For the past few weeks Netflix has captured the attention of countless viewers with its epic horror trilogy “Fear Street”. Originally expected to be released a month apart from each other, the three-part series inspired by R. L. Stine’s novels finally comes to a close with “Fear Street Part Three: 1666” taking us back to the origins of Sarah Fier and the curse laid upon the town of Shadyside. After two films of buildup set in the 90s and late 70s respectively revealing different elements of the curse, exploring character arcs and different Shadyside killers, emulating different eras of horror and leaving us in suspense of what is actually going on behind the scenes, “1666” provides plenty of answers as it approaches the finish line with half the film set in the titular year and the other half wrapping up the overarching narrative set in 1994. It has all come down to this. So, after two terrific if mildly flawed homages to horrors of the past does this third film exploring supernatural and period piece horror stick the landing? In a word, yes. In more than one word it serves as the most nuanced entry in what truly is an excellent genre series.
As previously stated, “1666” takes place in two halves, one exploring the origin of Sarah Fier with franchise leader Kiana Madeira returning as Deena who experiences the story from Fier’s perspective. To us she is shown as Deena, but to the world around her she is the real Sarah Fier played by Elizabeth Scopel and we are shown how she became such a legend and the part she played in establishing the disparity between Shadyside and Sunnyvale. Once we see this story, which can’t be changed by Deena as it is merely her experiencing the tale, we return to 1994 for the second half where Deena, Ziggy Berman (Gillian Jacobs), Deena’s brother Josh (Benjamin Flores, Jr.) and others work to stop the curse once and for all. There’s a lot this film was tasked to cover, and it does that really well providing two succinct but complete narratives that bring us answers, a few more questions and a pulse pounding finale that might not be as bloody as past entries but still provides the same suspense and drama we’ve come to expect. Sadly, if you enjoyed all the bloodshed of the first two there’s not as much of it here, but the series is still willing to kill off kids, explore some gruesome violence and try to inspire fear in its own special way, sometimes with mainstream charm and other times with an aura of arthouse mixed in.
Like the previous movies, “1666” is a tribute to horror as a genre focusing first on period pieces like “The Witch” and “Sleepy Hollow” as well as invoking the satanic panic of the Salem Witch Trials. Sarah Fier’s story also reveals numerous interesting connections Fier has to the characters we’ve already met whether it’s through more personal elements of her life or through the reveal of presumed ancestors of characters previously featured. As such performers from the first two films do get a chance to return playing versions of their ancestors in the town of Union and while it’s never made clear if these characters are truly connected to the future citizens of Shadyside and Sunnyvale or if we’re just shown them to see things from Deena’s perspective and Fier decided to show her these people in forms she might recognize, it’s still a nice touch. Overall while the first half of the film isn’t as risky or dark as the subgenre that inspired it, we still get fun examinations of the same elements of human flaws that make such films so intriguing. Exploring the past is an important tool for understanding how to improve in the present and horror as a genre is littered with this mentality considering that supernatural horror is usually based around ghosts, specters, or curses from sins of the past. Once we return to 1994 it feels much more mainstream and blends the personalities of all three films into one 54-plus minute finale where we finally get to see all of the Shadyside killers in one place with one goal in mind, blood! It’s delightful that despite being two halves of a whole the different parts of this movie never outshine each other or create anywhere close to a jarring shift in tone or style. They’re clearly different, but they blend together nicely.
This alone is satisfying, but I think what makes “1666” so much fun and for me and the best film in the trilogy is that it’s the most nuanced movie in the trio by far. Even its obvious-in-hindsight twist didn’t play out the way I had originally expected it would which was a fun touch. It made me feel smart for at least getting some things right but added curveballs that helped preserve some of the surprise of the reveal. Thematically the first two movies did touch on some interesting personal struggles for the characters but if you recall from my “1994” review I felt that movie could have a should have leaned a bit more into its subtext when exploring a young lesbian couple in the 90s. “1666” finally leans into that idea the way I hoped while also touching on numerous other concepts ranging from sexism to racism in ways I can’t fully explain to avoid spoilers but do tie in to the big twist reveal. What I’m trying to say though is “1666” isn’t afraid to go places thematically that the other two movies seemed reluctant to explore in full. This film finally pays off the deeper concepts that the trilogy as a whole teased but always seemed to use to drive the story rather than using the story driving these ideas. This time around they feel perfectly matched and you could easily enjoy this film for what it is on the surface as well as what it represents underneath it all. Once again compliments go to director and co-writer Leigh Janiak who had a vision and saw it through demanding patience from her viewers while never making us feel unsatisfied with any part of this trilogy. The final film though I think is its best part sticking the landing, providing fun mainstream essentials and finally exploring the social subtext beneath it all that gives this trilogy its core purpose beyond being a terrific love letter to one of, if not the most popular genre in film history.
“Fear Street Part Three: 1666” is a great conclusion to an addictive trilogy and one of the best in horror in recent memory. Hell, it’s one of the best in any genre in terms of its follow through, forethought and commitment to the core overarching narrative that ties it all together. This is a series built to be shown as one full experience made up of three parts that hold their own as individual experiences. On its own “1666” is my favorite of the three films for many reasons. Sure, it’s not as bloody or truly scary as the other two, but it doesn’t have to be, at least not the way the first two movies were. Part of horror, especially supernatural and period piece horror, is its willingness to dive into humanity and the way we act and treat each other and the hidden horrors of both the knowns and unknown that drive who we are and how we act. That has always been where horror is most satisfying for me, when it holds a mirror up to us and says, “you (either the person or people as a society) are the most terrifying thing of all”. This movie accomplishes that without feeling too pretentious or preachy which is difficult especially for this genre. I walked away satisfied by the frustration evoked through its exploration of our very real flaws as a species while also feeling satisfied with how the larger story ended on screen. It provides the promise its mainstream personality required while also paying homage to one of the best things about horror, its ability to make us think about the horrors we create ourselves. For that I consider this film the true must-see of the bunch and a genuinely great finale to a trilogy I won’t soon forget.
Stay tuned for my full examination and review of the “Fear Street” trilogy as a whole coming soon.