Synopsis – The origins of Sarah Fier’s curse are finally revealed as history comes full circle on a night that changes the lives of Shadysiders forever.
My Take – As evident from the response (including mine) received by the two installments of Netflix’s three-part adaptation of R.L. Stine’s Fear Street books, writer/director Leigh Janiak managed to hit a winning balance by exceeding expectations, while breaking new ground with its queer heroine and her quest to free her girlfriend from a centuries-old curse. Most importantly, horror fans were left delighted with the set of inventive serial killers who went on racking up an impressive body count of unfortunate victims.
Thankfully, the final installment is also much better made than one might expect, bringing all the threads together from its predecessors to provide an ambitious finale that cranks it up and delivers a rather satisfying conclusion in the process.
While Fear Street Part 1: 1994 and Fear Street Part 2: 1978 relied heavily on tropes and iconography borrowed from the popular horror films and franchises of their respective eras, from Scream to Friday the 13th, this one, while treading upon familiar ground of stories about witchcraft, branches off on its own to become something wholly different.
More successfully, the film stays fresh on account of its unflinching thirst for horror, as this chapter’s period setting opens up the playing field for more folklore-infused scares. Gone are the axe-wielding murderers, and in their place a more biblical take on the genre with plenty of gore to shock and delight.
Starting off right after the events of Fear Street Part 2: 1978, the story follows Deena (Kiana Medeira), who upon reuniting Sarah Fier’s long-lost hand with her body, ends up getting mind-melded with Sarah to see the truth of what happened to her back in 1666 and how Shadyside’s curse originated. Living in an early highly religious settlement upon which Shadyside and Sunnyvale would grow, Deena as Sarah encounters many familiar faces like Abigail (Emily Rudd), Lizzie (Julia Rehwald), Solomon Goode (Ashley Zukerman), among others.
But when strange things, including the premature rotting of food and other unnatural start occurring, the townsfolk are desperate to have something to blame them upon, eventually setting their sights on the recently revealed secret romance between Sarah and Hannah (Olivia Scott Welch), the daughter of Pastor Miller (Michael Chandler) who goes on to murder several children in the chapel, including Sarah’s brother Henry (Benjamin Flores Jr.) and Constance (Sadie Sink). Accused of being witches who are cursing the community, the both are immediately sentenced to be hanged.
Predictably, it wasn’t what the Shadyside history books told us, with Fier’s ultimate demise covering up the real person behind the curse. But once we find out who it is, the film heads back to 1994 (part 2) and amalgamates everything director Leigh Janiak has meticulously set up in the first two installments to bring it all down in a climax that’s not only effective in its execution of being a classic 90s slasher but is also genuinely very entertaining.
Across the first two installments in Netflix’s Fear Street trilogy, the violent legacy of Sarah’s death has been framed as the source of the innumerable misfortunes and murders that have plagued the town of Shadyside for centuries. She’s been positioned as a vengeful specter, twisting otherwise benign citizens into homicidal serial killers with a preternatural resistance to being killed.
But this film reveals that Sarah is neither the villain history has made her out to be, nor the cause of the so-called witch’s curse. Contrary to everything the story suggested, Sarah Fier is a victim of these horrors herself, as much as either Deena or her ex-girlfriend Sam, if not more so.
Here, the film becomes a hybrid, taking traits and story lines from the first two films and imposing them on the new characters. It’s a clever and yet simple technique, giving the filmmakers enough rope to tell the new story while keeping it tethered to the other two. But director Janiak and her co-writers stay true to the period, reveling in the language, repressed thinking, and general filth of the time. While the killing set pieces are not as gratuitous as the previous two, there is still a fair bit of disturbing content to deem it credible.
Whilst its first half does move at a slow pace, and is a bit inconsistent tonally since there’s a leap between act one and act two, but this was necessary given the structure. This choice would leave most viewers preferring the second film over the other two, and while this is the case personally for me, I do appreciate the ambition of the 1666 story line. Certain character revelations also add a different texture to the previous films, and what were previously thought to be plot holes now make perfect sense. Most importantly, the series stays consistent with its rules, playing within the space it creates, something that a lot of horror films set up only to throw out the window.
It’s in this big set-piece finale that the film is at its high, with the ’90s aesthetic adding to the action without overshadowing it, and you’ve become so fond of the Shadyside serial killers at this stage that you’re almost rooting for them to win. Ending on a violent and vengeful high note is just what the trilogy needed.
The acting too has been great in the series across the board, but with this film specifically, it was superb. Kiana Madeira fares better as Sarah Fier than Deena, and completely establishes herself as a star, someone who can be counted on to lead other films with full confidence. Ashley Zukerman finally gets his moment to shine especially as Solomon Goode. Gillian Jacobs and Darrell Britt-Gibson adding some spark to the group dynamic, with Benjamin Flores Jr. continuing to be the ensemble’s secret weapon. McCabe Slye, who played Tommy Slater in 1978, also delivers a memorable performance as Mad Thomas.
In other roles, Olivia Scott Welch, Sadie Sink, Fred Hechinger, Julia Rehwald, Emily Rudd, Jordana Spiro, Jordyn DiNatale, Jeremy Ford, Randy Havens and Michael Chandler are also good. On the whole, ‘Fear Street Part Three: 1666’ is a satisfying conclusion to an excellently campy and grisly trilogy.
Directed – Leigh Janiak
Rated – R
Run Time – 114 minutes