At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Fear Street Part 2: 1978

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Slasher Horror/ Stars: Emily Rudd, Sadie Sink, Gillian Jacobs, Ryan Simpkins, McCabe Slye, Ashley Zukerman, Ted Sutherland, Jordana Spiro, Chiara Aurelia, Jordyn DiNatale, Drew Scheid, Marcelle LeBlanc, Kiana Madeira, Olivia Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Matthew Zuk, Brandon Spink, Michael Provost/ Runtime: 110 minutes

I think it’s safe to say that in the land of movie magic, if there was one thing that could make a movie lover really start showing some serious signs of an anxiety problem it would be whenever a movie is announced to be getting a sequel, but especially when the movie getting said sequel just so happens to be an entry in the horror genre. Yes I have no doubt that the world of the film to say nothing of the narrative could be broadened through another entry of sorts, but if you really want to keep your target audience invested when dealing with more blood-soaked mayhem and sex-fueled shenanigans then not only do you have to spice up (if not increase) the amount of butchering that goes on, but you have make contributions to the already set up narrative that feel genuine and not like the writer was drinking copious amounts when he wrote the story (I’m looking at you Halloween 2 from 1981). In the case of the slice of cinematic pie I am reviewing today, Fear Street Part 2: 1978, it is worth noting that whilst this slice of cinematic pie was conjured up specifically to be the midway point in a story that was constructed to operate over a trinity of films, there is still a cause for worry that any fan of horror wouldn’t have it held against them for possessing towards this film. Thankfully, after seeing co-scribe/film helmer Leigh Janiak’s part 2 in this trinity of films, movie goers will be relieved to see that once again their worry for the quality of the film is not exactly necessary. Sure this film has a few more missteps than the first one did, but by and large this is still a wonderfully horrific time to be had even as the pieces are put in play for the third installment to be potentially one truly wild and terrifying finale we won’t soon forget.

The plot is as follows: Picking up with a quick recap of the ending to Fear Street Part 1: 1994, we see that it was an elusive wise old woman by the name of C. Berman who is the one who reached out to Deena and let her know that the infamous witch Sarah Fier wasn’t quite done with her evil machinations towards Sam. Thus we see that, in order to both save her beloved and to potentially end the curse once and for all, Deena and her brother seek out Berman who, for all intents and purposes, is a total recluse in every sense of the word in order to find out just what exactly occurred at the infamous bloodbath at Camp Nightwing in 1978. Thus amid a bright shining sun and a killer (pun intended) compilation of 70s hits, we are introduced to the Berman sisters. There’s Ziggy, a redhead wild girl who has a terrific talent for raising some serious cain and who, having pushed the campers and counselors from Sunnyside to their limits, is about to be sent home only to then be saved by the timely intervention of future law enforcement officer (as we see from the first one) Nick Goode. Yet whilst this unlikely coupling form a unique connection over a mutual admiration for iconic horror writer Stephen King, we see that Ziggy’s older sister Cindy also has her own distinct arc in this. That’s because, for all intents and purposes, Cindy Berman is the “perfect sibling”. Indeed here is a girl who is kind, brilliant, does her best in everything she does, and is the kind of young person that others might call a bit of a fuddy-duddy. A name that makes sense when you learn this girl doesn’t like to use 4-letter words, and has to constantly remind her boyfriend that sex is not an option in their relationship. Oh and I almost forgot: she also doesn’t dabble in drugs like some of the other camp employees (that is when those same employees aren’t doing their jobs and instead are engaged in more carnal pleasures for lack of a better phrase). Suffice it to say that in any other horror film from the 80s, this girl would be the one to give our vicious killer the beat down he (or she) rightfully has earned by film’s end. Sure everyone she knows and loves might be brutally murdered, she’ll get an injury or 2 herself along the way, and sure she might need years of therapy just to get through what she witnessed, but surely her virtuous ways will keep her safe. Of course this isn’t a typical slasher and as we are about to see the night that starts the camp’s annual Color War between Shadyside and Sunnyvale this year isn’t just going to change the lives of these 2 girls forever, but for the first time in camp history there won’t be 2 different colors involved in the Color War, but rather only one and that color, of course, is blood red…..

