This past weekend brought with it the end of Netflix’s horror trilogy experiment. On July 2 they began releasing one new movie each week, beginning in 1994, then heading back to 1978, and now wrapping up by traveling all the way back to the beginning of the curse on the town of Shadyside in 1666. It’s not the first time that a movie and its sequels have all been filmed at roughly the same time, but it is the first I am aware of in which they were put out into the world in such rapid succession. Netflix is typically very cagey about releasing viewer numbers, so we may never know if the strategy has paid off for the streamer, but has it has paid off for us, the viewers? Well, mostly.
Things again begin with the survivors in 1994 trying to figure out how to put a stop to the curse. They believe they’ve figured it out after learning about the events of 1978 in the last go-round and reuniting Sarah Fier’s severed hand with the rest of her corpse. This causes Deena (Kiana Madeira) to have an extended vision of the events that took place in the original settlement that would eventually split into Shadyside and Sunnyvale in 1666. Sarah is herself just a teenager, and has begun to fall in love with the village Pastor’s daughter Hannah (Olivia Scott Welch). One night on their way to a party in the woods, the two girls, along with their friend Lizzie (Julia Rehwald), sneak into the hut of a woman rumored to be a witch, and Sarah stumbles upon a book of dark magic before being chased out by said woman. The next day, dark and mysterious events begin to unfold around the community, leading some to begin looking for someone to blame. Those who are aware of Sarah and Hannah’s relationship invent stories to implicate them as the guilty parties and the town immediately begins to hunt the pair down.
The cast once again does a great job, and interestingly most of the settlement’s residents are very ably portrayed by the same actors we saw in the prior two movies. The decision to do that really helps to tie everything together by both making familial ties easier to identify and also in hinting at deeper themes of how our actions can ripple through time. There is a good amount of time devoted to character development at the beginning again, but this one does seem to get to the action much faster. Some of the witchcraft carried out on the town is genuinely disturbing, and this quickly becomes the most suspenseful installment in the series once things take the form of a more horror focused take on Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. After Deena learns the truth of the curse and reawakens back in 1994 with a plan to end it once and for all, we are treated to a satisfyingly scary finale that smartly reuses some of the locations from the first two films. I still don’t think the trilogy is the best the genre has to offer, but this last movie is easily the best of the bunch. ★★★★
Available on Netflix with a subscription.
Rated R for strong violence and gore, language, some sexuality, and brief drug use.
★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor