Leigh Janiak‘s reimagining of Fear Street shows no signs of slowing down in the final entry of the trilogy. The third installment 1666 takes the viewers to the past when Sarah Fier was a teenager living in what eventually became Shadyside. Her contemporary legacy dictates she’s a witch, but as the third movie shows, history is often inaccurate.
After the events of 1978, viewers are sent back to Puritan Ohio to witness the genesis of Sarah Fier’s curse. Actors from the two previous films play the characters here, but it’s quickly established this is an illusion of sorts; reflections reveal their true forms. Kiana Madeira is now Sarah, and largely due to her dalliance with the pastor’s daughter Hannah Miller (Sam’s Olivia Scott Welch), she is accused of witchcraft. Back in 1994, Deena, her brother Henry (Benjamin Flores Jr.), and Camp Nightwing survivor Constance (Gillian Jacobs) now realize who the real evil is and set out to stop them before Shadyside is forever doomed.
Of all the three movies, 1666 comes across as the most rushed. These films are already overloaded with exposition, and the last chapter is the most bloated of them all. Dividing it up into two distinct segments, however, is a wise move; after Sarah Fier casts her curse, the present storyline wraps itself up. Fans of 1994 will get the closure they deserve.
Although it is heavy and psychologically excruciating to watch — 1666 becomes full-on misery entertainment, seeing as Sarah and Hannah are victims of homophobia and sexist scapegoating — the prequel portion is the most cinematic-looking of all the films. The soundtrack, which features no intrusive or anachronistic needle drops to speak of, is exquisite when it’s not foreboding. The performances are a head above the rest, as well. On the downside, this whole chunk can be laborious if you go in expecting anything lighthearted or folksy.
Returning to the crowd-pleasing ’90s makes the most sense given that’s where this all started. All the cards are on the table, the stakes are clear, and the objective needs little clarification — this is what the movies were building up to. Was it worth the wait? More yes than no. Everything past the period story feels too pressed for time and streamlined for its own good, and the editing during the mall scenes is a headache in the making. Yet at the end, none of that will matter to the most ardent supporters of Fear Street; 1666 comes out on top as an emotional and satisfying conclusion where the best bits act as a cure-all.
When revisiting the trilogy down the line, you will likely have a better appreciation for what Janiak and her crew were going for; they put a lot of effort into world-building and creating a new mythos out of an existing series. That is no easy given the extent and popularity of the source material. Meanwhile, those new to the most notorious neighborhood and town in YA lit are emphatically reminded of how brutal and creative teen horror can be under the right conditions and direction.