Fear Street Part Three: 1666 Review

Fear Street Part Three: 1666
Deena (Kiana Madeira) is thrust back to 1666 and starts to discover the truth about the witch Sarah Fier (Elizabeth Scopel/Madeira) and what it means for the fate of her hometown Shadyside.

by Ian Freer |
Updated on
Release Date:

16 Jul 2021

Original Title:

Fear Street Part Three: 1666

“Previously on Fear Street…”

There’s something strange about watching a movie that starts with the most tired device from episodic television, a reminder of every hackneyed American show (and The Apprentice) you’ve ever watched. But, inspired by R.L. Stine’s more grown-up scary output, Leigh Janiak’s melding of feature-length episodes released with a weekly frequency are different enough not to feel repetitive and boast enough hooks to keep you binging, all in the knowledge there will be a definitive conclusion to the story arc.

Fear Street Part Three: 1666

Fear Street’s pleasures are mostly down to co-writer-director Janiak, previously known for 2014’s newlyweds-in-peril flick Honeymoon, who has brought storytelling audacity, vibrant filmmaking and skill with young actors to elevate what could easily have been tired genre fare. It’s had some lulls and bumps along the way, but the Fear Street trilogy has been an enjoyable experiment, a Halloween treat delivered as a welcome summer surprise.

In Part Three, Janiak changes it up from the get-go. As teased at the end of Part Two, Deena (Kiana Madeira) is sucked into the colony that would become Shadyside in 1666 (first shots: black pig birthing piglets). Initially, it has a bit of a Back To The Future Part III nascent Hill Valley vibe, as all the actors from 1994 and 1978 play riffs on their established characters but three centuries earlier. Deena is witch-in-waiting Sarah Fier, Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr) is still her brother but named Henry and with an Oirish-sounding accent, and Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) is Sarah’s pal Hannah, still with repressive parents.

A satisfying end to a series that has pulled off the tricky feat of keeping one foot in the past while keeping things fresh and alive.

Early doors, Janiak and co-writers Phil Graziadei and Kate Trefry have fun playing with the story’s mythos — a hunt for mind-expanding berries is led by Lizzie, the equivalent of 1994’s drug dealer Kate (Julia Rehwald) — but, after a party by firelight, the mood darkens. 1666 becomes a witch-hunt movie as evil enters the colony and the townsfolk have to figure out who invited it in — you know things are getting more intense as the camera starts going handheld.

So, we get a possessed pastor, tensions around a well, searches for marks of the Devil and montages decrying characters guilty of the dark arts. Like all witch-hunt movies these days, it’s hard not to see modern-day resonances in the fake news of baseless speculation and imagined curses, but 1666 takes it even further. To reveal more would blow one of its boldest gambits, but, safe to say, without retro needle-drops to lighten the load, 1666 is a much more gruelling entry.

Of course, the big question is, what does this all mean for the gang back in 1994, and Janiak, Graziadei and Trefry tie up all the knots, looping in a minor character, upping the mayhem ante for a big finale and delivering the unlikely zinger, “You smell like an androgynous baby!” It’s a satisfying end to a series that has pulled off the tricky feat of keeping one foot in the past while keeping things fresh and alive. So much so you’d even welcome ‘Fear Street Part Four: 2022’.

1666 mostly operates in a different register than 1994 and 1978, but is no less entertaining. It rounds off an ambitious triptych chock-full of horror-history allusions, strong world-building, sharp scares, palatable gore, lively filmmaking and a likeable set of characters. Other scary-movie franchises take note.
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