Review by David Baldwin
As Fear Street Part Three: 1666 opens, Deena (Kiana Madeira) has flashed back to 1666 and inhabits the body of the infamous Sarah Fier (also played by Elizabeth Scopel). As Deena learns some long hidden truths about Fier and the curse she placed on Shadyside, she must also race against time in 1994 to save her girlfriend Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) before it is too late.
The end of Fear Street is here. All the secrets are laid bare, all the puzzle pieces have come together and Co-Writer/Director Leigh Janiak has completed her film trilogy based on R.L. Stine’s book series. As I have mentioned in a past review, I was excited at the prospect of a three-film series of interconnected films being released over three weeks in the middle of what is traditionally the summer blockbuster season. While I had my reservations about the structure and plotting, I watched each film enthusiastically – or as enthusiastic as possible – and have no idea how I would have survived if the films were released in theatres months apart from each other. It truly is the kind of franchise I would have adored as a teenager and young adult.
All of that to say, Part Three is my favourite of the films and left me very bloody satisfied.
It is not that this film towers over the other two; it still has the same stilted dialogue, enigmatic plotting, red herrings, vaguely useful characterization and far too gleeful needle drops. Thankfully, being set in 1666 for at least half of the film means that there are not as many needle drops this time, but Janiak still manages to drop a few into the scenes set in 1994. Marco Beltrami, Anna Drubich and Marcus Trumpp’s score makes up the rest and is unsettling and downright terrifying in most cases. What 1666 also has over the other two films is an atmosphere that tightly wraps you up in dread and anxiety. We already know something horrible happens to Sarah Fier, and yet the journey getting to that point still leaves room for horrific, graphically violent surprises. While each film has had its share of disturbing imagery, there are a few ghastly scenes here that are the most disturbing and vile of the series. One vicious moment plays out as such a shock that I am not sure how Janiak and company ever would have gotten away with it if the film was not playing on Netflix. Like I eluded to in the past, she is not messing around when it comes to these characters and no one is ever safe.
Whereas the 1994 scenes play out in the same style as they did the first time (with an additional splash or three of neon for good measure), the 1666 scenes are a whole other beast entirely. Janiak and her team have put an immense amount of care into ensuring how distinctive it looks from everything that came before. The lighting is different, the visual composition and cinematography are different – it practically feels like it was made by a different crew altogether. Unlike Part Two just going through the motions, you can feel the passion dripping off of every frame here. It pulls from other folk horror films to create its visual aura, using Robert Eggers’ The VVitch as its most obvious influence. Sadly, there is no Black Phillip here to ask if anyone wants to live deliciously. The accents of the majority of the actors, comprised of a mix of players from both previous films, are ear-piercingly painful to hear, but they do an adequate job helping communicate the visuals differences between the films.
And while I have already said too much by saying there is a 1994-based component to the film, you can rest assured that despite some goofy, contrived moments, it all comes together well. I still had a few burning questions by the end, though the film did a good job answering most of them.
The majority of the cast appear to be enjoying themselves even if they are saddled with underdeveloped motivations or less captivating moments than in the previous films. Gillian Jacobs gets done dirty again here, getting barely any time to make something of her psychologically damaged character and Ashley Zuckerman finally gets a chance to shine after being a glorified background character in the past. I was riveted by McCabe Slye’s performance as 1666’s Mad Thomas, which gives him the opportunity to go fully over-the-top and command the screen every time he pops up. Welch does well in her dual roles and Madeira does even better in hers. The pair have a great chemistry and I appreciated how Janiak made their queer relationship the focal point of both sections of the film (although I am not sure of the authenticity of their sexual encounter in 1666). The film could have only benefitted from letting them play off each other more.
Fear Street Part Three: 1666 has its issues and is far from perfect. In comparison to its predecessors however, I found it to be the most interesting and riveting picture and am content with the end result. It has a great visual pastiche, the most gruesome, vicious and disturbing violence of all three films and the least amount of obscene needle drops. Janiak, her crew and the cast should feel a great sense of accomplishment for what they were able to create with these Fear Street films. I kind of wish there was another film coming next week, but am unsure if this manner of storytelling could be sustained the same way if someone made another time hopping mystery trilogy like this, or another full-blown horror tale. I hold out low key hope Netflix will give someone a shot at trying.
Fear Street Part Three: 1666 is now streaming on Netflix.