Review: Fear Street Part 2 is a slow burn horror that levels up the trilogy

FEAR STREET PART 2: 1978 - Cr: Netflix © 2021
FEAR STREET PART 2: 1978 - Cr: Netflix © 2021 /

Fear Street Part 2: 1978 manages to top the ‘90s grunge-tinged horror Part 1 offered viewers of the trilogy, and it’s done so with a slow burning killing spree that allows the audience more time with the cast of characters.

Elements from the first movie are present in Part 2. We’re once again on a bloody, scream-filled thrill ride with a group of teens. They’re irreverent, cruel, and callous about the town divide between Shadyside and Sunnyvale. Except this time we’re dropped into the summer wonder of Camp Nightwing, a place where few adults are on the scene.

Spoilers ahead for Fear Street Part 2

Older teenagers are in charge, acting as the authority figures over the younger group but they’re no less petty and conniving. They’re willing to turn their backs on bad behavior or exploit it for their own ends, and are only held in line by their own obligation to each other or family legacy which dictates their social order and therefore their hierarchy.

It’s an interesting juxtaposition to Part 1 which very much felt like a teen’s world but with an expected reliance on adults to come to the rescue. Ultimately that fell through and forced the kids to handle things on their own, but in Fear Street Part 2 there’s no such reliance.

Fear Street Part 2 is a game-changer for the trilogy

Camp Nightwing is disturbingly devoid of adults outside of Nurse Lane, the mother of Shadyside Killer Ruby Lane, and the police who are called when she tries her hand at attempted murder. As such there’s a Lord of the Flies vibe that adds to the tension in the early parts of the movie.

These are teens completely fine with stringing up a fellow camper and subjecting her to mutilation via burning before being interrupted by camp counselors who are only a few years older. But instead of the bullies being held accountable, one of the counselors cites the various ways the camper herself has caused trouble. That is how we are introduced to the snarling, prickly Ziggy Berman played by Stranger ThingsSadie Sink. Ziggy is an outsider and referred to as a witch by her tormentors.

Part 2 spends a good portion of screen time building up the bad blood not only between the Shadyside and Sunnyvale campers but also between the Shadysiders themselves. Ziggy is at odds with her sister, Cindy (Emily Rudd), a seemingly perfect, goody-two shoes who sees a future for herself outside of their cursed town if she just tries hard enough.

Cindy, whose closest relationship is with her boyfriend, Tommy Slater (McCabe Slye), is caught on the bad side of her former best friend, Alice (Ryan Simpkins). The two haven’t been right since they were preteens when Cindy snitched on her which left Alice in the lurch. Alice’s boyfriend Arnie has no dog in the fight, but he clearly could take or leave Cindy, it all depends on Alice’s opinion on the matter.

As for Ziggy, she has no friends. All she has is the attention of Nick Goode (Ted Sutherland) which she initially rebuffs until she gets to know him better, bonding over Stephen King and their personal likes.

Friendship and sisterhood is the heart of Fear Street Part 2

The emotional resonance in Fear Street Part 2 stems from these relationships, most notably between the Berman sisters, Cindy and Alice, and Ziggy and Nick. Part 2 does a much better job balancing the friendships and the romance than the first movie.

While the characters in Part 1 are friends, the depths of their relationships are shallow compared to the rekindled friendship between Alice and Cindy. It’s a narrative point that has emotional payoff as the girls struggle through the night, grieving their losses and repairing what broke between them.

But, if Sam and Deena were the emotional core of Part 1 which centers their romance as the key to what makes the movie compelling, than it’s Cindy’s relationships with Ziggy and Alice that do so for Part 2. This placement of sisterhood and friendship above romance works well for this horror set in a summer camp.

It’s a love story like the first but one about platonic bonds even as the reveal of a newly minted Shadyside Killer wreaks havoc during a game of Capture the Flag. The movie doesn’t completely shy away from forcing the audience to reckon with Sarah’s equal opportunity vengeance. No camper is safe not even the younger ones.

Viewers don’t have to worry about seeing a child get hacked in graphic detail, but  even with the camera turned away from the horror, it’s clear what’s happening. The ways the older campers die are vivid enough to paint a picture of how their younger counterparts suffered the same fate.

It’s chilling, but we at least learn more about Sarah and her creepy wall etched with the names of her conscripted killers. We see the witch’s mark, and we get a better understanding of how to take her down. They’re important pieces of the mysterious puzzle that she is as a villain.

However, the events at Camp Nightwing are a tragedy. The movie does an excellent job of lulling the viewer into forgetting that as we root for these teens to survive even though we were already told about the slaughter at the camp in Part 1.

When it comes time to find out how C. Berman survived, the sequence in all the style and dramatics this trilogy is coming to be known for, is gut wrenching. We go into Fear Street Part 2 knowing that she died before being revived, but knowing is different from seeing and her survival came with a sacrifice that hangs over the story.

As Deena (Kiana Madeira) and her brother, Josh (Benjamin Flores, Jr.), listen to what happened at Camp Nightwing in the hopes of gleaning how they can save Sam (Olivia Scott Welch), I couldn’t help but wonder what sacrifice they may have to make to defeat the witch, if any.

With Fear Street Part 3 plunging us into 1666, the conclusion of the trilogy, we’ll soon find out.

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Fear Street Part 1 and Part 2 are available to stream now on Netflix. Part 3 of the trilogy premieres Friday, July 16.