The Daily Stream: Fear Street: Part Two - 1978 Is The Best Friday The 13th Substitute We Could Ask For

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "Fear Street: Part Two – 1978"

Where You Can Stream It: Netflix

The Pitch: R.L. Stine is and has been an important voice in horror for decades. Just as much as we need the hardcore R-rated horror of the world, we absolutely need gateway horror, and "Goosebumps" is just about as good as it gets in that department. But what if Stine's work was R-rated? That was the question posed by director Leigh Janiak when she made the "Fear Street" trilogy which, ultimately, wound up on Netflix. These were not the kid-friendly Stine adaptations of old. Rather, they are brutal, unflinching takes on the author's work for the generation that grew up with him.

All three movies take on slightly different genres while telling an interconnected story but, for today's purposes, I would like to single out "Fear Street: Part Two – 1978," which takes the action back to the '70s and gives us perhaps the best "Friday the 13th" movie ever made that isn't actually a "Friday the 13th" movie. Given that we haven't actually seen Jason Voorhees on the big screen since the 2009 remake, this movie scratches an itch that many horror fans absolutely need scratched.

Why it's essential viewing

While this middle chapter in the "Fear Street" trilogy most certainly maintains its connections and importance to the other two movies, it does largely get to exist on its own terms as a throwback slasher film that, ever so conveniently, takes place at a summer camp near a lake. Sound familiar? The bulk of this story takes place, as the title implies, in 1978 at Camp Nightwing. The slightly older kids are there to supervise but also have some fun. It's sunny, young people are getting up to no good. What could go wrong? Well, when Tommy Slater (McCabe Slye) is possessed (quite literally) with the urge to kill, the fun quickly devolves into a murder-heavy nightmare for the campers.

There are absolutely supernatural elements at play here and yes, that is explored, but largely, once Tommy is possessed to kill, it's a classic slasher of the Jason Voorheers variety that clearly has a great deal of fondness for the early slasher films of the late '70s and early '80s — "Friday the 13th" in particular. Even Tommy Slater has a bag over his head to finish off his look, which could easily be perceived as a nod to Jason's look in "Friday the 13th Part 2." Only, instead of a machete, Tommy prefers to dispatch his victims with an ax. And boy, does he dispatch his victims!

Scratching that '80s slasher itch

Janiak displays a great deal of reverence for these films without full-on ripping them off. In an age when Jason has been tied up in a legal mess for years preventing any chance of him making the return to the big screen (though the "Crystal Lake" TV show might give us our fix), this movie feels like a blood-soaked breath of fresh air. Like finding a Mr. Pibb at the gas station when you wanted a Dr. Pepper. A damn fine substitute, to be certain.

What, perhaps, separates this movie from other '80s slasher flicks cut from a similar cloth is the performances. To put it kindly, those films of old were not always filled out with A-list actors and, at times, it shows. In this case, though, we have the likes of Sadie Sink as Ziggy Berman and Emily Rudd as her sister, Cindy Berman, who ends up with a larger part to play in the broader arc of the trilogy. Not to mention Slye's unnervingly convincing turn as our ax-wielding slasher. Tommy Slater is a brooding, ruthless, heavy-handed killer that pulls no punches, and Slye wears that hat concerningly well.

Look, we may not be getting a new "Friday the 13th" movie any time soon. Us slasher fans must turn elsewhere for that fix. For me, if Netflix were to give us a new Tommy Slater campside slasher flick every year around Halloween, much like Paramount did with Jason throughout the '80s, I would be quite content to follow that road, getting my fix in that way. "Fear Street: Part Two – 1978" scratches that very particular itch.