Now even though the first entry in this trinity had no desire to work with stereotypes whatsoever, this slice of cinematic pie is one that accepts them wholeheartedly to the point that you will easily be able to tell which characters are the outcast, the virgin, the attractive and airheaded jock, and those teens whose rampant love for substances and sex make them prime targets to be bumped off respectively. As a result, this follow-up gives off more of a throwback vibe and as such feels less revelatory than the first film. On the other hand, I can easily comprehend just why such archetypes were done in this one since this film’s screenplay uses these archetypes to quickly establish the locale of Camp Nightwing where the bitterness between the two separate cities literally sees campers threatening to murder one another, and this is before the killer decides to do the job for them no less!  Suffice it to say then with the aid of that infamous R-rating, this movie is able to not only drench the screen in blood, but also in a sex scene or 2 and quite a few curse words in order to give this film’s terror the respective-period bent it so desperately needs. At the same time, kudos to the director for not holding back when it comes to the butchering in the film since counselors may be killed in visceral fashion on screen, but even some campers find themselves on the chopping block off screen as well. This however brings up a slight problem that I have with this film. Namely that these kills might be brutal in the ways you are wanting them to be, but unlike the first installment, there is no emotional weight attached to their demises since you literally know next to nothing about a lot of these characters.

Put another way: the concept of life really does feel watered down in this follow-up which is quite odd seeing as every narrative arc in this in some way or another deals with being loyal to others even when looking death in the eyes. Indeed even though our consistently conflicting sister sister duo drive each other up the wall, we see that they are still driven enough to brave a foreboding cave system and the ominous woods in order to save one another from the bloodthirsty killer. As a result, we see that Ziggy’s trail places her in Nick’s arms whilst Cindy’s trail pairs her up with a temperamental former friend by the name of Alice thus letting the first sibling find a beautiful, albeit wrong place wrong time, love and the other is able to make amends with a scorned friend. At the same time we are also able to see that through this pair of distinct arcs, the film’s helmer is able to still utilize the themes from the first film of young romance, bonding between females, drugs being unfairly blamed for things that they didn’t cause, and of course for the vicious bitterness between the 2 towns at the heart of the narrative. With that said, since it has to act as the middle ground between the first and third films in this trilogy, I do feel that this film is stretched a bit too much at times and is therefore not able to accomplish all that it sets out to. For example, due to C. Berman acting as the reluctant sage to this trinity of films’ main heroine Deena, a lot of exposition is placed on the viewer in this film, but as a result a lot of the arcs in this wind up feeling way more claustrophobic than they ought to. As a result the young love story between Ziggy and Nick for example is not as potent as the one witnessed between Deena and Sam and thus a lot of moments aren’t as impactful as they ought to be. Of course, I do think some of the fault in that particular star problem might be given to the fact that the actors playing those parts don’t have the best chemistry in the world. Be that as it may be, Sadie Sink (Max from Stranger Things) is just as riveting to follow in this as Rudd and both leading ladies do possess a wonderful screen presence that has you hoping everything works out for them right from the word go. Indeed their path might get dicey and they might bicker more than hug it out, but these two ladies are amazing talents and definitely worthy of the title “Scream Queen”

All in all in regaling us with a narrative that covers about 3 centuries over at least a trinity of movies, I think it is safe to say that film helmer Leigh Janiak and her co-writers on this have decided to embark on a cinematic odyssey that is quite bold. With that in mind, I guess it makes sense that the middle entry in this trilogy does go a bit off the rails at points. Not to mention, but despite being the last movie out of the three to be filmed, this slice of cinematic pie does feel like it was rushed at certain points. Indeed the script is crammed with quite a few narrative beats, its cast of characters are void of the distinct style and sheen that was seen in the first one, and the work done by the cinematography department really is just good, but not great. Yes to the cinematography department’s credit, there are quite a few well-done shots in this that brilliantly put you in the pov. of the killer as they silently hunt down people through the ominous and foreboding woods, but such moments are still blundered a little bit. Be that as it may be, there is still quite a bit that lovers of horror cinema will like from brutal and bloody kills, more threads added to the creepy and twisted lore set up in the first one, and throwbacks to such classic horror cinema like Carrie, Sleepaway Camp, and (surprise surprise) Friday The 13th. Suffice it to say that after how potent the first entry was, this one might not be as strong, but it’s still a bloody good time to be had by all. Now bring on the third one! On a scale of 1-5 I give Fear Street Part 2: 1978 a solid 3 out of 5.