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Non-Review Review: Fear Street Part Three – 1666

If Fear Street Part One – 1994 and Fear Street Part Two – 1978 didn’t make it clear enough, Fear Street Part Three – 1666 confirms that the trilogy is more of a miniseries than a set of films.

To be fair, this was quite clear from the outset. The films feature a large branching cast, with many actors carrying over from one installment to another. The continuity between the individual films is so tight that the two later installments each open with an extended “previously on…” segment. Fear Street Part Three – 1666 carries this idea to its logical conclusion, effectively functioning as a two-part season finale. It opens with an hour set in the past and then jumps forward for a forty-minute coda designed to close the book (if not literally) on the events from Fear Street Part One – 1994.

A sight for sore (or missing) eyes…

There’s not necessarily anything wrong with this. After all, there’s arguably not a huge difference between the structure of these three films and something like the Red Riding trilogy. More to the point, it demonstrates how porous the gap between various media has become. Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, the highest grossing movie of 2020, is really just a six-episode bridging arc between two seasons of the manga. Hamilton is both one of the best movies of all-time according to the Internet Movie Database and an Emmy nominee. Even the Marvel Cinematic Universe is arguably as much television as cinema.

As such, it’s hard to judge Fear Street Part Three – 1666 entirely on its own merits.

Tying it all up.

To a certain extent, it feels like Fear Street Part Three – 1666 doesn’t necessarily know what it is doing beyond serving as an explanation for and wrap-up of Fear Street Part One – 1994 and Fear Street Part Two – 1978. After all, both Fear Street Part One – 1994 and Fear Street Part Two – 1978 had clear nostalgic functions. They were intended to serve as nostalgic throwbacks to the eras in which they were set, a trip through slasher movie history that began with movies like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer before regressing back through Halloween and Friday the 13th.

Fear Street Part Three – 1666 has a much weaker sense of purpose. There is less obvious nostalgia on which the film can coast. After all, slasher movies weren’t a huge deal in the seventeenth century. It might be a cheap shot to point out that the film’s historical setting provides fewer opportunities for catchy needle-drops, but it’s also not unfair. Of course, it’s possible to contextualise the historical setting of Fear Street Part Three – 1666 as a nod to more modern prestige horrors like The VVitch or even The Lighthouse or A Field in England, that feels almost incidental.

The historical setting of Fear Street Part Three – 1666 feels more like an obligation than a celebration, a narrative necessity given the back story that was established in both Fear Street Part One – 1994 and Fear Street Part Two – 1978. The two previous films have spent so long tracing the outline of the story of Sarah Fier and the split that led to the separation of Sunnyvale and Shadyside that this story is thematically and narrative necessary. However, the film doesn’t take anywhere near as much joy in its period trappings as the previous two entries in the series.

This might explain why Fear Street Part Three – 1666 spends surprisingly little time in the eponymous year before jumping back to the present to resolve the framing story that was set up in Fear Street Part One – 1994 and continued through Fear Street Part Two – 1978. In fact, Fear Street Part Three – 1666 spends almost as much time back in the mid-nineties as it does in the extended origin story sequence. Director Leigh Janiak seems energised by the return to the temporal setting of the original film, and the opportunities that it presents.

Ancient history.

There are some interesting elements in Fear Street Part Three – 1666. In particular, it does a good job developing and deepening the themes of division that ran through both Fear Street Part One – 1994 and Fear Street Part Two – 1978. Various cast members from the previous two films appear in the flashback stretch of Fear Street Part Three – 1666, playing into the idea that this is a horror movie franchise about literal unity. In hindsight, it seems like the souls that inhabited the original settlement have been divided across time and space, scattered across two divided stories instead of allowed to share the same narrative.

It’s a clever idea, and it ties into the way that Fear Street Part Three – 1666 ties the evil in Sunnyvale and Shadyside back to the foundation of the community and even the pre-history of the modern United States. As with both Fear Street Part One – 1994 and Fear Street Part Two – 1978, Fear Street Part Three – 1666 is a story about power. In particular, it is a story about how power is often tied to exploitation and how the innocent often suffer so that the villainous might prosper. It’s a nice metaphor, albeit just a reiteration of themes suggested in Fear Street Part One – 1994 and developed in Fear Street Part Two – 1978.

There are times when Fear Street Part Three – 1666 feels a little bit too abstract in its themes, in tying that fundamental rot down to its root causes. Fear Street Part Three – 1666 is candid that such systems of violence are often rooted in misogyny and fear of the unknown. In keeping with the themes of the trilogy, it is revealed that Sarah Fier was targeted by the local community because she did not conform to the standards expected of a woman at that time. However, Fear Street Part Three – 1666 is conspicuously blind to other forms of exploitation and oppression that might have shaped American society in the era.

Similarly, there’s a clever idea in the mid-nineties climax of Fear Street Part Three – 1666, which sees the primary characters cannily weaponising the rules of horror movies – and, perhaps more pointedly, the blood of the intended female victim – by turning it back on the monster. Demonstrating the sort of self-awareness associated with the mid-nineties, Fear Street Part Three – 1666 upends some of the core tropes of the slasher genre, rejecting the idea of the “final girl” in favour of the “final guy.”

Mark it well.

Admittedly, this shift of genre conventions is not as fresh as it might have been a few years ago. In the wake of Laurie Strode turning the tables on Michael Myers at the climax of Halloween, it doesn’t feel as radical to watch the would-be victims of a slasher villain turn the horror back on their tormentor. Still, it’s fun and playful. There’s an energy and excitement to the second half of Fear Street Part Three – 1666 that is sorely lacking from the film’s opening hour.

Of course, there’s some small irony in the fact that Fear Street Part Three – 1666 is a game of two halves. Fear Street Part Three – 1666 is nominally about portraying a unified vision of this fractured and shattered community, but ultimately ends up divided against itself.

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