Home > Reviews > FEAR STREET, PART TWO: 1978 – Marco Beltrami and Brandon Roberts

FEAR STREET, PART TWO: 1978 – Marco Beltrami and Brandon Roberts

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The second part of Netflix’s Fear Street, a trilogy of horror-thriller films based on the popular young adult novels by R. L. Stine and directed by Leigh Janiak, is set in 1978. Following the events of the first film, the survivors are told the story of what happened 16 years earlier at Camp Nightwing, a summer camp on the outskirts of Shadyside. Ziggy Berman (Sadie Sink) and her sister Cindy (Emily Rudd) are attending the camp along with their friend Alice (Ryan Simpkins), Cindy’s boyfriend Tommy (McCabe Slye), and Nick (Ted Sutherland), a camp counselor who has a crush on Ziggy. The Shadyside/Sunnyvale/Sarah Fier curse looms large over the camp, and is exacerbated when the camp’s nurse Mary Lane (Jordana Spiro) – whose own daughter murdered people in a killing spree years previously – attacks Tommy unprovoked, and tells him he is going to die. Sure enough, before long, Tommy has seemingly been possessed by the spirit of Sarah Fier and is viciously murdering the campers with an axe – leaving Ziggy, Cindy, and their friends to try to stop him. Whereas the first Fear Street film was filled with 1990s horror tropes, this film goes back to films like Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp, and is a ton of gory fun.

The scores for all three Fear Street movies are by Marco Beltrami, with co-composer credit going to one of his various regular collaborators on each one: Marcus Trumpp on 1994, Brandon Roberts on 1978, and Anna Drubich on 1666. Much like he did on the first film, Beltrami returned to his own classic expansive orchestral horror style for 1978, but this time also peppered it with stylistic references to classic horror scores of the period, including the portentous Latin choral chanting from Jerry Goldsmith’s The Omen, and the unsettling whispering from Harry Manfredini’s Friday the 13th. Also returning to anchor the score is the Sarah Fier/Shadyside theme that was so prominent in the first film, but cleverly Beltrami doesn’t always play it verbatim; instead, the theme is stripped down to its bare bones to a four-note motif, and performed with significant changes to the intervals, as a way of representing the overarching mystery of what happens to Tommy, and why.

You can hear this change right at the beginning of the opening cue, “Cindy and Ziggy,” which uses the variation not so much as a representation of Sarah Fier or the love story between Deena and Sam, but as a representation of the sororal relationship between the two Berman sisters who form the central female core of the 1978 story. Soft, moody piano lines and somber strings give the motif a sense of melodramatic impending tragedy that is very compelling, while later cues such as “Girl from Shadyside” also feature the idea in prominent but subtly different arrangements. The second half of “Sisters” rises to some quite rousing heights, while “I’ve Been A Bad Sister” uses a harp and a bed of tremolo strings to give the emotional reconciliation between the pair some real dramatic weight.

“Finding the Diary” presents the Sarah Fier/Shadyside motif in its mystery guise for the first time, initially surrounding it with inquisitive woodwinds, but then also with darker textures for eerie strings, trilled flutes, and whispered voices. These chilly textures become part of the recurring musical ideas relating to the catacombs beneath Camp Nightwing, the discovery of what appears to be Sarah Fier’s coven cavern, and the terrible truth about what is causing the chaos in Shadyside. As Ziggy, Cindy, Alice, and Nick explore, the dissonance and suspense in cues such as “Witch Blob,” “Witch’s Mark,” and “Blood Will Fall” leave the listener with no doubts whatsoever that the evil lurking deep beneath Shadyside is real, and very, very dangerous.

However, for me, the best part of Fear Street: 1978 is the action music, which is across-the-board superb. Cues like “Chased Through the Woods,” the chilling “Sisters,” “Tommy Turns,” “Heart of Darkness,” the apocalyptic-sounding “Camper Chum,” “Chop, Chop,” the immense “Snake on a Floor,” and “Meeting House” all reverberate to stirring orchestral bombast full of shrieking strings, pulsating brass, and frantic rhythmic ideas, while the chorus intones staccato Latin lyrics and deathly wordless yelps over the top of it all. The first half of “Sisters” is especially steeped in Jerry Goldsmith stylistics from so many of his 1970s horror and thriller works, and is a fantastic tribute from Beltrami to his old mentor. On the other hand, “Tommy Turns” purposefully makes musical links between him and Jason Voorhees by acknowledging Harry Manfredini’s chilling ‘ki-ki-ki ma-ma-ma’ whisper from Friday the 13th to underscore the moment when the unwitting kid turns from camp counsellor to camp killer.

