The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Netflix] - FEAR STREET PART TWO: 1978 | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Netflix] - FEAR STREET PART TWO: 1978

Fear Street Part Two: 1978 review
A summer camp becomes a slaughterhouse.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Leigh Janiak

Starring: Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd, Gillian Jacobs, Olivia Welch, Ryan Simpkins, Kiana Madeira

Fear Street Part Two: 1978 poster

1994, the first instalment of director Leigh Janiak's trilogy of horror movies based on RL Stine's Fear Street books, was a love letter to the slasher movies of the '90s. It was mediocre, but then so were the movies it was evoking. The second instalment is set in 1978, and with its summer camp setting it initially seems we're in for a similar tribute to the golden age of American slashers. Sadly, era specific needle drops, tight t-shirts and short shorts are the extent this middle chapter goes to capturing the tone of late '70s slasher flicks.

The action, what little there is amid all the exposition, takes place at Camp Nightwing, a Crystal Lake-esque summer camp for teens who seem a little too old for this sort of thing, and staffed by teens who seem a little too young to be looking after a horde of kids.

Fear Street Part Two: 1978 review

Our heroines are the Berman sisters – rebellious redhead Ziggy (Sadie Sink) and her uptight camp counsellor big sister Cindy (Emily Rudd). When the camp's nurse - whose daughter committed a massacre before taking her own life – freaks out and attacks Cindy and her boyfriend, Ziggy and Cindy come up with wildly different theories as to her motivation. Cindy blames drugs, while Ziggy believes she's the latest to become possessed by the area's resident witch. When another counsellor becomes similarly psychotic, the blood begins to flow.

Okay, when I put it like that, 1978 sounds like it's a fun riff on Friday the 13th, The Burning and Sleepaway Camp. What could go wrong? How do you make this sort of movie a snoozefest?

Well thanks to Hollywood's current obsession with "world-building", 1978, just like 1994, spends most of its time trying to invent its complex lore on the fly. This means we're forced to listen to various youngsters telling us the plot for a fair chunk of its running time. Listen Plotty McPlotface, we don’t care. We're here for a slasher movie, not a lecture on local legends. Couldn't we at least get this stuff in flashbacks rather than having to listen to exposition heavy speeches? Or was the budget blown on licensing all those '70s tunes?

Fear Street Part Two: 1978 review

When 1978 does remember it's a slasher it admittedly doesn't hold back. There are some seriously vicious kills here, and it's surprising how egalitarian the movie is when it comes to its victims, with young teenagers chopped up alongside their elders. But of its 110 minutes, only about 10 minutes feel like the sort of movies it's homaging.

Stephen King famously outlined the difference between horror and terror. Horror, he argued, was relatively easy to pull off – think jump scares or gory kills. Terror was more difficult and required real talent to execute, as you had to work hard to get under your audience's skin through the creation of suspenseful sequences. 1978 has a few brief moments of horror courtesy of its sub-Jason killer, but terror is notably absent. There's one scene in which a pair of teens find themselves trapped in a confined space with the killer. It's the sort of sequence that should be one for the ages. Think the raptors in the kitchen of Jurassic Park, or that scene in War of the Worlds when Tom Cruise tries to evade the alien probing the basement he's hiding out in. But Janiak is clearly no Spielberg, and completely botches the sequence by failing to convey spatial relations.

Fear Street Part Two: 1978 review

Two chapters in and Fear Street is one of the big disappointments of 2021. You can't piss down horror fans' backs and tell us it's raining. We've seen this sort of thing down before, and done well, and crucially done by filmmakers who seem genuinely interested in the genre rather than just in mining cheap nostalgia.

The upcoming final chapter is set in 1666, which means the needle drops will be absent, so maybe we'll get something of more substance than the first two instalments.

Fear Street Part Two: 1978 is on Netflix from July 9th.

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