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"Fear Street Part 2: 1978" (2021) A '70s Slasher-ific Movie Review

I'm a lover of all things film & I do my best to be as objective as possible when reviewing/analyzing the medium I hold so dear.

fear-street-part-2-1978-2021-a-70s-slasher-ific-movie-review

Continuing Onto Chapter 2

With the first movie only releasing a week prior, we’re now venturing into the second chapter of this new horror trilogy with Fear Street: 1978. To quickly recap on how I felt on the first movie, Fear Street: 1994, I liked it and thought it was a fun slasher flick. I didn’t love it as I thought the story was yet another retread of ParaNorman while combining with elements from Scream and also having far too many false jump scares. What kept me engaged though were the lovable characters and the fact that we’re getting this unique concept of a slasher trilogy being released on Netflix within the span of a few weeks.

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Going into 1978, I was admittedly very excited to check it out when noticing how much it was seemingly inspired by Friday the 13th, which is my favorite slasher franchise. So seeing how I’m not a fan of the Scream franchise yet I thoroughly enjoyed Fear Street: 1994 as it heavily pays homage to Wes Craven’s 1996 popular horror hit, I figured this next installment might be a homerun for me. Unfortunately, this middle piece was not the big win I was hoping for. Not to say it was bad because I still mostly had a good time with this, but the majority of issues I found with the first movie were also found here, only with less redeeming qualities than before.

The Plot

Shadyside, 1978. School’s out for summer and the activities at Camp Nightwing are about to get deadly! When another Shadysider is possessed with the urge to kill, the fun in the sun becomes a gruesome night of survival.

fear-street-part-2-1978-2021-a-70s-slasher-ific-movie-review

The Story

While the first movie was recycling a very specific story structure which is steadily becoming all too familiar, the second avoids rehashing any finer details while only painting broader strokes of familiar Slasher tropes. Here’s the thing, even though the first movie was largely a retread it still managed to maintain an enjoyably spooky personality in its narrative. This time around, on the other hand, felt like I was sitting through a standard yet forgettable Slasher. If this movie were released in the mid-1980s along with the onslaught of Friday the 13th clones like Sleepaway Camp or Don’t Go In The Woods… Alone then Fear Street ’78 would likely be lost in time as the lesser version of those charmingly blatant rip-offs. There’s just not enough distinguishing this movie from any other Slasher flick I’ve seen countless times prior; a masked/faceless/voiceless serial killer located in a forest taking out dumb and horny teenagers one by one trying to survive this night of bloody terror. With the exception of a few minor details, that’s all this movie has to offer. In which case, I’d much rather watch Sleepaway Camp or any of the other limitless Friday the 13th knockoffs… Hell, Friday the 13th would suffice just fine!

I also think Fear Street would have benefited more if the filmmakers attempted to replicate the visual aesthetic of the Slasher films they're channeling. They look too clean & modern.

I also think Fear Street would have benefited more if the filmmakers attempted to replicate the visual aesthetic of the Slasher films they're channeling. They look too clean & modern.

Frankly, this is a five minute flashback sequence stretched out to being nearly two hours long. For a Slasher flick, that’s thirty minutes too damn long as it is. Slashers are in and out real quick with a terrific fast pace. This one meanders for far too long with material adding up to jack-sh*t. Also thinking about how the story’s framing device of the lone survivor recounting these events to the young heroes from the first movie, I realized how much pointless crap our narrator apparently explained in order to tell her story for almost two hours apparently. Again, this should have been cut down to a five minute flashback sequence at the beginning while moving forward with the plot already set in motion from the first movie. There’s simply not enough of a reason to justify this film’s full length… that’s what she said? Seriously, the story is thin in need of some major trimming.

fear-street-part-2-1978-2021-a-70s-slasher-ific-movie-review

Our ‘70s Pot Smoking & Sex Craving Characters

A significant factor as to why I dug the first Fear Street movie was the characters in how charismatic they were, despite them making less than smart choices half the time… like dropping a gun after firing only three shots from said gun holding six when being chased by psycho killers… the f*ck?! I still haven’t gotten over that. Anyways, directing our attention to this sequel, it’s as though the writers took the exact opposite approach; crafting our heroes to make less moronic choices, yet never once allowing them to branch out from their strict archetypal constraints. Which is a total shame and major disappointment since the characters were so likable in the last picture, yet are generic blocks here who fit neatly in their stereotypical Slasher movie roles.

