3.5 out of 5 stars

Netflix’s Fear Street trilogy concludes on a confident and satisfying note, as I had my doubts everything would cohere. While each film has been set in a different year (1994, 1978, and now 1666), it’s become clear the main story’s being told from the perspective of ’94, with the sequels offering feature-length flashbacks. That format’s worked fine, although it’s only when viewed as a trilogy that a cohesive story and narrative arc fully emerges. I just don’t know if Fear Street needed six hours to tell a story this basic.

Continuing events from the first instalment, Deena (Kiana Madeira) accidentally drips blood onto the severed hand of Sarah Fier, which grants her a vision of the infamous witch’s life back in 1666. The first half of Fear Street Part Three: 1666 (hereafter FS:66) is thus a flashback to the town’s original settlement of Union (before it split into Shadyside and Sunnyvale), where Sarah Fier (Kiana Madeira with an Irish accent) lives with her father and brother, where she enjoys an illicit relationship with the pastor’s daughter Hannah (Olivia Scott Welch). This obviously echoes Deena’s own relationship with Samantha three centuries later, so FS:66 tells the story of how a superstitious community blamed Sarah for a blight affecting their town, branding her a witch after Pastor Miller (Michael Chandler) seems to become possessed and killed children in a chapel.

Half the film is thus a Satanic panic horror, with some occasionally ropey Irish accents and the questionable decision to have actors from the ’94 and ’78 instalments appear as characters in 1666—which makes sense for Deena inhabiting Fier’s memories through magic, but less so for everyone else. I rationalised it as these people being direct ancestors of the kids from the 20th-century, Back to the Future Part III-style.

While FS:66 has fun with its colonial American setting and mostly gets the atmosphere right, without being able to rely on needle drops, I thought the story was a little thin in terms of how easily the townsfolk blame Sarah for a poisoned well and rotten apples. It felt like more could have been done to make her feel like a clearer target of suspicion, but it mostly boils down to being caught kissing a girl, which felt a little strained. Thankfully, FS:66 pulls the surprise of only spending an hour in the 17th-century, as we’re thrown back to 1994 for “Part 2” of that story…

And this is where, for me, Fear Street as a whole came together nicely and retrospectively made me appreciate the previous films more. Deena returns from his trip to the past armed with new knowledge about exactly what Sarah Fier went through, and what’s been causing all the random possessions over centuries, not to mention what has resulted in Shadyside becoming an impoverished killing ground and neighbouring Sunnyvale an affluent place to live. Everything inevitably builds to a climax inside the mall (a set they clearly wanted to get their money’s worth from), with Deena and Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) joined forces with Martin (Darrell Britt-Gibson) and adult Ziggy (Gillian Jacobs) to battle the undead serial killers and defeat the real mastermind behind their town’s centuries of bad luck.

The storyline of this movie is easily the best of the three, helped by the fact it justifies having a 114-minute runtime because of how the plot is split into two halves. The 1666 half is enjoyable if cliched, although knowing Fear Street is intended to be a gateway to horror for teenagers means it could be many viewer’s first experience of that type of story, which makes it easier to forgive. But the decision to continue the 1994 story in a way that ties everything together, with a clearer perspective on what the trilogy’s lore is about, made a lot of sense and really helped bring this film to an enjoyable conclusion.

Overall, the Fear Street trilogy can be taken as a success. The 1994 opening was fun but a little unfocused (although it contained the best kill involving a bread slicer), the 1978 sequel was the purest slasher with the best character dynamics, and this 1666 conclusion had the best story and resolved everything in a way that felt earned and exciting. They even left the door open for a return to Shadyside… perhaps for another trilogy event like this, who knows. The level of gore and sense of fun should appeal to teens and adults alike, but I’d only caution that some of the violence may be too graphic for younger children expecting something a lot tamer because of R.L Stine’s name in the marketing.

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USA | 2021 | 114 MINUTES | 2.39:1 | COLOUR | ENGLISH

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Cast & Crew

director: Leigh Janiak.
writer: Phil Graziadei, Leigh Janiak & Kate Trefry (based on the book by R.L Stine).
starring: Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd, McCabe Slye, Gillian Jacobs, Ryan Simpkins, Ashley Zuckerman, Jordana Spiro & Benjamin Flores Jr.