Fear Street Part 3: 1666 sends the final installment of the horror trilogy back a few centuries to explore the truth behind the legend of Sarah Fier, the young woman executed for witchcraft whose curse might be responsible for the horrors that have plagued Shadyside ever since. Director Leigh Janiak makes the interesting choice to recycle cast members from the first two films, with Kiana Madeira and Olivia Scott Welch — 1994‘s Deena and Sam, respectively — stepping into the shoes of Sarah Fier and Hannah Miller, whose friendship is cozy enough to raise the suspicions of their fellow Puritan villagers.
Numerous supporting characters from the previous films also pop up in smaller roles, with their 1666 identities often sharing personality traits with their counterparts from elsewhere in the trilogy; Julia Rehwald and Fred Hechinger are just as eager to enjoy “the fruits of the land” as they were in 1994, and Sadie Sink reappears alongside Emily Rudd, continuing their sibling rivalry from the middle installment. It’s a clever conceit that helps draw distinct parallels between the past and future of Shadyside while also making it easier to invest in the narrative because the characters already feel familiar.
That said, some of the familiar faces in Fear Street Part 3: 1666 are given material quite different and more complex than previous appearances, with 1978‘s McCabe Slye emerging as the film’s creepiest inhabitant, Thomas, an unkempt religious zealot who imagines evil lurking in every shadow. “I see the darkness in you, girl,” he warns Sarah, after emerging drunk from the town privy. “I see all the dark secrets.” When a series of ghastly events befall the settlement, it’s Thomas who stokes the flames of hysteria. “The devil has come,” he proclaims. “Who among you has welcomed him in?”
As the village works itself into a frenzy, local outcast Solomon Goode (Ashley Zukerman) — ancestor of 1994‘s Sheriff Nick — implores the townsfolk not to make accusations without proof, but his pleas fall on deaf ears. What better explanation could there be for the plight of the settlement than devilry and witchcraft? And what better suspects than Hannah and Sarah, who were glimpsed in a blasphemous embrace late at night in the nearby woods? That a burgeoning same-sex romance should be the catalyst for allegations of dark magic and devil worship feels decidedly on point for the patriarchy, and the villagers’ willingness to embrace falsehoods and half-truths — even when faced with actual evidence to the contrary — is an apt reflection of modern times.
The first two films in the trilogy might have embraced the campiness of the slasher genre, but Fear Street Part 3: 1666 is cut from very different cloth, at least for the first hour. The needle drops and pop culture nods that permeated its predecessors are nowhere to be found here, and the overall tone is grim, with little in the way of levity. The gratuitous gore of the onscreen kills may have bordered on goofy in the previous two films, but here every death is horrifying, none moreso than a grisly sequence that occurs in the town chapel.
Thankfully, some of that liveliness returns for the final 45-minute stretch, which jumps back to 1994 where Deena — now armed with the knowledge of what truly happened to Sarah Fier — constructs a plan to rid Shadyside of the curse once and for all. The gonzo finale takes place in the same shopping mall where the trilogy began, nearly evoking a Freddy vs. Jason vibe as Deena, Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) and Berman (Gillian Jacobs) face down an army of resurrected killers from Shadyside’s history. It’s bonkers stuff, but entertaining as hell and a welcome respite from the first half’s dour atmosphere.
Without a doubt, Fear Street Part 3: 1666 is a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, expanding the mythology and adding new context to the previous entries. Now that the secrets of Shadyside have been laid bare, I find myself tempted to go back and rewatch from the beginning, just to see how that knowledge impacts the overall experience. Janiak has fashioned a rock-solid modern horror franchise that seems destined to amass a legion of dedicated fans, and if there are more tales to be told — as the film’s mid-credits scene suggests — I’ll be more than happy to return to Fear Street again in the future.