Synopsis – Shadyside, 1978. School’s out for summer and the activities at Camp Nightwing are about to begin. But when another Shadysider is possessed with the urge to kill, the fun in the sun becomes a gruesome fight for survival.
My Take – As countless slasher films have taught us before a summer camp for teens is always going to be the ideal location to commit unspeakable horrors.
Acting as the second installment of Netflix’s nostalgia filled throwback slasher trilogy inspired by author R.L. Stine’s Fear Street book series, we are back once again for a bloody scream filled ride continuing the earlier story but also introducing a new group of teenagers.
While the earlier installment introduced the town divide between Shadyside and Sunnyvale, and the many murders caused by a centuries-old old witch’s curse, the second part goes back in time to a summer camp, reminiscent of Friday the 13th films, and effectively ends up improving over its predecessor by delivers more shocks, scares and axe-based horror, with the addition of the younger teens making for more blood spillage.
Where 1994 very much channeled horror films from that time, here, the cast, the soundtrack, the costumes, and the set designs all perfectly meld into being very period accurate, all the while deepening the Sarah Fier mythology and ramping up excitement for the third and final part.
Picking up right from where Fear Street Part One: 1994 left off, Deena (Kiana Madeira) and Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) end up successfully tracking down the C. Berman (Gillian Jacobs), the only survivor of the 1978 Camp Nightwing Massacre, hoping that she might have clues to save a possessed Sam (Olivia Scott Welch), who’s currently tied up in the boot of their car. However, Berman is convinced Sarah Fier cannot be stopped and instead recalls about her attack.
Shifting to 1978, the story follows Ziggy (Sadie Sink), a brash and rebellious Shadysider whose summering at Camp Nightwing is mostly about staving off a bunch of Sunnyvale teen bullies. Making matters worse is that her relationship with Cindy (Emily Rudd), her older sister and one of the camp counselors, has been intense since a recent family crisis. But Cindy is intended to keep out of trouble, do all her duties, and just spend quality time with Tommy (McCabe Slye), her boyfriend.
However, things begin to become strange when Alice (Ryan Simpkins), the camp nurse and the mother of a previous Shadyside Killer, makes an unprovoked attack on Tommy. Though she is taken in by the authorities, Cindy and fellow counselor Alice (Ryan Simpkins) discover that she’d been investigating the legend of 17th-century witch Sarah Fier. And as they unearth a secret, they end up making the whole camp the target of an axe murderer who is determined to chop his way through the various campers, especially Ziggy and future Sheriff Nick Goode (Ted Sutherland).
Most of the events thereby follow a pretty straightforward path, as we see what happens when you have a bunch of teenagers in close proximity in a desolate place, with a manic killer on the loose. In true 1970s slasher fashion, there is hooking up and drug use, which almost certainly will lead to death, you would think characters would know this by now. And as the killer picks off teens one by one, you’re on edge, waiting for where the next blow will fall. In that respect the film manages to top its predecessor, with a slow burning killing spree that allows us to spend more time with its characters.
As its predecessor, the film is based by Leigh Janiak‘s assured direction, who is obvious about her slasher influences, ticking all the expected genre boxes and even pushing the envelope slightly by having the killer chop up sweet, innocent children in addition to the usual horny teenagers.
The film also does a great job of both advancing the main story and telling its own standalone tale albeit a more emotional one. The emotional resonance here stems from these relationships, most notably between the Berman sisters and does a much better job balancing the friendships and the romance than the first film. Its placement of sisterhood and friendship above romance works well here.
While most complains driven towards Part One was the lack of victims, the sequel ups the body count considerably. What’s genuinely shocking is that most of the victims are children. While the squeamish don’t have to worry about seeing a child get hacked in graphic detail, the sound effects make it clear about what’s happening. The ways the older campers die are vivid enough to paint a picture of how their younger counterparts suffered the same fate.
Yes, the tension is slightly diminished by the fact that we already know that only one person will survive and the film goes out of its way to hide the survivor’s identity, but it doesn’t really work, as it’s pretty obvious. But most importantly, we learn a lot more about Sarah Fier, her mark, and are provided with a better understanding of how to take her down. Director Janiak arguably saves the film’s best moment for last, brilliantly setting up the third film, Fear Street Part Three: 1666, in a way that guarantees our emotional investment and makes us anxious to see how it will all turn out.
The performances are superb across the board with Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd and Ted Sutherland bringing in top turns, who are ably supported by McCabe Slye, Ryan Simpkins, Chiara Aurelia and Jordana Spiro. While Kiana Madeira, Benjamin Flores Jr., Olivia Scott Welch and Gillian Jacobs continue excellent work in the 1994 sections. On the whole, ‘Fear Street Part Two: 1978’ is thrilling summer camp slasher that acts as an excellent setup for the final film in the trilogy.
Directed – Leigh Janiak
Rated – R
Run Time – 109 minutes