The third and final chapter of Netflix’s Fear Street trilogy continues to go backwards in time from the sequel’s 1978 setting to the 17th century. The latter takes place right after we see Deena (Kiana Madeira) transported back to 1666 as she gets to witness what happened to Sarah Fier from her point of view.
Instead of a brief flashback, the film spends a significant amount of time on the origin surrounding Sarah Fier’s fate. And of course, detailing how and why the curse happens in the first place.
Unlike the first two Fear Street, director Leigh Janiak eschews the slasher-movie formula in favour of a more atmospheric and dread-inducing horror film. Both gore and violence are even further restrained by comparison with the exception of one, albeit brief moment set in a church. While it may sound like a disappointment, particularly for those who prefer gore and violence over ominous dread seen in the third film, I have to say it’s a right move for Janiak not to repeat the same formula.
The third film is also deliberate in its pacing, which is actually expected if you have seen period-set witchcraft horror films such as The Crucible, The Witch and to a certain extent, The Village. Interestingly enough, Janiak smartly recast some of the actors and actresses from the first two films with different roles. This can be evidently seen with Kiana Madeira and Benjamin Flores Jr. playing the Fier siblings, Sarah and Henry. Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd and McCabe Slye, who were all previously featured in Fear Street Part Two: 1978 play respective villagers as Constance, Abigail and Mad Thomas.
The same-cast-but-different-roles approach isn’t just a mere gimmick as Janiak continues to bring out the best in them. Well, most of them anyway, particularly Kiana Madeira’s engaging performance as Sarah Fier. Too bad Benjamin Flores Jr., who did great as Deena’s geeky brother Josh in the first film, is sadly reduced to a thankless new role as Sarah’s younger brother, Henry.
Janiak and Phil Graziadei once again co-wrote the screenplay and this time, with additional input from Kate Trefry of Stranger Things fame. The overall plot basically follows the familiar storytelling beats of a period-set witchcraft horror film. In other words, you get all the predictable moments from forbidden sins to a scene of animal cruelty and obligatory witch trial.
As much as I appreciate Janiak’s tonal shift again, where she filled her film with enough escalating dread and tension and some good acting, the third film’s 1666 setting somehow feels less impactful than the one seen in the previous two instalments. It’s probably because we already know what happened to Sarah Fier. And if only the story manages to find unique or unexpected angles rather than sticking to the formula, the 1666 setting might turn out even better than expected.
Then comes the second half, especially somewhere around the final 45-50 minutes onwards. Returning to the present again (1994, that is and it’s not a spoiler since we still have to see how Deena and the others going to break the curse once and for all), Janiak shifted the tone back to the pacey slasher-movie formula. It’s like watching two tonally different horror films in one and the good thing is, it doesn’t feel jarring. Other than neatly wrapped up the whole story, Janiak threw in a twist as well. It’s not the kind of a twist that jumps out of nowhere and expect you to accept it as it is. But a twist that finally makes sense on how’s everything is connected between the past and present.
And that is not all, as Janiak concluded with an elaborate sequence involving Deena and the others devise an ingenious plan on stopping the endless cycle of madness. Overall, it’s not every day we get to see a horror sequel, let alone a trilogy-ending chapter as in the case of Fear Street Part Three: 1666 all tied up in a satisfying conclusion. Remember not to click away just yet once the end credits start rolling. Do stick around for a while as there are extra scenes between the credits.
Fear Street Part Three: 1666 is currently streaming on Netflix beginning July 16.