To me, the blandness of the characters are made all the worse because Fear Street ’78 borrows so much tonally and structurally from Friday the 13th; which is known for having a lovable cast in most of its installments with extremely memorable characters. Some examples would include the lovably shlubby prankster of Larry Zerner’s Shelly, Thom Mathews as the heroic Tommy Jarvis, the flirtatious yet spunky Lizbeth played by Nancy McLoughlin, Crispin Glover’s Jimmy the neurotic nerd in search for love, Vincent Craig Dupree as the young boxer Julius, the kick-ass robot Kay-Em, the list goes on. Yet who do we have here? A few unhappy teenagers acting like petty jerks to one another while we wait for them to die. Then outside of the protagonists remain the young campers who are, more or less, mini-sociopaths willing to set people on fire over ten dollars. Not exactly the easiest group to invest myself in. Maybe it’s unfair to compare this movie so much to Friday the 13th, but when there’s already a lot of similarities being drawn by the film itself, it becomes rather difficult to separate the two.

I'd say more than 75% of the conversations in the movie from any given pair of characters are bitching & arguing.

I'd say more than 75% of the conversations in the movie from any given pair of characters are bitching & arguing.

Seriously, the bully kids tie this girl up to a tree and start burning her with a lighter... f*ckin' hell.

Seriously, the bully kids tie this girl up to a tree and start burning her with a lighter... f*ckin' hell.

Admittedly I’m thankful that these characters never get to being as bad as the painfully obnoxious douchebags from the Friday the 13th remake, plus the acting is fairly solid all around as well. Main problem being that there’s still nothing that ever made me click with them either. Except the characters did almost reel me in at one point. In the third act the movie was finally getting close to bringing me in with its characters and creating a halfway decent character arc, then the script immediately pulls a Samuel L. Jackson moment from Deep Blue Sea. I won’t spoil exactly who I’m referring to, but in the third act one of the leads begins a longwinded speech to “motivate the troops” if you will, only to get literally axed off immediately after. Making me wonder… why? Why should I care?

A Little Reminder of What Happened to Samuel L. Jackson

The film set up this one character in need of a satisfying resolution in seeking revenge against the witch who has wronged her, they give her this crowd pleasing speech to make me give a damn about her story while simultaneously clumsily telegraphing she’s dead meat. It would be one thing if the moment of her abrupt death were funny like the scene we all know and love from Deep Blue Sea that we all probably rewound at the very least once in our lives. Or if it came across as intentionally tragic then that could have worked for the characters’ depth as well. However, it does neither as it feels as if the screenwriter didn’t care about unceremoniously killing this person off… therefore, so why should I?

A romance that... MIGHT have been? I'm not sure.

A romance that... MIGHT have been? I'm not sure.

The Almost Lesbian Twist?

Maybe I’m reading things weirdly from this movie, but something felt strange in the writing department for a pair of characters here. There is a friendship being shortly developed between the characters played by Emily Rudd and Ryan Simpkins, which I thought was starting to elude to Rudd’s character only dating her boyfriend to keep up appearances while maybe secretly having a thing for Simpkins… then that prospect is instantly dropped and forgotten as though it never mattered. So I have no clue if there was a past version of the script the possibly included more development on that idea or if it was some clumsy dialog trying to be subtle yet fumbling and is in need of touching up. It just felt strange to tease this notion and never follow through with it. It could just be me interpreting the context poorly. Either way, this is basically a nitpick.

I guess??

I guess??

The Actual Twist?

*Spoiler Alert*

I think the movie was under the impression that the identity of the narrator was some sort of secret, pretending as if I didn’t realize the Ziggy character played by Sadie Sink was her… was it not obvious? The narration promptly establishes that the narrator’s sister dies and we also know from the previous week’s feature that she too had died and been revived in order to defeat the witch’s curse. So we reach the last act where both characters are seemingly dead, the editing gives off the impression that we’re supposed to be on the edge of our seat guessing as to who the narrator really was as we wait to see who is brought back to life… it was Ziggy. At no point did I not think the narrator wasn’t Ziggy. I just knew from the start… was I not supposed to? Sorry, but that was confusing to me.

Death & Rebirth of Our Heroes

The Jump-Scares

A nuisance about Fear Street ’94 I neglected to mention was the annoying jump-scares that would persistently pop up uninvited, mainly in the opening act, but was still an element interwoven throughout the runtime. For no reason there would be a loud music stinger to accompany a character simply standing normally with nothing actually scary going on, a cynical and desperate attempt to hit the viewers with a lazy jolt of hollow “excitement.” I hate that cliché in any horror movie, even ones I like. If there’s going to be false jump-scares in any flick, keep the musical score quiet because it’s not scary or creepy, it’s f*ckin’ stupid. Granted, that was an overdone scare tactic in the 1990s so I suppose it could have been intentional. Although if that’s the case, it could have at least been executed in a way to be more self-aware about it rather than simply doing the cliché with nothing more to it.

