Allow me to commend Netflix, Leigh Janiak, and Fear Street Part 3: 1666. In three consecutive weeks, Netflix and Janiak released just as many horror features that otherwise would have taken consecutive years—at least—for theatrical studio distributors to unleash. It’s been a whirlwind, but 1666 sumptuously concludes the present Shadyside saga still fresh in audiences’ minds without profitable spacing between premieres. Better yet, Janiak—alongside co-writers Phil Graziadei and Kate Trefry—fasten all their throughlines while adapting R.L. Stine’s mature literary adventures with a common unifying bond. The ’90s were a scream, the ’70s took us back to camp, and ’66 is the puritanical witchcraft bend that feels most separated from nostalgia—in a good way, indebted to Sarah Fier’s mythology.
Fear Street Part 2: 1978 concludes with Deena (Kiana Madeira) locating Sarah’s boney, severed hand and, upon flesh-to-skeleton touch, is transported into Sarah’s body. There’s no Shadyside or Sunnyvale. Deena experiences Sarah’s punishment, witnesses the community’s angelic prejudice, and beholds the actions that spurred Shadyside’s inescapable curse. We meet Solomon Goode (Ashley Zukerman) and other ancestors of existing characters because the historical tragedies Deena endures as “Sarah” unlock crucial answers needed to vanquish Sarah Fier’s slasher minions.
I’m going to say SPOILER WARNING for my forthcoming critique because while I don’t think it’s applicable, I know many of you like going into films without any details. Should you be one of those who don’t want to know if there’s even a single fly buzzing around a lamplight? You’ve been warned.
Last chance, turn back ye who don’t want to be the slightest bit spoiled.
As someone who enjoys The Witch but doesn’t fervently crave 1600s satanic cinema as much as others, I was worried 1666 would fall victim to the boggier notes of barbaric blasphemy and subdued “action” that define time capsule horror tales. Janiak does spend an extended period shuffling about an era where Satan’s grasp is scapegoat blame for any paranoia, but shifts back into 1994 mode for the film’s final act. It’s essential to understand the birth of Shadyside, why Sunnyvale’s perfection is so pleasantly unsettling, and the wolves that lurk in sheep’s clothing as “nice guys” sustaining patriarchal oppression—but it’s such a relief when The Milkman, Skull Mask, and Ruby reappear. Fear Street looks best doused in its ’90s splatter of guts, blacklight paint, and searing pastel neons, which smartly is the note we leave this trilogy on, basking in its afterglow.
While in the ’60s—the 1660s—Deena experiences the beginnings of a male-dominated hierarchy that prevails under the guise of systemic unions, aka governmental bodies. Kiana Madeira delivers bold lines with a tremendous punch as “Sarah,” since Olivia Scott Welch doubles as Sarah Fier’s same-sex lover Hannah Miller in the flashback reality. Centuries-long unrest can be traced back to a single boy embarrassed for his misogynistic abuse, as he uses his congregation’s fear of lesbianism against Sarah and Hannah after one denies his sexual advances and the other socks him in the mouth. “I don’t fear the Devil; I fear the neighbor who would accuse me.” Madeira’s conviction and frustration in this defiance is the wallop bringing the entire Fear Street narrative home like a lightning bolt to antenna steel. “I am no lamb.”
Everything clicks at this moment. The gears turn as “Sarah” and Hannah flee from mobs who’d hang their relatives and friends just because their lifestyles don’t match the good Christian book. It gets rather gruesome as eyes are scooped from skulls, and we witness “Sarah” losing her hand—foggy clouds roll past trees while torches light winding paths that always lead back to a man, his volatile ego, and the vengeance he’d enact to gain power. It all weaves into the stained pattern that creates psychopath murderers in Shadyside and jumps forward to 1994 for a royal rumble against dead Sarah’s massacring horde. The trilogy snaps into place with modern relevance stitched throughout generations of unchecked societal horrors.
Enter a finale in the Shadyside Mall where Deena—now back in her authentic self—joins forces with Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.), C. Berman (Gillian Jacobs), and janitorial professional Martin (Darrell Britt-Gibson) for one last defense. The addition of Gillian Jacobs and Darrell Britt-Gibson keeps the ensemble fresh, especially Britt-Gibson, in terms of comedic conjecture and further commentary against a corrupt lawmaker system. Once the paranormal entities arrive, chaos erupts thanks to water guns filled with Deena’s secret blood concoction (what the killers chase like dogs) or inevitable combat with axes, gunfire, and other retail weapons. Cinematography remains intensely tight, and production design amplifies the whole Spencer’s Gifts vibe because why not drench a ’90s retro shopping mall in a raver’s fantasy aesthetic?
It’s difficult to rate Fear Street Part 3: 1666 as a standalone, but as a bookend chapter? Leigh Janiak symbolizes the horrors of the underprivileged as a protest against those who strive to uphold inequality. Sarah Fier is introduced as a ghost and used as a voice to the voiceless, which drives home a rather rough hanging sequence—however happy we are to see actors like Fred Hechinger and Julia Rehwald return. Then it’s back to 1994, and Fear Street culminates precisely where the trilogy—and probably franchise—earns most of its accolades. Through three films in such a short window, I’ve come to adore what Shadyside stands for and find myself enveloped in the mania of summoned slasher icons facing off against teenagers who are finished accepting their forced fates. Fear Street is a sturdy, excitable collection of timeless horror representations that gears toward blossoming genrephiles, no doubt leaving an impact on horror cinema as a whole with this appropriately heartfelt and viciously entertaining conclusion.
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