Netflixable? “Fear Street Part 2: 1978” lapses from homage into simple imitation

Terror totes an axe in “Fear Street Part 2: 1978,” the middle film in Leigh Janiak’s homage to horror films and the eras they came from.

Twenty five minutes into “Part 2,” the summer camp slaughterhouse instalment in the trilogy, a rerecorded version of “Don’t Fear the Reaper” turns up. Because the Captain and Kansas, Bowie and Neil and Tennille may set up the era, but nothing sets the mood like more cowbell.

That’s kind of the way of this film, entirely too “on the nose” for its own damned good.

The finale to “Part 1” introduced us to a Camp Nightwing survivor of the the long-ago-executed “witch” Sarah Fier, rumored to possess spree killers over the decades in forever-sullied Shadyside. “Part 2” is about C. Berman, aka Cindy Berman (Emily Rudd), at that ill-fated camp where the kids of Shadyside and neighboring, affluent and less crime-ridden Sunnyvale gathered in the summer.

Until, that is, 1978.

Cindy is a goody-two-shoes at the camp. Her sister Ziggy (Sadie Sink) is a hellion, lashing out at their disintegrating home life and shrinking future, on the verge of being “hung” as a witch by the mean Sunnyvalers when saner heads prevail.

But the camp nurse (Jordana Spiro) has been poking around in the past. There’s a map, and a “treasure” at the end of it that might “end this curse” and save Shadyside. As we’ve already seen all hell break loose in 1994, we know better.

“You can’t stop her. Run as far as you can as fast as you can,” the adult C. Berman (Gillian Jacobs) warned 1994’s Deena et al.

It all ties together as one big convoluted and inter-connected and inbred narrative, the future sheriff (Ted Sutherland) and future C. Berman and others struggle to get through one hellish night, the back-story is filled in more, and we hear more of the local murderous nursery rhyme.

“Before the witch’s final break, she found a way to cheat death…”

There’s a perfunctory quality to the situations and performances, the dialogue and the “terror,” cribbed from scores of “kids killed at camp” thrillers. It’s pitiless, but one gets the feeling the actors have seen the films these borrowings came from are just imitating their forebears.

“Part 2,” truth be told, feels kind of gassed after the giddiness of “1994.” The threats, terrors and manipulations are hammered home with a cudgel.

I mean, being chased with a guy with an axe is still seriously harrowing, and Janiak handles the attacks with skill, amped up by the screams and shrieking violins on the soundtrack. But familiarity breeds you-know-what.

Telling us what the future looks like isn’t the “spoiler” you might expect. But as we descend down the rabbit hole with the writer-director, we can guess the real suspense will come from in the third film, set in “The Witch” era — 1666.

How WILL she manage a movie that isn’t stuffed with Foghat, The Runaways, “Carry On My Wayward Son” and more cowbell?

MPA Rating: R, bloody horror violence, sex, nudity, profanity

Cast: Sadie Sink, Ryan Sink, Emily Rudd, McCabe Slye, Ted Sutherland, Chiara Aurelia, Michael Provost

Credits: Scripted and directed by Leigh Janiak, A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:51

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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