Fear Street Part Two: 1978 (2021) is Modern Summer Camp Slasher Excellence
Updated: Dec 26, 2021
Title: Fear Street Part Two: 1978
First Wide Release: July 9, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Leigh Janiak
Writer: Zak Olkewicz, Leigh Janiak, Phil Graziadei
Runtime: 109 Minutes
Starring: Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd, Ryan Simpkins
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
After Deena (Kiana Madeira) and Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr) confront C. Berman (Gillian Jacobs), the only survivor of the Camp Nightwing Massacre sixteen years ago, on how to save Sam (Olivia Scott Welsh) from the throes of Sarah Fier’s curse they initially meet resistance. Berman relents to revealing her secrets when offered the chance to rid the town of the scourge shackling it to the floors of mediocrity and ennui. The flashback takes us to 1978 where sisters Ziggy (Sadie Sink) and Cindy (Emily Rudd) Berman fight about Ziggy getting in trouble, yet again, and jeopardizing Cindy’s chances of keeping her job and at getting out of Shadyside. Little did they know that their world would change when one of their friends goes on a homicidal rampage with an axe.
A shot of adrenaline and nostalgia, Fear Street Part Two: 1978 is a perfectly crafted period slasher that checks every box for horror fans.
I cannot express how much I loved this film. Not only is it a great continuation of the first, building on the mythology and bridging the events from the first and third films, but it is a righteous film in its own regard. The camp setting is inspired and harkens back memories of simpler times in horror despite being a part of a complex narrative that stems centuries. The worldbuilding continues to be excellent here. My favorite aspect of 1978 is that Shadyside has a history of its inhabitants trying to solve the mystery. They get just enough information to be meaningful but not enough to save them. It’s brutal but it also feels more realistic than films where characters solve everything at once.
A perfectly sunny yet dark setting, Fear Street Part Two: 1978 evokes so many feelings in me as a horror fan that it feels tailor made to my tastes. Something so innocent as a camp color war game turning into a bloodbath is both horrifying and sweat inducing as a horror fan who loves the specific wonder of camp horror.
While the first Fear Street leans into romantic love, Fear Street Part Two: 1978 leans into sisterly love as the emotional anchor. Sink and Rudd have wonderful chemistry. Sink brings Ziggy to life in such a great way. In a less capable actress, Ziggy would merely be a stoic and annoying teenager meant to incite eyerolls before it’s too late. Rudd’s Cindy is the perfect nagging and perfectionist older sister trope to complement Ziggy’s sarcasm and icy demeanor. Their relationship feels authentic if only for their reactions to the perceived danger of the other. Despite their issues with the other, they care deeply about each other and are willing to put themselves in harm’s way to save the other. It’s a beautiful relationship and one that doesn’t get enough credit.
There are also heavy themes of difference when we get more of a picture of just how much the Sunnyvalers hate the Shadysiders. More themes of moral panic and outrage are intertwined with how the two factions interact. It’s easy to see why Sunnyvalers consistently view Shadyside as bad people. They base their views in purity culture, that oftentimes they neglect themselves. Shadyside is seen as a place of the lazy, drug-addled, and directionless. This dichotomy is explored even when its clear that Sunnyvalers perpetuate the very same things they criticize the others for.
The hypocrisy is so apparent to the viewers from a bird’s eye view but for Shadysiders their plight seems irreversible and inevitable. No character emulates this more than Alice who uses her time to explore visceral pursuits because she feels there’s no way out. And as a viewer, it hits harder because you know she’s right. Even though she is grating, her vulnerability and courage is understated and show how first impressions and assumptions can make us overlook exceptional people. Alice brings a special depth to Shadyside and an extra dimension that complements the rest of the cast.
I truly believe that this will be the summer camp slasher other films will clamor to beat in the 2020s. The realistic effects work and 70s summer aesthetic help check the final boxes for me. I’m not sure how to perfectly articulate why this film works for me so well but it does. There’s a fantastic energy about the film. I love that Janiak, again, is not afraid to get dirty and to do provocative things despite the property being directed at a younger horror lover audience. It is relentless, gripping, and perfectly paced horror serve up in a sweetly dark dish of 70s horror nostalgia.
I can’t even think of many things to criticize Fear Street Part Two: 1978 for. It’s fantastic all around and is an affecting film with writing that is easy to get lost in, endearing characters played by strong actors, and a great soundtrack. I am such a sucker for 'Carry on My Wayward Son' thanks to a certain television series, so that might be why! The one thing that brings me out of the experience is the resurrection of one character at the end that defies logic. I truly believe had they switched out their cause of death in the first place, I would not have anything negative to say.
I already felt very good about this series with its excellent opening entry 1994, but I am blown away with how much I loved Fear Street Part Two: 1978. This film has it all: a cast with great chemistry, fantastic world building and lore, nasty gore, breathless chase sequences, and a perfect segue between its predecessor and successor. Leads Sink, Rudd, and Simpkins make a dream team of survivors up until the bitter end when only one can survive. One of the best viewing experiences I’ve had this year, Fear Street Part Two: 1978 is a much-watch summer camp slasher that will both delight and scare.
Overall Score? 8.5/10