FEAR STREET PART TWO: 1978 picks up right where we left off in the first film, with Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) all tied up, and Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) and Deena (Kiana Madeira) rushing off to find a way to save her. They’re headed to see C. Berman (Gillian Jacobs), who was the inspiration for Sam’s death-defying stunt in Part 1: 1994.
C. Berman has a pretty depressing life. It’s just her and her dog, Major Tom, and a LOT of alarm clocks, and a LOT of locks on her door. We see on her calendar that she’s been counting down the days to or from something, likely the Camp Nightwing Massacre. Then things get very The Haunting of Bly Manor, as we jump to story time with C. Berman, who tells us all about what happened at Camp Nightwing in 1978.
This is where Stranger Things fans will get excited, because we meet Ziggy Berman (Sadie Sink), who is a ne’er-do-well from Shadyside. You may notice Chiara Aurelia (of Cruel Summer, Tell Me Your Secrets, etc.), who appears playing, I’m sorry to say, yet another angry, teen bully, this time named Sheila. It feels like a Stephen King novel all of a sudden, because even though I was bullied in elementary school, I never had bullies quite like these. I certainly never had anybody string me up and threaten to burn me like a witch. But then again, I wasn’t alive during the 70s.
Young Sheriff Nick Goode (Ted Sutherland) saves the day, no thanks to his brother, future Sunnyvale Mayor Will Goode (Brandon Spink), who was fine just watching Sheila attack another camper. Fellow camp counselor (and future serial killer?) Kurt (Michael Provost), wants to kick Ziggy out of camp, but again, Nick intervenes and talks him down - to his chagrin.
Ziggy’s sister Cindy (Emily Rudd), however, is busy cleaning the bathrooms like a good camp counselor. She’s a high-strung perfectionist who hates that her sister’s unruliness dirties her good name. She also has a dumb, but sweet jock boyfriend, Tommy (McCabe Slye), as characters like her often do.
This chapter ups the ante with the sexual situations, as we’re introduced to Alice (Ryan Simpkins) and Arnie (Sam Brooks) in the middle of an escapade. Alice is a punk rock babe, a point that is driven home by the blasting of “Cherry Bomb” during her first scene. She clearly has a history with the perfect Ms. Berman, and it definitely went sour, judging by the way they speak to each other now.
Director Leigh Janiak masterfully pivots from covering the optimist-that-couldn’t-quit, Cindy, and her already-too-jaded-for-this-world younger sister, Ziggy. We see the different ways Shadyside residents deal with growing up in the “cursed” town. This theme carries on throughout the film, whether it be between the very aggro “win or die” Kurt, a counselor for Sunnyvale and Shadyside’s “drugs are non-violent” cute stoner counselor Joan (Jacqui Vene), or the fact that another character later reveals the tragic way she carries the burdens of the curse. (Note: This may be triggering, as there are scenes discussing and depicting the scars of self-harm.)
Despite being the golden boy and future sheriff, Nick, too, seems to be battling another curse - the expectations of upholding the family legacy and becoming a sheriff. He just wants to be the kid who likes Stephen King and spiders and the weird girl from Shadyside, but not everyone gets what they want.
Moving forward, Ziggy goes to Nurse Mary Lane (Jordan Spiro) for help with her burned arm, and we learn that her daughter was the ill-fated Ruby Lane (Jordyn DiNatale) from the first film. Something is definitely not right with her, but no one listens to Ziggy when she tries to tell them. No one ever listens to the “troubled kid.”
Surprising many - but not the audience, or Ziggy - Nurse Lane goes on to vaguely threaten Cindy, before overtly threatening Tommy. It should be a jarring moment for the campers and counselors, but everyone just assumes she went crazy like her daughter, and camp activities proceed as normal.
Cindy thinks there must be a logical reason for everything, and, when she spots Joan rolling a joint, decides Mary must have been on drugs. She sets off like a little Nancy Drew to try to investigate the drugs that were on hand at camp. Here Cindy once again bumps into her ex-best friend Alice, and Arnie.
They don’t care about camp. But they are incredibly interested in finding “the witch’s house,” after they discover Mary’s diary, which happens to have a lot of information on Sarah Fier, as well as a map, revealing the location of Fier’s house. It seems like Nurse Lane may have been digging all over camp, looking for the missing hand of Sarah Fier to end the curse that killed her daughter.