Appears as though Fear Street ’78 mostly rectified that awful jump-scare tactic of deafening the audience every five minutes with zero frights to be had. Don’t mistake my words, there are still false jump-scares seen in this movie, except without the annoying music stinger every other scene. This is the best way to handle any fake-out “scary” moment, not with a booming noise showing up for no reason whatsoever. Let the scene play out on its own to give a little fun tricky moment to keep the audience on their toes. Again, this may have been an intentional move to include music stingers in the ‘90s installment while leaving them absent for the ‘70s picture, seeing how that was how the decades handled their respective jump-scares.

Music

The soundtrack still retained the exact same problem as before where we would bleed into song after song within mere seconds without ever letting a tone settle. I wasn’t as irritated about the music as I was with the first movie, maybe because it didn’t happen quite as frequently. I will say that the song selection is as superb as its predecessor, with many of which resulting in me tapping my foot as the songs played. Also I enjoyed how the film opened with Nirvana’s cover of “The Man Who Sold the World” while closing the climax out with the original version by David Bowie. It was a nice touch depicting the individual time periods with the exact same song… plus, it’s a great frikkin’ tune.

Fear Street 1978 Soundtrack

The Gory Gore

Thankfully there’s still one element about this second chapter of Fear Street holding my attention, that being it’s a welcome throwback to Slashers. I grew up on Slashers and love them to death. Seeing them make a wee bit of a comeback is a huge delight, despite whether I’m the biggest fan or not of the material thus far. Again we’re treated to some gruesomely delicious kills, yet again though… not as much creatively as I would have preferred, but there’s still a decent gory and bloody effect scattered sporadically.

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*SPOILER ALERT*

There’s one thing that I respect yet also felt as though the movie was pussyfooting around, which was the killer brutally killing kids. To me, this is a ballsy move that I admire and respect because there aren’t many films around nowadays willing to cross that line. It legitimately surprised me that the screenplay acknowledged that the kids of this summer camp would be easy prey for a homicidal maniac let loose on the grounds. Most writers would avoid such circumstances altogether or briefly write in a moment where the kids could be in danger, but by sheer coincidence the child remains unharmed. Fear Street throws that lame contrivance right out of the equation as our axe wielding villain chops those kids up to pieces… seriously, it’s somewhat shocking… and awesome.

Wondering what my issue is if I respect this move so much? The kills are performed offscreen, which is a big “no-no” in the rules of Slasher flicks. Slashers are made for the gory entertainment, so it comes across as relatively underwhelming when all we see is the killer walk towards the kid figuratively pissing their pants, only to cut from the scene to later see their body face down with a little bit of blood beside them. There are another set of young characters who get the same treatment in the movie, except it does show a severed limb or two in the aftermath, which was appreciated. To me, I feel as though making a move like this, the script should go all the way with its taboo ideas or not at all. This tactic felt as though the writers wanted to go there, yet were too afraid to take that final step of crossing the line so they settled somewhere in the middle. Admittedly a morbidly exciting concept which was executed in a fashion to hopefully not offend anyone. Horror movies, especially Slashers, should never be afraid to offend their audience.

Overall Grade: C-

Overall Grade: C-

Overall: C-

I know that it might seem strange for me to give the movie a passing grade of a ‘C-’ after I practically sh*t all over it for the entire review, but I did still have a good time with Fear Street 1978; truth be told the majority of my enjoyment I had here was from the simple fact that I was watching a new Slasher. It’s nice to get a new movie with a cool decapitation or axe chop to the face from time to time, in that regard, this film delivers as serviceable entertainment. Where it doesn’t deliver is giving me enough story to justify a two hour runtime or characters to invest in. I’m sorry, but I must reiterate that we would have been better off if this was reduced down to a five minute flashback sequence while leading into the next chapter. Instead we get those five minutes inflated up to approximately 110 minutes… way too long. Especially for a Slasher which should roughly be no more than 80 to 90 minutes maximum. Setting that aside, this movie is fine. Best for viewing only to get a few decent Slasher moments occasionally and to collect the information needed to be caught up for the final chapter next week… that crucial information found in strictly the first and last five minutes of the movie.

Fear Street 1666 Trailer

Random Sidenote:

I appreciate the little detail of making a character named Tommy turn into basically Jason Voorhees. The horror nerd in me liked that.

Tommy & Jason: The Best of Friends

Tommy & Jason: The Best of Friends

Best Fear Street Movie

That’s All Folks!

Fear Street Part 2: 1978… What did you think? Were you pleasantly satisfied by the follow-up to Fear Street 1994 or somewhat let down like I was? Did you like or dislike the movie? Agree or disagree with my opinions? Comment down below and let me know! Also, if you so happen to have enjoyed my review then please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves a slicey good day!

© 2021 John Plocar

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