- Rough Cut Staff
Fear Street Part Three Flops until it Flies
This review, just like the movie, should not be consumed alone. You can find the companion reviews here (Fear Street Part One: 1994) and here (Fear Street Part Two: 1978).
And we’re back in 1666, like we always knew we would be. Dead people are here, in the form of actors, because Fear Street wanted to bring recognizable faces back, I guess. A miniseries can’t keep introducing characters in its finale. It’s not a compelling explanation; I simply cannot contrive any clear narrative purpose to jump back three centuries and replace all the puritan characters with a mix of actors from 1994 and 1978. It would invoke the rhymes of history, that is if the series had followed through on that thematic premise in any substantive way (aside from absentee fatherhood). But that’s Fear Street in a nutshell, and it’s a good summation of Episode 4, or the first half of Fear Street Part Three: 1666: it tries to follow through on a dozen ideas that never made it past the development stage.
After the events of 1978 - including the somewhat awkward, forced return to present-day 1994, Fear Street jumps back to the mid-17th century to chronicle the series of events that led to Sarah Fier’s curse. In some moments, this sequence plays as a fun diversion: a transportation back in time, a grafting of our present-day lives and loves and fears onto a culture so foreign to us. But in others, it’s a drab, paint-by-numbers recitation of the terrors that 1994 alluded to, something Janiak just wants to get through to make it to her grand finale. The set looks ripped from 2018’s Apostle; the actors mostly play caricatured versions of their present-day selves with bad colonial accents; and the idea of “otherism” is painted in strokes too broad to resonate.
If it doesn’t quite work as a standalone installment, that’s because 1666 was never designed that way. As set-up, it serves its function to a tee. As 1666 ends and the series’ true villain emerges, we arrive at Leigh Janiak’s masterstroke, a swift repositioning that sets up a blistering final hour, or what would have been an instant classic miniseries finale.
1666’s pivot back to the present works on three levels. First, it brings us home to the time, place, and people that we care about. 1994 is the trilogy’s strongest entry in part because it’s the only one of the three with fleshed out characters and a recognizable world. Bringing audiences home raises the emotional stakes. Second, it hinges on a shift in perspective, making audience members complicit in the persecution of Sarah Fier. While we quietly judged the townspeople of 1666 for literal witch-hunting, we made our own assumptions about Fier’s centuries-long curse. For many, those assumptions were as wrong-headed as those of our fictional pilgrim ancestors.
Third, and perhaps most important, Janiak’s time jump injects the finale with a burst of adrenaline that lasts all the way to its final moments. The climactic sequence earns its decision to crib details from Stranger Things - and then some. It’s ingeniously plotted; expertly choreographed; and wisely stuffed full with playful, heartfelt moments that put a bow on Fear Street. It may be a bit too neat (and perfectly set up for a “second season”), but it’s a blast to watch and a return to what made the first entry fun. As cinema, Fear Street is a mix of uneven films that don’t work on their own. But it wasn’t designed to be cinema. Let’s hope any follow-up comes in the package it deserves. Fear Street: The Miniseries, coming to a small screen near you.