Picking up from ‘Fear Street Part One: 1994’, the trilogy continues with returning director Leigh Janiak shifted from paying homage to 1990s slasher movies in the first film to making a sequel in the style of 80s summer-camp slashers. The kind of genre classics populated by the likes of ‘Friday the 13th’, ‘The Burning’, ‘Sleepaway Camp’ and to certain extents, ‘Madman’ and ‘Moonstalker’.
In ‘Fear Street Part Two: 1978’, the sequel immediately gets you up to speed with a brief ‘previously on’-style recap of the first film (if you have seen enough television, you know what we mean). Despite the subtitle, it doesn’t dive straight to the 1978 timeline as the film first focuses on the two surviving teens — siblings Deena (Kiana Madeira) and Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) — manage to track down where C. Berman (Gillian Jacobs) lives. C. Berman, of course, is the key that could help them solve the mystery of the evil witch Sarah Fier.
From there, Berman begins telling them about the fateful night where she somehow survived the bloody massacre in Camp Nightwing. As the story dials back to the summer of 1978, we learn about the estranged relationship between two Berman sisters (Emily Rudd’s Cindy and Sadie Sink’s Ziggy). Cindy, the older sister who works as a camp counselor and has a nice boyfriend, Tommy (McCabe Slye) always have to put up with her younger sibling’s rebellious attitude.
Meanwhile, the campers between Shadyside and Sunnyvale are ready to compete with each other in the annual capture-the-flag event of Color War. But the story soon takes a violent turn when one of the campers goes crazy and starts hacking people with an axe after possessed by the ghost of the past, Sarah Fier.
As expected, ‘Fear Street Part Two: 1978’ gets into the right period-appropriate mood, beginning with all the quintessential needle drops of ‘70s soundtrack. Songs like David Bowie’s ‘The Man Who Sold the World’, Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘The Reaper (Don’t Fear)’ and not to forget, The Runaways’ ‘Cherry Bomb’ are heard in the background over the course of the film.
Leigh Janiak, this time co-writing her screenplay with Zak Olkewicz (the latter is also responsible for penning David Leitch’s upcoming action thriller ‘Bullet Train’) gets off to a slow start at the beginning of the film. Here, Janiak takes considerable time establishing both the story and characters, particularly detailing around Cindy and Ziggy. Genre fans might find the sequel’s somewhat deliberate pace a turn-off but at least Janiak does a good job making us care for the characters. Kudos to her for bringing out the best in two of the sequel’s best performances including Emily Rudd and especially Sadie Sink of Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’ fame, who steals most of the show as Ziggy.
Then comes around 45 minutes or so, where ‘Fear Street Part Two: 1978’ finally delivers what genre fans are looking for: the slashing parts. Like the first film, Janiak pulls no punches when it comes to brutality and violence. In fact, the sequel upped the ante by making the slashing scenes more shocking and gruesome. Those who prefer their slasher film with graphically-violent gore will have a field day enjoying this sequel. From witnessing a face getting hacked into half to decapitation, it’s like reliving the ‘Friday the 13th’-like moments all over again.
If that’s not enough, the final hour is mostly dedicated to increasingly relentless moments of the campers trying to survive from the seemingly unstoppable axe-wielding killer. It also helps that Janiak making good use of Marco Beltrami and Brandon Roberts’ riveting score, coupled with the top-notch sound design and editing — all of which makes the slashing such a visceral piece of horror film. Now, if only ‘Fear Street Part Two: 1978’ is traditionally screened on a big-screen theater, that would be one heck of a cinematic experience altogether.
In keeping with the spirit of ‘Friday the 13th’ and its like-minded genre films, Janiak doesn’t forget to throw in some obligatory sex/nude scenes in between. And while ‘Fear Street Part Two: 1978’ may have primarily devoted to the aforementioned summer-camp slasher subgenre, there’s a scene directly referenced from the iconic scene of Brian De Palma’s ‘Carrie’.
Overall, the good thing about how Janiak approaches her sequel is that she never repeats the same formula commonly plagued by most horror sequels. Instead, the sequel takes on a rather mean-spirited approach that is tonally and aesthetically different as opposed to a more fun first film.
Read More: Best Slasher Movies of All Time