Film Review – Fear Street Part 3: 1666
Fear Street Part 3: 1666
Fear Street Part 3: 1666 (2021), the finale of the Fear Street trilogy, is a solid closing act. It capitalizes on the potential of Fear Street Part 1: 1994 while correcting some of the mistakes of Fear Street Part 2: 1978. Its biggest achievement is how director Leigh Janiak (who co-writes with Phil Graziadei and Kate Trefry) ties all the loose threads together. Here is an instance where the production came in with a planned story structure. In many other multi-film series, each installment is treated as a single outing, with filmmakers trying to force the pieces together as they go along. Luckily, Janiak and her team came in knowing exactly where each step would go and how every element plays a role in completing the picture.
The result is a breathless, momentum building narrative that moves with purpose and energy. There are no wasted moments – each scene builds on top of the other. Scenes of horror are balanced with strong character moments. Names, places, and clues that were lightly suggested in the previous two entries now garner all the attention. We learn about “the witch,” Sarah Fier, and how her curse has remained for hundreds of years. We also get a better understanding of Deena (Kiana Madeira) who emerges as the hero of the trilogy, and her determination to put an end to the cycle of death.
To talk about 1666 is to navigate a minefield of spoilers, so forgive me for my vagueness. We are reintroduced to the town of Shadyside in the year 1666, in the height of colonial times. This was a tough place to live in. Not only was it difficult to harvest the land for food and shelter, but intense religious fervor can also turn normal members of the community into a torch wielding mob. That is the challenge that faces Sarah Fier, who has always felt like an outcast among her peers. Her romantic relationship with fellow Shadysider Hannah is cause for concern for a town bred on misogyny.
Did you notice that I did not mention who plays Sarah or Hannah? One of the strongest artistic choices the production makes is who they cast for the roles. Many actors that we’ve seen previously have returned to play a different character in 1666. While simply looking at advertisements and trailers may give the secrets away, I’ll refrain from getting into details. Seeing familiar faces with new names is one of the film’s pleasant surprises. The choice to make actors play multiple parts in the past and present contributes to the idea of hate and evil repeating through eras. The leering eyes, full of scorn and bigotry, follows Sarah in 1666, Ziggy (Sadie Sink) in 1978, and Deena in 1994. The entire trilogy works as a metaphor arguing for the acceptance of others. Accepting others for their differences takes active participation, not apathy.
Like the Shadyside Mall or Camp Nightwing, the rickety town Shadyside is crafted with effective production design. The buildings have an old texture to them, as though they were built with burnt firewood. The surrounding tree line (almost always present in an outdoor shot) works as a barricade preventing our characters from escaping. The sense of claustrophobia is amplified even further through the underground tunnels. During a high-tension sequence, characters run through the labyrinth of passageways with only their torches to light their way. As the rock walls close around them, the suspense builds. The tunnels are so dark and maze-like that at any moment a person could run right off the edge of a drop and never see it coming.
The last hour of 1666 is the standout of the entire trilogy, as the writing and direction brings everything leading up to this point back together. We’re reunited in 1994 with Deena, her brother Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.), Samantha (Olivia Scott Welch), Office Nick Goode (Ashley Zukerman), and the older version of Ziggy (Gillian Jacobs), as they all must deal with the ramifications of what happened to Sarah Fier and the curse that has hovered over their town. This stretch once again shows how perceptive and smart these young people are. They don’t try to simply run from their problems, but to work things out and find the answers. There are some really fun moments here, such as their clever use of squirt guns or trying to lure incoming threats into a self-made booby trap.
Janiak crafts the horror using R.L. Stine’s foundation but mixing it with a touch of H.P. Lovecraft. There are some gross set pieces involving gooey slime monsters, the removal of body parts, and plenty of blood spray. And just as she did in the previous two films, Janiak does not hold back from showcasing the viscera in its full glory. This is most certainly not the kind of movie to show to your kids – the camera holds fast to every bloody slice and dice. Thankfully, the tone is much lighter here compared to 1978, which made the mayhem easier to take in.
I’m not sure if Fear Street will go down as one of the great horror franchises, but it is a fun enough ride to build a fan following. It’s not perfect, but it knows its goals and accomplishes them well. It’s structure, ambition, and strength of performance makes it a trilogy worth checking out, with 1666 acting as a fitting exclamation point.