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Movie Review – Fear Street Part Three: 1666 (2021)

Fear Street Part Three: 1666, 2021.

Directed by Leigh Janiak.
Starring Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Ashley Zukerman, Fred Hechinger, Julia Rehwald, Jeremy Ford, Gillian Jacobs, Emily Rudd, McCabe Slye, Sadie Sink, Ted Sutherland, Ryan Simpkins, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Mark Ashworth, Randy Havens, Jordyn DiNatale, Jordana Spiro, Elizabeth Scopel, Matthew Zuk, Lacy Camp, Charlene Amoia, Todd Allen Durkin, and Michael Chandler.

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SYNOPSIS:

The origins of Sarah Fier’s curse are finally revealed as history comes full circle on a night that changes the lives of Shadysiders forever.

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The Fear Street trilogy capper takes viewers back to 1666, the year Sarah Fier was accused of and hanged for being a witch, but at the breakneck pace returning co-writer and director Leigh Janiak (alongside Kate Trefry and Phil Graziadei this time) re-contextualizes those events, it’s clear the story won’t be in that era for long. Taking inspiration from The Crucible (or if you want a modern example, The Witch if Robert Eggers was more conventional), Fear Street Part Three: 1666 takes the cast spanning the first two films placing them in roles of the area’s dark history similar to characters they portray in present-day 1994.

Kiana Madeira and Olivia Scott Welch now play Sarah Fier and Hannah (not the actual characters, just versions of them through a flashback vision), pursuing a forbidden love much like the more accepted but still judged relationship Deena and Sam have in 1994. One night during a full moon, they sneak off from friends (Fred Hechinger and Julia Rehwald return as Pilgrim era drug users spicing up the night) to express their love physically for the first time. Unfortunately, they are spotted from afar by town drunk and madman Thomas (McCabe Slye, who played the ax-wielding serial killer in Fear Street Part Two: 1978). Rumors are spread, ignorant men believe the rumors (partly because of their shattered egos from facing romantic rejection at the hands of these women), and the town pastor is the first one to have his name written on the sacred wall, prompting him to go insane and on a murderous rampage. Down-on-his-luck farmer Solomon Goode (Ashley Zukerman) seems to be the only one they can trust.

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The more things change, the more they stay the same. That’s all Fear Street Part Three: 1666 seems to be saying. Even though it’s being executed with most of the same characters, they technically are different people meaning that’s what here feels entirely rushed and devoid of any stakes. Replacing the nonstop barrage of licensed music in the first two installments is a more prominent and high tempo score from Marco Beltrami (it’s some intense folk music), doing the best he can to elevate that drama. That’s the only real high spot; the accents are all spotty, in turn making for some overacting, the budget doesn’t necessarily create striking period piece material, and due to the clear message, most of what’s going to happen is pretty obvious. Therefore, it’s also not that scary. It’s a game of picking out which actor from the series so far is playing who is they are all crammed into bullet points exposition.

Once the narrative drops all the supporting nonsense to start focusing on Sarah Fier and the events surrounding a mysterious widow (presumed to have made a deal with the devil) and how Solomon fits into that equation (while also tying that back to the overarching plot of the series), the suspense starts to escalate. This portion does also end on a solid note, generating anticipation for the actual finale.

MINOR SECOND HALF SPOILERS FOLLOW 

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Now with new knowledge that won’t be disclosed here, the story exits Deena’s vision of the past, returning to 1994, where our heroes gear up for one last stand to end the Shadyside curse once and for all, hopefully. This is also where everything from the first two movies clicks together in a satisfactory way that makes one hell of a final battle where, because of the boldness in Part One to kill off characters that would be considered safe in any other horror movie, it’s a coin flip who will live and survive. Just about every meaningful dynamic from the first two films comes to a head (even with some small characters receiving more significant roles this time around, such as Darrell Britt-Gibson’s wrongfully imprisoned Martin). By this point, there is also a greater understanding of several of the relentless killers allowing for more of an investment on both sides.

The one major downside is that because so many questions have clear definitive answers, some of the sociopolitical statements being made are slightly undercut. With that said, there’s still enough to engage in a dialogue about the prosperous holding down the poor, especially when it comes to systemically broken systems. This is much more about these characters having all the answers and dealing with over three centuries of torment and pain, which is still fun to watch considering they are evolving. Benjamin Flores Jr. is still as nerdy as ever as Josh (now reciting the Konami Code, because musical nostalgia wasn’t enough, although in this case, I will take it) but now with more bravery and instincts for survival and taking action. Factoring in the ending of Part Two, Ziggy’s (Gillian Jacobs) confrontation with Nick Goode is the most enticing of the subplots, with the resolution of the romantic arc between Deena and her possessed lover Sam servicing as emotional.

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Fear Street Part Three: 1666 isn’t necessarily the explosive conclusion it was primed to be. If anything, the 1666 part is what’s holding it back from greatness, and I couldn’t help but wish that section was just released as a TV episode or uploaded online elsewhere so that the characters of 1994 could once again have all the focus. And barring a really odd way of temporarily dealing with the killers (there’s a gap in logic here my brain is having trouble overlooking), there’s enough neon-lit mayhem and stabbings and delicious gore to revel in. At one point, the killers themselves take center stage in an unexpected way for the violence, but it’s best left discovered and not spoiled. Still, although everything is neatly tied up (aside from a pointless ending credits stinger, nothing should be done with), and the second hour is one bloody and exciting showdown, Fear Street Part Three: 1666 is primarily the weakest of the bunch because it’s trying to be two installments in one. The extended climax sure is thrilling, though, complete with a gnarly montage of death.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★

Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]

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