Review: Fear Street Part 3: 1666

The Fear Street trilogy comes to a close with Fear Street Part Three: 1666, and like its two predecessors, it’s something of a mixed bag. There’s some interesting closure here, and a final reveal of the three movies’ social undercurrents that carry through into its 1994 setting. However, the treatment of its ensemble beyond the central quad of 1994 characters dealing with the fallout of centuries of homicidal evil still feels shallow, to the point where certain reveals mean very little, and other elements shed unfortunate light on groundwork that should’ve been more clearly delineated early on.

At the conclusion of Fear Street Part Two: 1978, our heroine Deena (Kiana Madeira) returned Sarah Fier’s severed skeletal hand to her buried remains. This triggered an intense flashback to 1666, when occurrences of witchcraft led to Sarah’s death, and the eventual splitting of the settlement of Union into Shadyside and Sunnyvale. The majority of 1666 plays out this flashback, with Madeira’s Deena embodying the role of Sarah Fier, and cast members from the previous two Fear Street entries in the roles of other Union settlers. We get a look at Sarah’s life, the terrifying events that overtook Union, and how the wrongful accusation and killing of Sarah by her neighbors—and the actual source of Union’s woes—continued to leave its mark down the centuries.

The final third of 1666 rejoins Deena, her brother Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) and Gillian Jacobs’ Ziggy Berman in 1994. Deena, now armed with knowledge from her experience, uses what she’s learned to put Shadyside’s curse to rest for good, and attempts to save her girlfriend Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) from becoming its latest victim.

(Netflix)

1666 is a slight departure from the horror trend pattern of the last two films, but we’re still in subgenre territory, hitting up contemporary folk horror in the vein of Robert Eggers’ The Witch, colored with a sense of teen angst that’s closer to 1994’s Kevin Williamson-adjacent trappings. The level of gore here is commensurate with the other two, but where 1994 and 1978 reveled in campy, creative kills, the violence in 1666 feels much more tragic, possibly because this entry includes more adults in the cast, parents who mourn the loss of their children and their community’s decay.

But the film is burdened by the cast’s shaky attempts at  accents (with laughable results), and  that’s not its only issue, or even its biggest. The reveal of the Shadyside curse’s true origins tie the town’s tragedies to characters who until this point have felt ancillary at best. There are interesting themes at play that connect to the ongoing class struggles of the first two entries (without spoiling too much, the idea that white male privilege could come from a literal deal with the devil is a pretty good one), but without Fear Street exploring its characters more expansively, those concepts don’t have the necessary weight to take hold.

It’s possible that Fear Street would have worked best in series format, giving director and co-writer Leigh Janiak the opportunity to dig into each installment’s setting and character motivations, playing with our loyalties and developing the citizenry of Shadyside and Sunnyvale beyond rough sketches. Structurally, the final film’s reveal and its implications for its ‘90s heroes makes sense, but dramatically the work hasn’t been done to get the audience to care. 

There is some fun and catharsis to be had in rejoining our contemporary characters—a Home Alone-style booby trap planning sequence set to The Offspring’s “Come Out and Play” among them—but it’s barely enough to sell us on the final battle. Given more room to breathe and explore, Fear Street could have been much more interesting than it is. In its current format, all three films remain enjoyable enough, but disappointing.

B-

“Fear Street Part 3: 1666” is now streaming on Netflix.

Abby Olcese is a film critic and pop culture writer. In addition to writing for Crooked Marquee, she is also the film editor at The Pitch magazine. Her work has appeared in Sojourners Magazine, Birth. Movies. Death., SlashFilm and more. She lives in Kansas City.

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