Sequels for horror movies have been standard since the 1980s when franchises like Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street each churned out multiple entries. The connection between the subsequent films, and the resulting quality, often varied wildly, something that is not the case with the second of Netflix’s unique horror trilogy, Fear Street Part Two: 1978.
Whereas the first film was an homage to the original horror parody, Scream, Part Two pays tribute to Friday the 13th by taking place mostly at a summer camp, Camp Nightwing. Shadysiders and Sunnyvalers continue their never-ending rivalry at the camp, with kids from the two cities engaging in a variety of competitions and pranks.
The camp, however, just so happens to be on the site where the accused witch Sarah Fier was killed in 1666, and the curse she put on the land on that date infects Tommy Slater (McCabe Slye), who proceeds to go on a killing spree. Among those terrorized are Tommy’s girlfriend, Cindy Berman (Emily Rudd), her sister Ziggy (Sadie Sink), camp counselor Nick Goode (Ted Sutherland), and many others.
Written and directed again by Leigh Janiak, with help this time from co-writer Zak Olkewicz, the film advances the overall Sarah Fier storyline while taking on the feel of the traditional slasher movie. Per tradition for those types of films, having sex almost immediately leads to someone being killed, and the killer is an unstoppable force with his chosen weapon – in this case an axe – even after he has seemingly been vanquished.
What’s most impressive about this film and the series in general so far is how much care has been taken in telling a good story, and not just relying on the bloody murders to carry the day. The plot is deceptively simple, but the filmmakers make sure to get the audience invested the characters. Save for a couple of scenes, the film has a whole new group of characters, and they become just as interesting thanks to the time devoted to telling us who they are.
The actual horror part of the film is filled with standard issue jump scares foretold by ominous musical cues, but we already know they’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. Just like the first film, Part Two is filled with a plethora of era-appropriate songs, so much so that you wonder what they’re going to do in Part Three when they can’t artificially set the tone with rock or pop songs since it’s set in 1666.
Except for Sink, whose fiery red hair and equally fierce spirit played as big a part in Stranger Things as they do here, the cast is once again filled with unfamiliar faces. But the casting department did its job well, as each person fulfills their purpose strongly, especially Rudd, Slye, Sutherland, and Ryan Simpkins.
Many of the actors from the first and second films will be playing multiple characters in the finale, due on July 16, and given how well the filmmakers have done so far, there’s little doubt they will be able to integrate the characters successfully. Making good horror movies, and especially sequels, has proven difficult for many, but Janiak and her team are showing how it can be done.
Fear Street Part Two: 1978 debuts on Netflix on July 9.