The teens decide to explore a dark cave in the middle of the night, despite that obviously not being a safe activity. Cindy knows it’s not a bright idea, but also seems desperate to find some kind of logical explanation for everything that has been happening. It’s likely too bleak for her to just admit the curse is real and everything she does is meaningless. Can’t say I blame her. What I can say is when even well-mannered Cindy Berman is cursing, you KNOW things are bad.
In a move reminiscent of The Parent Trap, future Sheriff Goode bonds with crush Ziggy while playing pranks on another camper. This is after we see that those girls who bullied Ziggy somehow felt almost burning her like it was 1666 wasn’t enough of a punishment, so they’ve gone back and defaced her bunk with vulgar insults. Cue the sweet, sweet cinematic delight that is two absolute opposites falling for each other. Too bad this is Fear Street, we’re talking about, and not When Harry Met Sally, so things are doomed from the start.
Speaking of doomed, Alice finds Tommy’s name carved into the rock in the cave, alongside other famous Shadysiders, such as Ruby Lane, Harry Rooker, and Billy Barker. That doesn’t bode well for Tommy, or any of the campers at Nightwing. As the killings begin, and death seems imminent, Alice and Cindy come clean on the traumas that have made them who they are, and share a sweet moment, as well as a hearty dose of reality. Cindy wishes she would have just accepted the curse earlier, so she could have spent her formative years partying, getting laid, and having fun. Simpkins is beautiful here as Alice, raw and honest, as she tells Cindy, “I hate to break it to you, but 'the fun' is not any more real than your polo shirt."
Alice and Cindy make an important discovery while trekking through the caves underneath camp. However, if you think things are all going to wrap up neat and tidy, I’m here to remind you we have an entire film left in this saga. A particular death may pull on the heartstrings not unlike the grocery store losses in Part 1. Things spiral out of control, but the latest break in the case could just be the first reassuring thing to happen to Shadysiders in decades.
Of course, we’ve already seen Fear Street Part 1: 1994, so we know there can’t have been a resolution in 1978. In the grand tradition of 70s slashers, the Nightwing killer goes on to use his bloody ax to take out any campers who weren’t lucky enough to get to the mess hall in time. Word of warning, bad b**ches don’t last long in Shadyside.
As the girls get closer to possibly ending this thing once and for all, we are joined, yet again, by all of the Shadyside killers, including Ruby Lane, who sings her sad song like a twisted land siren. You can find out the body count - and how it compares to that of Part 1 - yourself, by watching. The ending, albeit different from the first installment, is still bleak in the way that everyone just has to lie about what actually happened. The cops can’t prosecute a ghost… who was dead to begin with, because the government murdered her.
When asked about what happened, one character says, “He just went crazy,” writing the killer off as just another cursed Shadyside resident. But something tells me Sheriff Goode will have to start facing reality pretty soon, whether he wants to or not. It also makes you wonder how many tragedies in Shadyside are just explained away by, “They just snapped.” FEAR STREET PART TWO: 1978 may be a fun horror movie, based on some YA novels, but it really resonates when it’s hitting themes of isolation, not being good enough, and the hopelessness of believing there’s no way out.
Back in 1994, Deena pulls a hail Mary that seemingly transports her all the way back to 1666 - which is where we pick back up in the final installment of the Fear Street saga, Fear Street Part Three: 1666.
FEAR STREET PART TWO: 1978 is all the slasher fun of classics like Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp, but with the dark, comedic timing of a Heathers or Final Girls. It is a bit of a long movie, coming in at almost two hours, but I really didn’t want it to end. If the 90s throwback energy didn’t hook you in Part 1, the drug-addled, sex-crazed 70s slasher vibes of PART TWO should pull you back in.
Horror fans will love the myriad Stephen King references in FEAR STREET PART TWO: 1978, as well as a nod to author Judy Blume, who released some of her most popular books (Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Deenie, and Blubber) in the early 1970s. Catch all the fun on Netflix.
FEAR STREET PART TWO: 1978 begins streaming on Friday, July 9.