“If they want a witch, I’ll give them a witch…”
…We’ve seen the effects of Shadyside’s legendary witch, Sarah Fier (Elizabeth Scopel). We’ve learned about how unfortunate Shadysiders find themselves possessed. And now, with Fear Street 1666, the conclusion to Netflix’s hit trilogy, director Leigh Janiak takes us back to Fier’s origins, and the results are breathtaking.
SPOILERS FOR FEAR STREET PARTS 1 & 2 AHEAD
Written by Janiak, Phil Graziadei and Kate Trefry, and based off of R.L. Stine’s novels, Fear Street 1666 picks up immediately after 1978, with Deena returning Fier’s skeletal hand to her body and suddenly finding herself in 1666 as Sarah Fier. Fier is no evil witch, but an ordinary woman living in a small, godly town where her sudden love affair with best friend Hannah (Olivia Scott Welch, aka, “Sam”) is seen as a sin that must be kept secret. But when the town begins experiencing a horrible plague of death, the villagers, in particular Mad Thomas (McCabe Slye, aka Tommy Slater), believe a witch is among them, and you can probably guess how that goes for so called “sinners” Sarah and Hannah.
From there, we are witness to what really happened to Fier, how the curse came to be, and the tale of love that drove it all. And damn if it isn’t the most beautiful, tragic and disturbing of the Fear Street films.
Depending on your taste.
Taking us all the way back to 1666 and once again sticking with the vibe of the time period, 1666 is bare of the hit songs which populated the first two films, replaced instead with an elegant score from Marco Beltrami, Anna Drubich and Marcus Trumpp that drops us right into the laps of a grim yet mysterious world full of magic and danger. Gone are the neon lights of 1994 and the warm, lush colors of 1978. Fitting to the era, 1666 is grey and unwelcoming in its appearance, with a heavy sense of dread and death hanging over the air. Janiak and cinematographer Caleb Heymann once again brilliantly capture the look of the time, with excellent production design from Scott Kuzio that brings the poor, weary village in which Sarah lives to life.
Also brought to life are the harsh realities and misconceptions from back then that have stretched across time and into our modern life. Namely, misogyny and an ugly discrimination against queerness. Where 1994 presented a charming burgeoning of love between Deena and Sam that felt real, sexy and without making either character a queer trope as so many films have done in the past, 1666 does something similar, but with an added danger that feels all too real.
The relationship between Sarah/Deena and Hannah/Sam is once again at the heart of the story, with 1666 playing into themes of queer fear and the ignorance of a society unwilling to understand. The filmmakers painfully combine the God-fearing community’s oppression and misguided ideas of queerness as a “sin” with the time’s rampant sexism and attack on women which led to countless souls being wrongly accused of witchcraft at the hands of men looking to punish them for something as simple as turning them down. Horror has explored both of these to great effect, but few films have combined both elements as well as Fear Street 1666. This is a film that will have your blood boiling like a witch’s pot as you watch Sarah and Hannah confront the ugliness of the outside world, as well as the manipulation of it on themselves, with each girl at one point believing their love may actually have something to do with the downfall of their town. 1666 conjures infuriating feelings towards a society that would make anyone think their love is “wrong”, a concept which may be the most terrifying of all in the film.
Though rest assured, horror fans, 1666 is not without its traditional terrors.
After two great slasher films, one loads of fun and the other a vicious callback to summer camp horror, some viewers may be disappointed in 1666’s lack of slashing. This is not a slasher film, instead invoking an atmosphere similar to something along the lines of The Witch, with characters plagued by supernatural occurrences while our heroes struggle to uncover the mystery behind them. Much of 1666 will also feel familiar to viewers, relishing in tropes that we’ve seen countless times before. Still, 1666 features some of the most violent imagery in the trilogy, with eye-popping moments that will leave viewers shuddering in their seats. While maybe not as shocking as 1978—and 1994’s bread slicer kill still reigns supreme--1666 once again tells a horrific tale in which no one is safe, not even some of our favorite characters, with Janiak prying our eyes open Clockwork Orange style and forcing us to take in the cringe-worthy violence.
More than its predecessors though, 1666 is less focused on the horror and more intent on delivering a tragic love story that seeks to put on display the importance of love and what we’re willing to sacrifice for it, and in that sense, Fear Street 1666 is a true triumph. This is by far the most touching of the three films, which aims to shatter in your heart into a million pieces. While we get fun returns of characters from the previous films, such as Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) as Sarah’s little brother, Henry, or Nick Goode (Ashley Zukerman) as Solomon Goode, this is Kiana Madeira’s film through and through, and her powerful performance is utterly breathtaking. If you weren’t already paying attention to Madeira, Fear Street 1666 should have you correcting that immediately, because she is a star in the making, and 1666 is the proof.
I wish I could say more about Fear Street 1666, because the above is only the half of it, but in an attempt to avoid spoilers, I’ll leave it at this: Fear Street 1666 is a thrilling tale of love and deceit that rewrites the story you think you know with shocking twists and turns. With the third entry in the Fear Street trilogy, Janiak satisfies expectations while shattering others in such a rich way that it offers an entirely new outlook on the previous two films, and will have you wanting to revisit them immediately.
After the exciting conclusion that is 1666, the Fear Street trilogy is now one of my favorite things Netflix has ever done, a classic story of good vs evil that I would gladly make a deal with the Devil for more of.
Fear Street Part Three: 1666 is now on Netflix.
By Matt Konopka