[This review contains spoilers for Fear Street Part 1: 1994 & Part 2:1978]
The Netflix Fear Street trilogy has finally come to a close. The final chapter promises a lot: a return to the protagonists we were introduced to as well as a journey back in time to when all of the town’s troubles began. After reuniting Sarah Fier’s severed hand with her corpse, our protagonist Deena has a vision where she sees the downfall of a colonial settlement in 1666 through Sarah’s own eyes. With this the audience gets to see the cast members of the trilogy in new roles as we see what existed before Shadyside and Sunnyvale. While the filmmaking in the 1666 section is not as grandiose in its bleakness as something like The Witch, director Leigh Janiak does have an eye for portraying the period setting. The first hour or so of the movie is spent exploring the settlement known as Union, and how the villains of the film took advantage of the black magic that sowed dissent across the community, framing Sarah Fier for the curse that now haunts Shadyside to this day. And back in the present, our 1994 storyline is heating up. Deena, Josh and Ziggy formulate a plan to end the curse once and for all, going back to the mall where the story began in Part 1.
At the risk of repeating myself, I’ll reiterate my favorite thing about this trilogy: world building. I love the relationship between Shadyside and Sunnyvale as living, breathing entities and how the history of the town’s separation is explored here. Without spoiling too much, the 1666 section of the film provides a bevy of appropriate historical and social context to the nature of the Fier curse and how the towns came to be.
There’s a pretty big disconnect between the first half and the second half, but I don’t mind that so much. There’s enough time devoted in the extended flashback to make the audience care about the characters we’re learning about instead of coming off like an exposition dump stretched too thin. By placing lead actress Kiana Madeira in the role of Sarah Fier in the past, we are able to see the parallels between her story and Deena’s current convictions towards her identity and her town. That gives us enough character work so that the present storyline can serve as an all-out, bloody climax. And while this portion doesn’t reach the gruesome heights of Part 2, it’s nice to see a slasher film with rules and even nicer to see a cast of characters work their way around them. There are a lot of threads of Scream in Part 1 and the climax of Part 3 also calls back to that awareness of the situation that made Craven’s film special. It’s a great way of showing the growth of our three main characters, now ready to face what they have each spent so much time running from. As the mall is rigged up with traps and drenched in a gloomy blacklight with neon decor, the audience is strapped in for a roller coaster of roaming killers.
Part 3 can feel very scant in terms of delivering on the slasher goods, but if you’ve made it all the way to the end and all you’re hoping for is that more bodies drop, I really don’t know what to tell you. Though I have been critical of this trilogy I’ve always been optimistic that this entry would shake things up and stick the landing. It does, and for that it’s easily my favorite of the bunch. By abandoning sometimes weak attempts at pastiche and becoming its own breed of occult and slasher, Fear Street has finally set itself apart from what it’s ripping off in an attempt to introduce new audiences to the genre. The best thing about all of Stine’s books is that they serve as an introduction to horror, providing audiences with a lean and mean experience that pays tribute to the best with its own unique flair. Part 3 finally finds the best of both worlds, forging its own path after struggling to outdo its predecessors. It doesn’t look like this is the last we’ll see of the Fear Street franchise either, so here’s hoping that they turn to the beloved and demonic Cheerleaders miniseries next.