“Fear Street” shuffles off this mortal coil and shuffles out the door with “Fear Street Part 3: 1666,” a movie that takes R.L. Stine’s witch’s curse story back to the witch hunts of yore — or of “Union” — and stumbles back into 1994 to wrap it all up.
It builds up to a bloody and touching climax, showing us — and our 1994 heroine Deena (Kiana Madeira) — how Sarah Frier lost her hand and cursed the land and folks who live on it forever and ever back in 1666.
And then it returns for a long third act in ’94, which for all the curiosity-sating “resolve everything/explain all” monologues and BIG FINISH, can’t help but come off as anti-climactic.
The acting still ranges from uneven to indifferent. The “revelation” is well-hidden, in that we’re not really thinking about it before the obvious becomes um, obvious.
And the whole enterprise has this anachronistic feel, which even a 17th setting doesn’t discourage — folks tossing “frigid bitch” and “whore” around like they were brought up on Showtime.
In 1666 Union, the name of the “settlement” that split into Sunnyvale and Shadyside, Sarah — played by Deena (Kiana Madeira) — also has a brother (also played by Benjamin Flores Jr. ) and is also a Sapphic sister. Back then, she crushed on the preacher’s daughter, Hannah (still Olivia Scott Welch).
But it being 1666, intolerance didn’t take 1994 form. No, back then “the love that dare not say its name” could get you crucified, or burned at the stake or hung or what have you.
So all this talk about “a full moon rises before nightfall” which means it’s “a good night to enjoy the fruit of the land” that the local young people exchange as a greeting in ritualistic “Let’s go to the woods for a Bacchanale” code is fraught with risk, at least as far as those two are concerned.
“They’ll hang us, Sarah!” “I was not ALIVE before now, anyway!”
Next thing you know, a sow has eaten her new piglets, the fruit is rotting on the trees and the preacher (Michael Chandler) has gone murderously mad.
Only Solomon Goode (Ashley Zukerman) speaks out for reason and seems to defend the young women we know will be accused of being the “cause” for all this.
A mad scramble to find a way to escape their fates ensues, but we all know SOMEbody’s going to lose a hand, otherwise the two prequel-sequels have no point, right?
The first two acts build, with rising action and suspense, pulse-pounding editing and shrieking strings on the score.
And then we fizzle back to 1994, and despite having the lone decent joke of the trilogy, all attempts to top the caves, torches, lynch mob and mass murders of 1666 come off as…R.L. Stine “everything but the kitchen sink” kiddie horror.
Well, kiddie horror with cussing and a lesbian romance for the ages. That’s what it’s meant to be, anyway.
Our loving couple don’t have much chemistry, the “brother” is better suited to Nickelodeon afternoon programming in terms of acting craft and few folks here manage to convince us of the high stakes involved.
This is a workmanlike if uninspiring directorial outing for Leigh Janiak, but what she and her co-screenwriters were working with isn’t exactly Stephen King depth. Not that King is anybody’s idea of Hemingway.
The players committed to perform in all three films in the trilogy, but the connection we’re meant to feel for their characters is never established — a product of thin performances and the choppy narrative — and the attempts at pathos never pay off.
What we have in these three films is the streaming equivalent of a summer horror beach book, an R.L. Stine page-turner more interesting for “how this all turns out” than any shocks, frights or tugs at the heartstrings.
MPA Rating: Rated R for strong violence and gore, language, some sexuality and brief drug use
Cast: Kiana Madeira, Benjamin Flores Jr., Olivia Scott Welch, Ashley Zukerman, Darrel Britt-Gibson and Gillian Jacobs.
Credits: Directed by Leigh Janiak, script by Phil Graziadei, Kate Trefry and Leigh Janiak, based on the story by R.L. Stine. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:54