Thankfully, Netflix and Leigh Janiak’s “Fear Street” film series has mostly lived up to its promise, hype and potential, offering a trilogy of films that are entertaining, complex, and steeped heavily in classic horror and folklore. For horror buffs that love horror that revolves around mythology, legends and stories about the past, the “Fear Street” series has managed to deliver two fold with a legend that has managed to carry the films quite well.
As Deena (Kiana Madeira) and Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) go to the house of “C. Berman” (Gillian Jacobs) to learn how to break the curse. Berman tells them the story of Camp Nightwing, in which Sarah Fier possessed Tommy Slater (McCabe Slye), with an urge to randomly kill campers and counselors with an axe. Set in 1978, we follow a young “C. Berman” (Sadie Sink) and explore how she escaped death at the hands of Sarah Fier and tries to figure out how the curse can be broken.
While the movie is inherently teen based, “1978” doesn’t shy away from the charming summer camp horror movie elements. This includes some graphic sex scenes, and of course some brutally vicious slaughter sequences. Once the massacre at Camp Nightwing begins, Janiak spares no one, not even children, and it punctuates why the massacre managed to resonate right in to 1994. Clearly, the instant observation about “1978” is that director Janiak is conjuring up the concept of a classic summer camp horror film, and thankfully that’s not the film’s only appeal.
To its credit, it does pack in a ton of nods and winks to classic summer camp horror with tributes to “Friday the 13th,” “Sleepaway Camp,” and “The Burning,” but it’s also a very engaging tale about how the curse of Shadyside affects many. With “1994” we saw two towns going to war thanks to the obvious class difference. “1978” is a lot about two sisters (Emily Rudd and Sadie Sink are fantastic) and how the curse from the town has created a rift between them that’s affected them much deeper than they realize (or even want to acknowledge). Furthermore Janiak and the screenwriters fill in the small holes left behind from “1994,” increasing the depth behind the legend of Sarah Fier.
What’s fascinating is while she was depicted as something of a horrifying monster in the first film, “1978” builds an ambiguity about her character and inherent presence behind the scenes. Is she really a horrific monster lurking in the shadows of Shadyside, or is there an even bigger force of evil at play? Can the curse ever be lifted? Is there even a curse tainting everyone in the town, or is it merely a just a long line of horrible circumstances and self sabotage? “1978” is a great follow up to “1994” and much like the aforementioned, stands on its own as a great slasher film, while also clicking in to the trilogy. With the stunner of a finale, I can’t wait to see how “1666” closes out the journey.
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