Rating: 0.5 out of 5
Would somebody please let the dead rest? Beautiful things deserve a proper death, not some ceaseless commitment to a nostalgia moment that evokes the worst proclivities of our current era but also of those previous. Enter Fear Street. A trilogy of films by up and coming horror talent Leigh Janiak that updates the R.L. Stine brand with contemporary “politics” and an amalgamation of horror tropes spanning from Scream to Friday the 13th all the way to the witch burning folklore of City of the Dead, The Haunted Palace and Black Sunday, however, these comparisons only exist to show the dilapidated uselessness of this trilogies enterprise, it’s all treading ground that other films have without those works aplomb, enthusiasm and effectiveness while also gaining this smug, grating and self-assured brilliance that some might call “pretentious” if it actually had anything to say. So Fear Street Part Two: 1978 is not quite as bad as it’s predecessor, however, it’s not nearly as hilarious, whereas the first was a spectacularly bad movie along the likes of Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II or Leprechaun in the Hood in the sheer epic scale of garbage it was introducing to the cinematic canon, 1978 is much more boring, horrendously paced, uneven and tonally flat.
The film begins where the last entry left off, the kiddos who thought they had stopped the curse of Sarah Fier have learned that they were mistaken and now must seek the help of one of her surviving victims C. Berman (Gillian Jacobs) who we are supposed to realize in some “twist” at the end is not in fact Cindy Berman (Emily Rudd) the camp counselor we’ve been led to believe is our narrator but her sister Ziggy Berman (Sadie Sink) who has used her sisters name to avoid the curse placed upon them. The film treats this all as if it were incredibly hushed and as if it’s intended to be some clever surprise reversal, but if you can’t figure out that the narrator is Ziggy from the litany of hints the film gives you, I’m deeply sorry for the grave state of your intellect. The most offensive aspect of this trilogy is that it believes so much in its own brilliance that it needlessly convolutes its rules and logic for the sake of itself, each twist hinges on being masturbatory to the point of inanity.
Almost the entirety of the film is played out in flashback from the perspective of Ziggy and Cindy from their horrific summer at Camp Nightwing where Cindy’s endlessly emphasized “nice” boyfriend Tommy Slater (McCabe Slye) went on a killing spree murdering counselors and campers alike. A distinction the filmmakers obviously have no care for as Ziggy, a camper, hooks up with the significantly older (and in charge of her!!) Nick Goode, the cop from the previous film, since this is twenty years prior here he is a guy in his mid twenties who we are supposed to believe is eighteen. The film goes to great lengths to not only justify their romance but also to depict it as innocent and harmless. Having worked at a summer camp for most of my teen years, this plotline was thoroughly disgusting. The idea of having responsibility over a person and then using that advantage to romance them is rather nasty, and while one might argue this has implications to the seediness and sleaze of Nick Goode’s character in the third and final entry in this series (more on that load of bullshit later) the film spends far too much time on this plotline for it to be rendered as anything less than pedophilic and gross, which hey, this is genre cinema, I’m not asking for morality, but is there a world in which we won’t submit these poor Stranger Things kids to the invocation of the pedophilic gaze? Oh I forgot, Drake is still around and y’all seem to gobble that crap up, so why not this?
This is by far the sleepiest entry in the franchise. Where the first film is over-stuffed with ideas and lore, this film plays a bridging role between two films and the only throughline is that they are all terrible. Fear Street Part Two: 1978 is especially egregious not in how stupid it is but simply in how it refuses to raise the stakes for the characters outside of the predictable escalation of a masked killer and doesn’t ever once reach the level of gore or playfulness of it’s previous entry. The film’s class commentary has only grown more tone deaf, which will reach a startlingly brainless climax in the final film but for now, at least at Camp Nightwing, there is no significant or potent message on classism within, just empty, vapid thoughts that fetishize the impoverished because of their suffering while putting them through yet another misery circus solely for the sake of aesthetic pleasure.
So there’s not much to leave you with outside of this: should you having made it through the first two films feel compelled or possessed to engage the final entry you either have extremely poor taste or you are like me a cinematic masochist who insists on viewing media even when it’s barbed and full of snares. This is painful entertainment for idiots. And while I see no reason why anyone involved in this project shouldn’t possess some inherent potential this trilogy certainly is a mild discredit and blemish to anyone involved. Horror movies are one of the most aesthetically gorgeous and narratively daring genres in cinema producing filmmakers as diverse as John Carpenter, Mario Bava, Jordan Peele and Amy Holden Jones, the latter actually wields the pedophilic gaze in her masterpiece Slumber Party Massacre to attack the generally perceived notion that De Palma’s Carrie is untouchable. These filmmakers stood for something, be it aesthetic (Bava, Carpenter) or political (Peele, Holden Jones) and refused to downplay the innate surplus of the horror genre. Horror stems from sources of intense fear and overwhelming, awe-striking feelings of both beauty and chaos that are submerged within us always but are called to the forefront by absurdity and shock. Leigh Janiak and her crew have made a monster of their own, it just might scare you for all the wrong reasons.