You knew I was going to have to talk about this one. A gambit that the horror genre hasn’t seen since the glory days of the Fridays the 13th or the slightly less glorious heyday of the first run of the Saw films, Fear Street has done something unthinkable. By embracing the bifurcate nature of its own existence as a trilogy of theatrical films that became a streaming event, in a two-week span it has delved deep into the hearts of the horror community. Director Leigh Janiak and her co-writers have laid the groundwork for a franchise that — in addition to the enduring goodwill extended to creator R.L. Stine’s book series (in its several incarnations) — can build a path into the future in all sorts of ways.
Opening with a temporal gambit that fills in the story of Sarah Fier through the eyes of the perennially suffering Deena (Kiana Madeira), Fear Street Part Three: 1666 is initially such a different beast than its predecessors that it can be challenging to engage with. Part One: 1994 and Part Two: 1978 were very deliberate in leaning in hard to the visual and auditory signifiers of their timespace, making it nearly impossible to misplace oneself in time. So when we find ourselves in 1666, we’re as adrift as Deena. Thankfully, furtive queer desire and getting fucked-up in the woods are timeless pursuits for humanity, so there’s that. But we know how the story of Sarah Fier ends, and it is as sad and upsetting as you can imagine.
There’s an early moment in 1666 that lets us know what’s going on in Union (later known as Shadyside), and we don’t even see it because we just assume that animal husbandry and filial cannibalism are part of the day-to-day business of 17th-century life. It’s not in any way an exaggeration to say that the way Fear Street resolves its central supernatural situation is incredibly satisfying; they hit the landing so hard that it retroactively makes the sweatier aspects of the films much less troublesome. It’s also a profound relief that this series has given actor Gillian Jacobs something to do — last year’s Come Play showed that she’s down to put her heart and soul into something scary, and this one lets her and Madeira work as central points of the story throughout time. That said, I can’t help but be intrigued by what would have happened if, as originally intended, Alex Ross Perry had directed 1978. But that’s being picky on my part, because this is quite the shot in the arm for contemporary mass-audience horror.