The Fear Street Trilogy caught me off guard.
Marketed as a teen slasher, with a premise and structuring that only works with this kind of weekly release schedule, Fear Street promised gore, horror, genre appreciation, and maybe a little representation. Netflix can still do better than featuring two queer relationships portrayed by the same actresses. And Fear Street also feels very white, mostly with its supporting characters and other extras that helped with the world-building.
Nevertheless, Fear Street Part 3 almost makes up for it. The queer relationships, as well as the lesbian protagonist, are great narratives and help reiterate what good films can do by abandoning the heteronormative quest. This trilogy also looks at other topics such as generational wealth, lack of socioeconomic mobility, and hysteria, dressing them up with gore, curses, and witches.
Fear Street Part 3: 1666 takes these ideas and gracefully ties them together in a slasher not without sacrifice, but also not without heart. This film reads the best because the feel-good conclusion finally unburies its gays (more pointedly Sarah Fier’s corpse), and it also connects all three Fear Street settings into a story that feels incomplete without the other two.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR FEAR STREET PART 3: 1966 from this point forward.
Fear Street‘s strongest attributes lie in its story, and the set-up between the Goodes and the women of the film series is equally symbolic and grounded.
Nick (and Solomon) Goode works so well as a villain is because he’s the asshole next door, spruced up with the theatrics of a slasher. And most average working people know somebody like a Goode in a place like Shadyside. Whether it’s the guy who got ahead because of their parents’ money, or how their town draws the district lines so all of the high schools are 90% white except one.
Nick Goode is the evil that you know. As an unsuspecting friendly face, but as one in a police role, it’s easy for the audience of this film to find unease with him, even before there wasn’t an obvious reason to. But it’s also Part 3 that ties this slasher mythos to the socioeconomic divide present in this universe. And for those who don’t quite get the connection, Fear Street doesn’t let you forget it—the Goodes pass their curse down from father to son and so forth.
They don’t discriminate in their discrimination either. Solomon’s hate for Sarah Fier originates from jealousy more than from religious prosecution, but Goode is able to weaponize the townpeople’s blind homophobia to keep the women he oppressed down. Unless Deena finally finishes what Sarah started, power in Shadyside will belong to the Goodes.
Telling a story about the evil we see today in a sensationalist genre makes for captivating storytelling and some parallels that are almost too easy to recognize. But with many stories instantly jumping to subvert expectations, I’m glad Fear Street lets me sink into the neon lighting and action sequences, instead of making me look too hard for some greater meaning.
Even with its poignant themes, the third installment of Fear Street should be recognized most for its queer protagonists, love story, and supporting case of strong, female characters.
While Fear Street technically tells two queer love stories, it feels like its telling the same one. While Deena relives Sarah’s memories, Olivia Welch plays Sarah’s love interest, Hannah, which is slightly more convincing compared to Sam. The issue is, no matter the story, Deena/Sarah is the one who puts the hard work in, party because of how these films were structured. And when you have Deena moving earth and breaking Jason’s Third Law of Slashers to save her girlfriend, Sam’s stoic demeanor doesn’t have the needed balance.
However, the writing of Deena and Sarah is compelling enough to garner investment in the couples, even if that’s only because of how invested Deena is. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of Sam or Hannah, Kiana Madeira’s characters were written proactively, giving her all the tenacity a masculine counterpart would have been allotted. It’s how fiercely Deena refuses to give up that their relationship that makes the ending all the more satisfying. She got the girl!
Utilizing familiar horror tropes while pursuing a more unique story is what helps make this film so digestible and fun. It’s easier to stick the landing when the stories of your protagonists tend to line up better with the stories of your audience.
But not only did this movie succeed by pursuing the queer gaze, it also rejected the typical formula by investing in platonic and sisterly relationships as well. Almost all of the noteworthy dynamics throughout the series are built on siblinghood and friendships, and Fear Street Part 3: 1666 took that bond to an even more touching level because ultimately, it’s the connection between Goode’s victims that ultimately brings him down.
Fear Street knows what it is and what it should do.
It may not be as mainstream as the flicks it took inspiration from, but Fear Street succeeds, anyway. A lot of people who engage in weekly Netflix binges aren’t necessarily the types who always watch the Oscars or are always in the know when it comes to the film industry.
Netflix has almost cultivated a “chill watch” genre of its own, and the people who will engage in stories like this are the same ones who gravitate toward nostalgic coming-of-age dramas like Stranger Things or found-family science fictions like Lost in Space. Fear Street Part 3: 1666 shows how Netflix and other streaming platforms can not only take their release models to the next level, but also their content models.
1666 combines all the necessary ingredients needed to keep social media buzzing about these characters, and it’s even had enough cultural impact to inspire an LA-area pop-up event. It only begins to scratch the surface of new directions these genres can go if people decide to listen to more diverse voices. And Fear Street proves that a good, universal story can still be told while led by a Black lesbian, so let’s hope Netflix continues to make risky ventures like Fear Street and improve on them.
Fear Street Part 3: 1666 is now streaming on Netflix. You can watch the full trailer here.