Fear Street Part 3: 1666 is now streaming on Netflix.
After delivering a pair of frightful and fun slasher adventures, The Fear Street trilogy concludes this week with the final chapter, Fear Street Part 3: 1666. Where the first installment hit hard with Scream-style scares and oodles of ‘90s nostalgia, the second trekked back to savage camp-set kills of ‘80s slashers. Now, co-writer/director Leigh Janiak whisks us back to where this horror saga began with a story of witches, demons, and suspicion that stands on its own as an entertaining and scary ride and also brings the series to a thrilling conclusion.
Picking up where Deena’s story left off, our Final Girl (Kiana Madeira) was reuniting the bones of the long-dead witch, Sarah Fier, with its severed hand. Just like that, Deena is thrust back into the past. This time, it’s not through a survivor’s sorrowful story — as was the case in Fear Street Part 2: 1978 — but through a full-bodied flashback that plants Deena in the shoes of Sarah Fier. It’s 1666 in the colony called Union, which will become divided into the cursed Shadyside and the prosperous Sunnyvale. Like the teens we’ve met in Fear Street Part 1: 1994 and its sequel, Sarah and her friends work hard and play hard. Amid their grim farming chores, they whisper excitedly about midnight plans to revel around a bonfire with applejack and some special berries that are essentially 17th century party drugs. Beyond frivolity, Sarah finds bliss in the woods, hooking up with the pastor’s daughter Hannah (Olivia Scott Welch, who played Sam in ‘94). The next morning, Sarah not only has a hangover to deal with but also a village rife with pestilence and paranoia. Has the devil come down on their town? And is her so-called sin the cause?
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Janiak craftily recasts her ensembles from the previous two films to play the leads in this climactic chapter. This suggests that the victims of the Shadyside Curse — like Kate, Simon, Ziggy and Cindy (Julia Rehwald, Fred Hechinger, Sadie Sink, and Emily Rudd) — are related to the very first who suffered. Beyond that, though, it allows Janiak to double-dip into the star power of a crackerjack cast, whose mischievous smiles warm our hearts even if we know they’re destined for doom! Most clever, though, is casting Madeira in the place of Fier. When seen in flashes in the previous films, Fier was played by a yowling Elizabeth Scopel. But by letting Madeira take on the role sort of Quantum Leap–style, our connection and concern for Deena carries over, even as we slide into the story of the infamous witch. Likewise, the sapphic romance between Mary and Hannah is instantly electrified by memories of Deena and Sam’s shared passion, and that proves a poignant clue as to why Sarah chose these two to tell her whole story.
In Fear Street Part 1: 1994, homophobia hissed at the edge of Deena and Sam’s narrative. Sam’s mother scowled. Conversations around coming out were coded yet clear, and slurs were kept to a minimum. In 1666, however, Sarah is outright called an “abomination” for her lesbian lust, and the girls are publicly blamed for a curse that’s turning food into rot and righteous men into murderers. The only grown-up who will even hear Deena out is the Solomon Goode, a widowed farmer who is the ancestor of 94’s Sheriff Nick Goode (both played by Ashley Zukerman). However, Nick betrayed Ziggy by dismissing her claims of a curse in ’78. Here, we learn the rotten apple doesn’t fall far from the family tree.
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Without wading deep into spoilers, Fear Street Part 3: 1666 doesn’t just reveal the full story of Sarah Fier. It also exposes the political commentary throbbing at the heart of the trilogy. This was never just a witchy slasher. Janiak and her team of writers (Phil Graziadei, Zak Olkewicz, Kyle Killen, and Kate Trefry) were leading us into a labyrinth with a gory allegory about systemic oppression at its center. The Shadysiders do not suffer because of bad luck. They are not doomed to poverty and violence for not pulling themselves up by their bootsteps. There’s something darker at play, and this aspect of it makes the inclusive casting not colorblind or pandering, but a crucial part of the message. Janiak purposefully focused her trilogy on a Black, queer Final Girl who refused to play nice to a world that seems dead-set against her. The filmmaker then surrounded her heroine with people of color and complicated characters who either don’t often exist in slasher horror or are killed off so swiftly we barely get to know them. As such, Janiak has made a challenging slasher trilogy for our modern age, while looking back firmly at the past.
The first two films have received mixed reviews for leaning into nostalgia, needle drops, and some cliches. I’m among those who found these touches a purposeful — and fun — walk through the murderous memory lane of the slasher genre before heading somewhere new. In 1666, the nostalgia is ripped away by centuries. A dedicated production design paints a world that feels ancient yet alive. The neon lights of ’94 were traded for the flash lights of ’78, now traded for the firelight of 1666. Echoes exist through repeated gestures, visuals, plot points, and — of course — casting. The colonialism era and its evils are demystified, with the cast tied already in our minds to more modern times. So, when the sneering jock from ‘94’s Sunnyvale (Jeremy Ford) begins fearmongering with talk of Satan and the wild women who assure disaster, it’s easy to see how such a character may appear today (probably shouting their concerns on YouTube or a podcast). Yet Sarah’s story does not end in 1666. Once she’s been lynched, Deena is back in the present (’94) in her own body, left to grapple with some heavy realizations and a final showdown that demands a team-up and a climactic trip to the mall.
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As 1666 is bookended by 1994’s plotline, the pacing is admittedly jarring, but that feels fitting. We, like Deena, have a lot to process and little time to do it. So breathe in the Ck One and get ready for a battle royale that will pit our heroes against a masked clan of killers. Amid sprays of blood and black-light reactive paint flung about along with splashy slays, things get messy plotting-wise. Still, it’s hard to be bothered when Janiak and her team are turning in such a spectacular and inventive final blood bath. It’s an indulgence, but one welcomed and earned.