It’s all just brilliant, a wonderful throwback to when horror music was bold and thematic and usually written in a major key, and you can tell that Beltrami and Roberts are having fun with it. Some of the touches in the orchestration, like the way the woodwinds are used in “Chop, Chop,” are completely unnecessary from a dramatic point of view, but go a long way to enhance the scope and depth of music from a compositional standpoint . “Snake on a Floor” even has a sequence that sounds like the brass section was asked to blow into their instruments with the mouthpieces removed, just like Goldsmith asked his orchestra to do on Planet of the Apes back in 1968!

The final sequence of the film – in which Cindy and Ziggy realize that, to break the curse, they must reunite the body of Sarah Fier with her lost hand, but run into a few… um… problems – is both violent and strongly emotional. “Give Her A Hand” initially uses the deconstructed version of the Sarah Fier/Shadyside theme in such a way that it lulls you into a false sense of security, a red herring ending that quickly goes awry in a vivid explosion of gargantuan orchestral-and-choral horror. “The Final Axe” is pure brutality, a mass of musical carnage that perfectly encapsulates the blood and the guts and the orgy of violence committed by the Sarah Fier curse victims. The conclusive “Sisters United” is the emotional high point, an intimate but darkly beautiful version of the Sarah Fier/Shadyside theme that acknowledges the sacrifice made by Cindy and Ziggy in their efforts to save their friends and their town, ending under the tree where Sarah Fier was hung so many centuries previously.

As was the case on the first film, Beltrami and Roberts again had to deal with a song-soundtrack laden with 1970s pop and rock classics from everyone from Blue Öyster Cult, Kansas, Velvet Underground, and David Bowie, to Neil Diamond, Captain & Tennille, and The Runaways, whose rebellious anthem “Cherry Bomb” plays over the end credits. However, even with these iconic tunes featuring prominently throughout the movie, Beltrami and Roberts again make their score stand out; it does all the heavy lifting in the film’s emotional scenes, and takes the action and horror and suspense to brilliant heights.

Whether or not you agree with me will totally depend on what era of horror music you grew up with, but for me Fear Street: 1978 is a marked improvement over the music in Fear Street: 1994, purely because the iconic horror scores of Jerry Goldsmith and his contemporaries were such an important part of my film music heritage. Marco Beltrami and Brandon Roberts have crafted a score which plays wonderful homage to so many of those iconic 1970s slashers, especially through the action music, which is as vibrant and intense and orchestrally sophisticated as anything written in that period. Not only that, it uses the musical architecture established in Fear Street: 1994 to excellent effect, creating an intelligent link between the two films, and setting up the third and final film in the Fear Street trilogy perfectly.

Buy the Fear Street, Part 2: 1978 soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Cindy and Ziggy (1:34)
  • Chased Through the Woods (2:01)
  • Sisters (4:20)
  • Crazy Eyes (1:37)
  • Tommy Turns (1:49)
  • Girl from Shadyside (1:23)
  • Finding the Diary (1:52)
  • Heart of Darkness (1:12)
  • Camper Chum (1:31)
  • Sarah Wants Candy (1:38)
  • Chop, Chop (2:42)
  • Snake on a Floor (1:55)
  • Witch Blob (1:52)
  • Witch’s Mark (1:00)
  • Outhousin’ (1:40)
  • I’ve Been A Bad Sister (2:19)
  • Blood Will Fall (1:40)
  • Meeting House (1:22)
  • Give Her A Hand (2:46)
  • The Final Axe (1:51)
  • Sisters United (1:32)

Running Time: 39 minutes 26 seconds

Milan Records/Netflix (2021)

Music composed by Marco Beltrami and Brandon Roberts. Conducted by Gavin Greenaway. Orchestrations by Mark Graham, Rossano Galante, Gernot Wolfgang and Pete Anthony. Additional music by Marcus Trumpp. Recorded and mixed by Sam Okell and Tyson Lozensky. Edited by Brett Pierce and Erica Weis. Album produced by Marco Beltrami and Brandon Roberts.

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