Director Leigh Janiak delivers both catharsis and frights in wrapping up the Fear Street saga.
The final installment in the Fear Street trilogy takes things back. Way back. While the first two entries were set in the 1990s and 1970s, Fear Street Part 3: 1666, as the title implies, shifts the backdrop to 1666. Going this far backward allows the audience to discover the true story of Sarah Fier (Elizabeth Scopel), a local woman who was reportedly a witch and still curses the town of Shadyside. However, as you’d expect if you’ve seen anything ranging from ParaNorman to The VVitch, this origin yarn reveals that Fier was a much more complicated figure who was doomed due to society’s innate desire to punish women perceived as “different.”
It’s not all exploits in the age of no indoor plumbing, though, Fear Street Part 3: 1666 also returns to 1994, where we see Deena (Kiana Madeira) trying tirelessly to cure her girlfriend of demonic possession. This pursuit gets complicated by those undead ghouls from the first movie as well as another new adversary who would very much like to kill anyone aware that Feir was not actually a supernatural fiend.
Juggling two disparate time periods can’t help but make Fear Street Part 3: 1666 feel, inevitably, like two different movies. The weaker half of that duo is the 1666 section. For one thing, much of the information here could have been whittled down to a five-to-ten-minute-long prologue rather than a piece of filmmaking that stretches on nearly for an hour. The decision to case the actors from both movies as the various characters in this distant era is an intriguing choice but doesn’t end up paying off in a significant way.
Also, horror movies set in this time period aren’t as numerous or as immediately ready for parody as scary films from the 1980s and 90s. Without any pastiches to lean on, these earlier scenes of Fear Street Part 3: 1666 are mostly just hollow and remind one of better recent features set in this era, like The VVitch. On the flip side, the costumes and sets in these sequences are nicely realized, and remind one of the welcome visual variety that’s been apparent across this entire trilogy.
Fear Street Part 3: 1666 goes from being rudimentary to genuinely entertaining once the action shifts back to 1994. With a predictable origin story out of the way, the feature can return to focusing on characters the audience is actually invested in. It also helps that writer/director Leigh Janiak leans into the fact that this is the finale of a long-from story by offering plenty of fun moments of catharsis. Fleeting supporting characters get to come back to have their moment in the sun while even the Konami code reference from Fear Street: 1994 gets brought back effectively.
Most interestingly, Fear Street Part 3: 1666 reveals that this whole series has a pretty solid heart. Despite starting with so much edgy and raunchy humor, the Fear Street trilogy conclusion cements these films as focusing on underdogs, who have every reason to hate the world, never giving up. Placing such outcasts against a privileged villain with a warped martyr complex makes 1666 feel akin to Anna and the Apocalypse and especially its big ditty “Give Them a Show,” which is never a bad pop culture property to channel.
Underneath all the snarky jokes and vintage pop culture references, Fear Street Part 3: 1666 does have some genuine hope to offer. This gets contrasted with brutal depictions in the 1666 sequences of how humans can be more terrifying monsters than anything R.L. Stine could come up with. These vintage portrayals of bigotry are nothing revelatory and it’s admittedly questionable why the rare mainstream queer horror protagonist had to be depicted enduring such brutal hardship. But at least these instances of turmoil help to create thematic consistency across the entire movie.
These themes lend a compelling undercurrent to the extended climax against good and evil. It also gets a boost from being simply a lot of fun to watch. Set inside an abandoned mall, the script finds several fun ways to utilize specific elements of this location as ordinary people tackle supernatural horror forces. Plus, Janiak wrings nifty visuals out of clashing bright neon colors against darkened backdrops. While some horror films drench the frame with incoherent darkness to suggest an ominous mood, Janiak understands that you can have both frights and visual brightness.
With a predictable origin story out of the way, the feature can return to focusing on characters the audience is actually invested in.
Given how tightly interconnected all three of these movies were, reviewing Fear Street Part 3: 1666 means also dropping a verdict on the Fear Street trilogy as a whole. This unique attempt at delivering a horror film series was erratic in quality and too often got stuck in delivering cheap nostalgia pops (so many needle drops!) instead of creating original scares. In the case of 1666, going back in time to centuries before the main story didn’t result in much beyond delivering further aspects of the lore this series was always too in love with.
On the other hand, the visual variety across these features, especially in terms of cinematography and costume design, indicates a much more imaginative way these films employed their period-era backdrops. Plus, the surprisingly satisfying character-based thrills of this final installment can’t help but inspire retroactive appreciation for the finer details of the first two movies. Oh, and each movie got at least one memorably gnarly death scene, which is more than most horror films can account for.
Though certainly not one of the all-time great trilogies, even just in the world of horror cinema, Fear Street Part 3: 1666 caps off a unique experiment on a high note. Hopefully, these film’s obvious homage inspires younger audiences to experience classic horror. Even more so, hopefully, Fear Street’s willingness to redefine who gets to headline major horror films inspires aspiring filmmakers to further bend the mold of this genre. Goodness knows how many lackluster horror movies over the years would have been saved by having a queer relationship like the one at the center here!
Fear Street Part 3: 1666 is now available on Netflix.