Directed by Leigh Janiak [Other horror films: Honeymoon (2014), Fear Street: 1994 (2021), Fear Street: 1666 (2021)]
Much like the first movie of this trilogy, I didn’t love 1978, but I did enjoy this a bit more. Maybe it’s because I’m more a 70’s guy than a 90’s, or maybe it’s because camp-based slashers are, as the kids say, “for the win,” but I found this a pretty enjoyable film, and definitely well-used to expand the story of the witch, Sarah Fier.
In comparison to the first film, it could be fairly said that this film lacks some of the strong punches (or kills), but where I think it makes up from that (and to be fair, there’s only so much they have to make up, as plenty of the kills here are pretty decent, especially toward the ending) is the atmosphere and well-done 70’s aura.
Much like the first film, we were somewhat overloaded with music, only this time around, I appreciated the music a bit more (this is more my time period of music than what the first movie gave us), and as such, we got classic songs such as “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show” [Neil Diamond] and “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” [Blue Öyster Cult]. It doesn’t make the movie better, but it does add to the 70’s feel.
I had few problems with the characters from the first movie (who mostly appear here also, as the central story here is an extended flashback being told to the 1994 characters), but I really enjoyed the characters in this one, especially the sisters Cindy and Ziggy, played by Emily Rudd and Sadie Sink. Emily Rudd had that good girl act down fantastically, and on the flip-side, Sink was great as more of an outcast. I also enjoyed her budding relationship with Ted Sutherland’s Nick Goode, and I thought all three of these individuals did stellar.
While she took a little to really grow on me, Ryan Simpkins’s Alice became a pretty interesting character. I never 100% loved her personality, but I can definitely sympathize with it, and her broken friendship with Rudd’s character, while it didn’t get a lot of focus, was certainly worth seeing.
It can also be said that some of the performances, such as McCabe Slye, Jordana Spiro, and Sam Brooks, didn’t do much for me, but I think that has to do far more with their lackluster characters than anything else, and I certainly don’t begrudge them for it.
Of course, the camp setting was nice, and reminiscent of classics such as Sleepaway Camp, The Burning, and Friday the 13th. Part of the reason I enjoyed this one more than the first is likely because I just connected the setting to slashers that I love, so while I didn’t care so much about someone getting possessed and going on a killing spree, I can still appreciate it a bit more given where it took place.
The various connecting lore was all pretty decent. Nothing special, really, but we get a few more details about what’s going down, and I appreciated that tree from the Shadyside Mall (from the first movie) coming back into prominence, as it just felt like something important at the time.
One last thing that I have to mention, though, is the scene toward the end with the sisters taking a last stand against the multiple killers, which was just fantastically tense and emotional. Not to mention, of course, damn brutal. There’s a couple of small twists at the end, and though I saw one of them coming, I still think it played out pretty well.
I enjoyed 1978 more than 1994, and that seems to not be an altogether uncommon opinion. This one just felt more what I’m used to, and the fact that there’s less exposition here helped out quite a bit. It’s not perfect, but I did think this was quite a good film.
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