on Netflix now, followed by Fear Street Part Three: 1666 on July 16. Read the review for Fear Street Part One: 1994 here.