1666 marks the end of Netflix’s Fear Street trilogy, an event – based on R.L. Stine’s best-selling book series – released one after the other over the course of three weeks. The first part, 1994, was a fun, vibrant, and surprisingly violent slice of horror that borrowed the style and attitude of films like Scream and Halloween. The second chapter, 1978, further dove into the realm of the slasher genre by moving the murder and mayhem to a summer camp à la Friday the 13th. The trilogy started off solidly enough thanks to a group of memorable characters and stylish kills set in the interesting and cursed town of Shadyside, but the middle chapter is when director Leigh Janiak – who also wrote the screenplay alongside Phil Graziadei and Kate Trefry – truly managed to impress and hit her stride as she took things in a more gruesome yet also more polished direction.
The odds are against this final part right off the bat. It needs to be a self-contained story about the origins of Shadyside’s centuries-long curse and its witch, Sarah Fier, but it also has to tie together the trilogy’s three chapters and act as a conclusion to the overarching plot of the main 1994 timeline and its surviving characters. 1666 wisely splits the nearly two-hour runtime in half, literally slapping a 1994: Part 2 title card onto the screen once it jumps forward in time (would that make it Fear Street Part Four: 1994: Part 2?). Miraculously, Janiak shows that they’ve saved the best for last, pulling off the rare feat of making a trilogy of movies that only keeps getting better. 1666 (or should I say 1666 and 1994: Part 2?) is an impressively climactic finale that also packs an emotional wallop, one that will undoubtedly satisfy fans who have been on this journey over the past month.
The scares of 1666 are the very best of Fear Street thanks to both its creepy setting of a repressive Puritan colony and the way it ditches the slasher format of the previous two films in favor of more supernatural frights, pulling from works like Arthur Miller’s The Crucible or Robert Eggers’ The Witch and incorporating similar themes of patriarchal violence and religious hysteria. It follows the young Sarah Fier as she and her secret lover, Hannah Miller, are hunted down by their fellow townsfolk when they start to believe the pair of them may be witches. It’s the darkest the series has ever been, as the true horror comes not from the supernatural events plaguing the colony, but the cruelty of the regular people that Sarah and Hannah believed to be their friends and families.
A delightfully unexpected surprise is that the cast of the first two films are who comprise all of the townspeople, with Kiana Madeira playing Sarah and Olivia Scott Welch playing Hannah. This leads to a variety of rather questionable accents, but it’s a nice touch that helps this final film feel more conclusive somehow. Seeing some of these actors again is almost like having their characters back from the dead, and it ties together the thematic throughline of all three movies’ tales of teenage love and rebellion amidst oppressive, misogynistic, and violent surroundings. Fear Street may be cartoonishly aggressive and overly bleak at times, but it’s proven to have a deep well of empathy despite it all. It’s hard not to be moved by lines like “Let them hang us then. I was not alive before now anyway” as Sarah and Hannah prepare to face the wrath of the frenzied mob hand-in-hand.
1666 also does away with the constant needle drops of 1994 and 1978, allowing for the stirring score by Marco Beltrami, Anna Drubich, and Marcus Trumpp to finally shine through. It proves to be another secret weapon in making the film feel different from its predecessors, but before you fret too much, rest assured that the bops return once the narrative returns to 1994. Sarah’s story is a compelling one in its own right, but it also impressively manages to fill in the blanks of what was left unanswered about her and the town’s curse in surprising and enthralling ways. One particular revelation is able to land a strong and memorable impact that reverberates through the previous two films as well.
The film’s back half is an appropriately thrilling and riveting conclusion to everything before it, with Deena (Madeira), her brother Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.), and Ziggy Berman (Gillian Jacobs) attempting to finally put an end to Shadyside’s tragic and murderous curse once and for all. Janiak and company pull out all the stops in a bloody neon-lit showdown that’s both fun as hell and contains some of the trilogy’s grisliest moments. And while the casts of all three films have been exceptional, it’s Madeira who absolutely commands the screen here. It’s a powerful and stunning performance that elevates everything else, letting Deena embody Fear Street’s emotional nucleus of a tough and gritty exterior concealing a passionate heart within. 1666 sticks the landing in just the right way.