The town of Shadyside, Ohio, ain’t called the Killer Capital of America for nothing. There has been an incredible number of mass murderers over the years who have called that hamlet their hometown. In fact, that notorious list is so incredibly long that many link it all to a curse cast by a hanged witch way back in the 1600s.
Of course, most people in Shadyside dismiss that suggestion as superstitious nonsense.
One particular teen resident named Deena, however, knows for certain that the witch’s curse is real. She’s seen its horror first hand through the bloody murders of several of her friends. And Deena is looking for a way to break the cycle of slaughter.
The only clue she’s found so far is connected to a person named C. Berman, a shut-in woman who actually survived an attack by one of those mass murderers. It happened back in 1978, when a masked killer waded his way through a summer camp and butchered something like a dozen kids with a fire axe.
Deena seeks out C. Berman for help, but the woman is reluctant at first. But seeing as how Deena’s girlfriend, Sam, is now possessed by that witchy presence, Ms. Berman relents.
It all took place during a typical summer camp, Berman notes. The camp counselors were either having sex, smoking pot, or in some few cases, actually doing their jobs. And as the camp started gearing up, and as the young campers began busing in, none of them realized that a week later so many would be dead.
That grisly number included Berman’s own sister. And the murder spree also involved finding the lopped-off hand of a witch named … Sarah Fier.
Camp counselor Cindy Berman is a “good” girl who tries to do her best to follow the rules and do what’s expected of her (though that determination erodes a bit with time). And she struggles against all odds to aid others and find a way to save her sister, Ziggy.
Ziggy is a bit more of a rebellious, troublemaking teen. But given the horrible and deadly circumstances, she soon fights to help others, and in turn her sister, too.
Most of the murderous action here revolves around a camp counselor who is possessed by a deadly spirit and then begins mercilessly killing teens and younger kids from Shadyside with a huge axe. That spirit is connected to a curse cast upon the town by a witch.
Teens eventually find an underground chamber/cavern filled with books, candles and other markings and paraphernalia that one teen declares is all part of “devil worship.”
In this cavern, the exploring teens also find a wall with the names of many killers carved in it, along with some blood-red fungus and a pulsating mass of tissue. They link all of that to the dead witch and her actions. When one teen touches the fly-covered mound of flesh, she sees violent visions.
Later, that fleshy tissue begins to coagulate and take human form, giving birth to several deceased murderers who rotted away years before. The teens also discover a severed, bony hand and a page of poetry that states that the hand must be reunited with its body in order to end a curse.
During the end credits, we see previews of the third Fear Street installment and its witch trial tale.
We see two different pairs of teens having sex in different scenes in the movie. The movements and sounds are realistic, but both couples are at least partially dressed or strategically covered by bed sheets or clothing. In both cases we are given close-up shots of the boys’ bare backsides. We see one teen girl’s bare leg and rear, and another girl’s bare back and a glimpse of her breasts. Later we see her with her shirt open, revealing a sizable swath of her chest and abdomin. A teen talks about her sexuallly promiscuous choices.
Ziggy and a guy named Nick kiss. Cindy kisses her boyfriend, and he grabs her shorts-covered backside before she balks and pulls away. Someone paints rude, profanity laced statements about Ziggy on the wall—including one sexually crude statement.
Deena mentions her gay relationship with Sam.
One of the camp counselors becomes possessed by Sarah Fier, which transforms him into a heartless, gore-covered, robotic killing machine with a seeming laser-guided determination to kill anyone from Shadyside. We see him viciously hack away repeatedly at people’s faces and chests (literally demolishing flesh and bone into a bloody mulch) and lopping off heads with his large axe. The hacked-open wounds he inflicts are always graphic and gory.
In some instances, he also attacks screaming, innocent kids who are perhaps 9- or 10-years-old. (But in these cases, the camera cuts away and we just hear the thudding, squishing blows and see evidence of bloody gore afterward.) During the murder spree, people sometimes walk into rooms to find severed limbs and splattered goop. We also witness a long row of dead bodies covered in sheets later on, which grimly illustrates just how deadly efficient the killer’s actions really were.
A running, terrified girl accidentally breaks her leg, the bone snapping and protruding from her calf. Someone helps bandage her and forcefully shoves the bone back in place. A young woman sees a quick vision of multiple bloody murders.
Elsewhere, various teens bully and abuse their peers. One girl, for instance, is running from tormentors when she’s hit in the face and knocked to the ground by a large teen boy. They then tie her hands, string her up in a tree and burn her arm with a cigarette lighter.
Girls are given bloody noses. Other kids are roughly pummeled and pushed around. Someone reveals scars on her wrists where she’s slashed herself in the past. People fall from heights. Someone is stabbed multiple times with a large kitchen knife and has his head chopped off with a sharp-edged shovel.
In a brutally long segment, two sisters are thrown to the ground next to each other and are stabbed and hacked repeatedly by two different killers as they watch each other die.
As things get more intense, good girl Cindy uncharacteristically begins to use more and more curse words. Her younger sister makes note of that, while Cindy says, “It’s becoming a habit.”
Indeed, it’s a habit for every other character in the movie, too. Collectively they contribute more than 25 f-words and about 30 s-words. Those profanities are joined by several uses each of “a–,” “h—,” “b–ch” and “b–tard.” God’s and Jesus’ names are both abused some 15 times total (and God is combined with “d–n” for four of those). We also hear crude verbal references to male genitals and see several offensive hand gestures.
C. Berman eats a meal of microwaved mac and cheese washed down with Jim Beam whiskey. Several teens roll and smoke joints. And one of those slightly buzzed girls declares that “drugs are peaceful, not violent.”
One couple breaks into the camp infirmary looking for various drugs, intending to get high any way they can. They come upon a random bottle of pills that they start popping—only to realize later that the pills are actually Tylenol.
At one point, Cindy laments her efforts to stay on the straight-and-narrow path. She says that in the face of all the terrible things going on she should have just “skipped class, partied, had sex, had fun,” instead of trying to be a good girl. (Though a party-hardy friend suggests the “fun” isn’t all that real.)
Kids bully and mistreat other kids in various ways, as already mentioned. They egg one boy while calling him names. A girl is locked in an outhouse and covered in roaches. Some scenes take place in the hollowed-out and feces-covered area beneath an outhouse
The second in Netflix’s Fear Street trilogy, Fear Street Part Two: 1978, is once again based on the book series by kids’ author. R.L. Stine. And that tale has been “updated” (or you might say, downgraded) with a dribbling smorgasbord of gore, exposed teen flesh and enough nasty profanity to make a curse-casting witch feel outclassed.
This flashback to a ’70s camp massacre does actually have a few plusses if compared to the first pic in the series. The spooked and spooky characters seem more likeable this go ‘round (which might be attributed to more spirited acting). And the tropey and bloody horror story adds more creative twists to its main artery—hinting at how the trilogy’s three backward-leaping time jumps will all eventually, uh, stitch together.
That said, all of the aforementioned nasty stuff definitely screams that this is not a flick that should beckon any family, or Fear Street fan, to snuggle up to it with a bucket of popcorn.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.