The final Fear Street entry is something of a mixed bag, thriving in its eponymous past setting but floundering a bit as the series comes to a conclusion.
Throughout the first two installments of Leigh Janiak’s Fear Street trilogy, the people of Shadyside have been terrorized by the curse of witch Sarah Fier, who was hanged as a young woman in the 17th Century and has sought revenge on the town ever since, turning ordinary people into slasher movie villains. From the jump, the tacit acceptance of Fier’s witchcraft has stood in contrast to the film’s representational progressivism that, at least in the first film, centered a lesbian romance and a protagonist of color. If the final chapter were going to reveal secrets changing how we see Shadyside forever, flipping this narrative on its head would be the logical endpoint. And so, Fear Street Part 3: 1666 makes good and reveals what’s been obvious all along: Sarah Fier innocent.
We know this because Deena, having reunited Fier’s skeleton with her lost hand, has been transported back into Fier’s body days before her death. Whereas the first two films took the form of slightly different sorts of slasher movies, 1666 is more concerned with puritanical hysteria and witchcraft. The shift in genre turns out to be a better platform for the series’ strong character work to shine, as conversations and confrontations are no longer the quiet moments between kills but instead the source of horror themselves. Fier is not a witch, but the accusation of witchcraft stems from her newfound romantic relationship with the pastor’s daughter Hannah Miller (Olivia Scott Welch). Madeira and Welch are even better together than they were in the first film, partially because the roles are meatier this time around and the focus more dialed in on them than in 1994. So much of 1666 is dedicated to recoloring the events of its predecessors, and the casting continuity of these two is particularly tuned in to what is compelling here, elevating Deena and Sam’s relationship in 1994 from young love to destiny.
After the pair are spotted making out in the woods, their settlement is beset upon by a curse, killing the animals, rotting the food, and creating the first of Shadyside’s famous killers. Sarah, accused, makes a break for it, and most of what follows is an angry mob of settlers trying to find her while she uncovers the secrets of what’s actually going on. It’s a little disappointing after the promise of a change in setting to see this too devolve into mere chase sequences, but it’s entertaining enough — never as much fun as 1978, not as scare-deficient as 1994 — and the chase finds several junctures at which to echo the other films.
But this only accounts for about half of Fear Street 1666. Sarah Fier is hanged, and we cut back to 1994 because, after all, this is less a movie than a season finale. Deena has to use knowledge gained from her trip back in time to save Shadyside, putting the curse to rest. Unfortunately, Fear Street’s present is not as engaging as its past, and we’re back to the mediocre slasher we started with, complete with lame 1994 jokes about stuff like the Konami code. Yes, by this point the mythology of Shadyside is fleshed out so that every move made by a character drips with meaning or points to another moment in the series, making for a slightly more engaging experience this time around. But is that the unearthed world-building power of telling a story across three movies released only weeks apart? No. It’s just television.
You can currently stream Leigh Janiak’s Fear Street Part 3: 1666 on Netflix.