Fear Street 1978 Thoughts

Last weekend, Fear Street 1978 came out. Huzzah!

As I talked about recently, I thought the first Fear Street movie, 1994, was a lot of fun. I’ve been eager to see how the second movie pans out, so naturally, I jumped on it at my earliest opportunity.

Fear Street 1978 picks up where the previous film left off: with Deena and Josh attempting to free Sam from the witch’s curse, enlisting the aid of previous witch-massacre-survivor C. Berman (Gillian Jacobs) to do so. Ms. Berman isn’t too keen on helping the kids, but eventually relents and tells them about her experience with the witch; the rest of the film is a prolonged flashback to the summer of 1978.

We follow Ziggy Berman (Sadie Sink) and her sister Cindy (Emily Rudd) throughout this movie, and I’m just going to get this out of the way right up front: no, Ziggy is not her real name; yes, her real name starts with a ‘C’; and yes, she’s the surviving sister, not Cindy. The film treats this as a (minor) reveal towards the end, but it’s extremely obvious the second the flashbacks start.

Also, wait, how is this a reveal at all? Deena and Josh are surprised by it, but that doesn’t make sense. Shouldn’t Ms. Berman be telling the story like, “Then I locked Sheila in the outhouse, or whatever? Is she saying, “Then Ziggy locked Sheila in the outhouse”? That’s weird.

Secondary also: everyone dies (that’s not a spoiler, they already told us that in the last movie). How does adult Ziggy know what Cindy and Alice went through? They don’t have a lot of time to, like, debrief on shit.

Well, whatever. This is explicitly a dumb slasher movie; I shouldn’t be questioning its logic.

That’s not an insult, by the way—this film is a deliberate throwback to the slashers of the ‘80s, set in the same year Halloween came out and borrowing a summer camp setting from Friday the 13th. It knows what it is and isn’t trying to be something else. It’s dumb out of love and respect for the dumb movies that have come before, not because it’s poorly made.

While Friday the 13th is the most obvious inspiration here, Fear Street 1978 deviates from that film’s formula in a pretty significant way: while the former film keeps its killer a mystery for most of the runtime, the latter tells you who the killer will be almost immediately. This was a smart move, because it makes the opening scenes much more tense; we know that poor Tommy Slater (McCabe Slye) is going to succumb to possession sooner or later, we’re just waiting for the inevitable burst of violence when he finally snaps.

When it happens—resulting in the stoner comedic relief character, Arnie (Sam Brooks), getting a few brutal ax chops to the face—it’s no less impactful for us having seen it coming.

On the subject of Arnie, that’s another thing I liked about this movie: it gleefully played up those old slasher tropes. While the goofy, drug-using Simon made it through most of the last film, Arnie (who is introduced having sex and quickly establishes himself as a pot smoker and pill-popper) is the first to go here. It really makes it feel like a ‘70s movie, you know?

Of course, it doesn’t play things totally straight—as part of the ‘C. Berman’ fakeout, Cindy is a very traditional final girl and she doesn’t make it out alive. Her frenemy Alice (Ryan Simpkins) also gets some of the ‘drug user doesn’t mean bad person’ characterization that Kate and Simon received in the last movie, too, which is nice.

While Fear Street 1978 spends a lot more time as a straight slasher than its predecessor did, it also has some truly weird supernatural stuff going on, and it also does a great job setting up the final film in the trilogy, Fear Street 1666 (which should be hitting Netflix the day this article goes up).

I’ll wrap up by saying the same thing I said last week: just go watch it! It’s fun! This little experiment that Netflix is doing is really paying off. I’m looking forward to wrapping up the series and seeing what becomes of the Witch of Shadyside.

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