And we’re finally here, the conclusion of the “Fear Street” trilogy which began in 1994, backtracked to 1978, and ends up in 1666 (well, kinda). Cool in theory and certainly ambitious, this Netflix trilogy set itself up as a gory nostalgia-soaked horror adventure. Despite their numerous flaws and frustrations, the first two movies did feel like throwbacks in some regards. But both milked too much from their inspirations and came across as knockoffs rather than inspired. Yet they still did a passable job of keeping the audience interested enough to stick around for the finish.
“Fear Street Part Three: 1666” was supposed to be the big payoff but sadly it wasn’t worth the wait. This is a mess of movie plagued by baffling creative choices, haphazard storytelling, and scattershot pacing. It always felt like “1666” would be the most challenging for the filmmakers to pull off due to the vastly different time period and the need for the movie to wrap everything up in a cohesive and satisfying way. That’s a tall order and they certainly had a lot to tackle. But what’s crazy is that the film covers all this ground yet it feels remarkably lightweight.
Returning director Leigh Janiak, who co-wrote the script with Phil Graziadei and Kate Trefry, set their story (obviously) in 1666. It revolves around a small village called Union which has staked out a patch of land that will one day be known as (you guessed it) Shadyside. Throughout the first two movies we hear a lot about the legend of Sarah Fier, a witch whose curse is believed to be responsible for Shadyside’s long and gruesome history of death. “1666” sets out to finally tell the real story of Sarah Fier, a teenage girl who’s part of the Union settlement.
One of the strangest and most ineffective choices for “1666” was the decision to use the same actors from the previous films to play the “pilgrim ancestors” of their earlier characters. Maybe it was for budget reasons or maybe it just sounded better on paper. But onscreen it comes across as cheap and gimmicky. Outside of a character or two, most of the appearances offer nothing more than familiar faces and play out like needless cameos. For example Sadie Sink pops up for a scene then vanishes. Emily Rudd is only allowed to wear a bonnet and walk around in various states of confusion and distress. Julia Rehwald gets a throwaway line or two while Benjamin Flores Jr. is there and quickly forgotten.
Kiana Madeira, who plays the lead character Deena in the first film, plays Sarah Fier here. Although in keeping with the weird decision-making, she’s not the REAL Sarah Fier according to the credits. Elizabeth Scopel plays the REAL Sarah Fier but we only see her in these arbitrary flashes of her face that pop up from time to time. Anyway, Madeira’s Sarah has a thing for the local pastor’s daughter Hannah (Olivia Scott Welch, aka Sam from “1994”). One night the village teens are partying around a campfire and getting high on berries stolen from a creepy widow’s house (you know, as they were prone to do in 1666). Sarah and Hannah sneak off for some ill-advised necking but are spotted by Mad Thomas (McCabe Slye) who promptly spreads their secret throughout the settlement.
The next morning as word of the indiscretion gets around, the laughably puritanical settlers turn on the two girls. In what seems like a manner of minutes, the food begins to rot, animals start flipping out, blight hits the crops, and various other signs of an evil curse hits the village. For no discernible reason whatsoever the village simpletons determine that one or both of the girls must be witches. The girls’ strongest ally is Solomon (Ashley Goode who played the town sheriff in “1994”), but all he does is look disgusted and retreat to his cabin on the outskirts of Union.
I won’t spoil how it plays out, but let’s just say it’s shallow, hurried, and unremarkable. Janiak rushes through the 1666 story, cramming it all into the film’s first half. No real character development. No real drama. No meaningful buildup. Thankfully there are enough weird accents and unintentionally bad dialogue to laugh at (and to make it bearable). Lines like “Who among you has welcomed the devil to Union?” spoken in hysterically stoic period-speak. Or Deena..errr Sarah proclaiming like a poor woman’s Éowyn, “I am no lamb.”
From there the movie shifts from its superficial 1666 backstory to 1994 where the first film’s surviving cast members spend the second half putting together a wacky plan the purge the evil from Shadyside. I’d like to say it’s a noticeable upgrade from the first 45 minutes but it’s not. In fact, aside from the seismic tonal shift, nothing about it grabs your attention. There is one scene and one scene alone, where the summoned killers engage in a blood-slinging, limb-flying battle royale, that’s actually fun and feels like something fresh. Otherwise it’s a pretty corny and forgettable way to wrap up the trilogy.
“Fear Street” had a lot of promise but none of the films manage to live up to it. “1666” is by far the weakest, bringing nothing new to the trilogy and even going away from what made the previous films watchable. The ridiculously gory kills along with the overused yet admittedly entertaining retro kick are what kept “1994” and “1978” above water. Those things vanish in “1666”. There is a smattering of gore but hardly anything that you’ll remember and I don’t recall any nostalgic callbacks. And can I just say this may be the most overscored movie in cinema history. The music never stops and is far too often cranked up to 10. It’s just another place where this disappointing YA horror trilogy wears out its welcome. “Fear Street Part Three: 1666” premieres today (July 16th) on Netflix.