The first two Fear Street films gave writer/direct Leigh Janiak and her team chances to pay tribute to other classic horror films. The third, Fear Street Part Three: 1666, while treading upon familiar ground of stories about witchcraft, branches off on its own to become something wholly different.
When last we left Deena (Kiana Medeira), she had reunited Sarah Fier’s long-lost hand with her body, only to immediately get mind-melded with Sarah in 1666. Now living as Sarah in an early settlement upon which Shadyside and Sunnyvale would grow, Deena encounters many familiar faces from the first two films who are also now inhabiting new people. They include Hannah Miller (Olivia Scott Welch), Henry (Benjamin Flores Jr.), Lizzie (Julia Rehwald), Solomon Goode (Ashley Zukerman), and more.
When strange things, including the premature rotting of food and other unnatural occurrences, start happening, townsfolk are desperate to have something to blame them on. A secret romance between Sarah and Hannah, verboten in the highly religious society, is just the thing on which they can grasp, and soon both are being accused of being witches who are cursing the community.
The film becomes a hybrid, taking traits and storylines from the first two films and imposing them on the new characters. It’s a clever and yet simple technique, giving the filmmakers enough rope to tell the new story while keeping it tethered to the other two. But Janiak and co-writers Phil Graziadei and Kate Trefry stay true to the period, reveling in the language, repressed thinking, and general filth of the time.
Part Three: 1666, like the first two films, is much better made than one might expect, especially for films based on relatively tame R.L. Stine books. There’s no doubt each of the films is a hard R in the ratings, but everything is done with a purpose instead of just carnage for carnage’s sake. The filmmakers are not interested in just titillating the audience with blood and sex; they want to make sure everything about the story they’re telling makes sense and has an emotional connection before they ever get to any killings.
This attention to detail pays off, especially in the final act of the film, which brings elements from each of the films together in a satisfying way. The multiple different killers that the films have introduced could each be at the center of their own movie, but the idea that we only get little tastes of each keeps them from wearing out their welcome or becoming less creepy.
By the end of the third film, Madeira has fully established herself as a star, someone who can be counted on to lead other films with full confidence. Likewise, Janiak has proven herself as an assured filmmaker, someone who knows how to transform a well-known property into something completely different and great.
Now that all three Fear Street films are available on Netflix, the streaming service has its own hit trilogy that should have no trouble attracting viewers in the near term, and for years to come. It’s easy to see them coming back for another round in the near future, and if Janiak is at the helm, they will be in good hands.
Fear Street Part Three: 1666 is now streaming on Netflix.