I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
FEAR STREET: PART THREE – 1666
Rated R, 112 minutes.
Director: Leigh Janiak
Cast: Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Ashley Zukerman, Elizabeth Scopel, Julia Rehwald, Sadie Sink, McCabe Slye, Jeremy Ford, Emily Rudd, Michael Chandler, Fred Hechinger, Darrell Britt-Gibson and Gillian Jacobs
Now available to stream on Netflix.
Part Three – 1666 is the most thematically rich and disturbing entry of the Fear Street bunch. It features the wickedness of The Witch and Midsommar and the fun teenage spirit of Part One. Maybe there’s even a little Cabin in the Woods-awesomeness sprinkled on top for good measure.
It’s important to note that while we travel back to the 17th century here, the final installment of the anthology is split into two chapters. We have to uncover the sinister history of Shadyside, but we also have to wrap up the narrative that’s framing the entire story. The group of teenagers from the first film (Part One: 1994) travel back to the titular 1666 to unearth the twisted truths behind the witch, Sarah Fier, and her centuries-spanning wrath on the town’s residents.
Although people in the first half of Part Three speak with many thys and hences, you never become lost. The character dynamics and relationships among the townspeople feel lived-in and genuine, more so than they did at the camp in Part Two. Right away, you’re pulled into the period, liking and fearing for Sarah, a.k.a. Deena (Kiana Madeira). You understand her pains and hate the people who put her down or challenge her love.
You may become so sucked into the 1666 portion that you might feel slightly thrown off by the tonal difference of the back half in 1994. However, once you’ve adjusted to the pivot, you’ll eat up its energy and Home Alone-like games. One climactic brawl is just about one of the most fantastic scenes to hit a horror film in some time. Let’s just say it involves squirts guns and masked killers.
Overall, Part Three is a satisfying close to an exceptional horror series. Lots of characters to love, thrills to be had, and frights to absorb.
Now available to stream on Discovery+.
Filmmaker Eli Roth doesn’t shy away from the realities of the rapidly dwindling shark population. In the Discovery+ documentary Fin, you watch sharks get beaten, sliced, and gutted before their still-living bodies are discarded in the sea. It’s an emotionally devastating, upsetting, and shocking film that captures every disgusting role in the process—from the fishermen who catch the sharks (for their high monetary and cultural value) to the markets that sell their ingredients (like squalene) to be used in foods and skincare products.
As challenging as the material is, Roth’s presentation is powerful and inspiring. It’s not an easy film for me to sell. I understand that life is complicated and sad without knowing the issues beyond our home walls. Watching a movie where sharks get slaughtered (no CGI, folks) is not an ideal viewing experience. However, can you remember the heartbreaking and alarming documentaries and films you watched in high school or college? They may not have been the films you would have picked to watch at your own leisure, but I’m willing to bet you still think about them often. Maybe they’ve opened your eyes to a much bigger world.
Fin is that kind of documentary—one that’s tough to watch, tough to ignore.
Executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and Nina Dobrev, Fin features work from photographer Michael Muller and support from such organizations as Oceana, Sea Shepherd, and WildAid. It sees Roth present every step of the way, serving as an everyday person who asks why 100 million sharks are killed each year. His passion for understanding, the shocking details he uncovers, and the perspective he pulls from all sides amount to a work that says all the right things about an unnerving peril.
THE LONELIEST WHALE: THE SEARCH FOR 52
Now playing in select theaters and available digitally.
Bleecker Street’s The Loneliest Whale is a much lighter documentary compared to Fin, but it doesn’t swerve from the human impact on the ocean.
Skillfully directed by Joshua Zeman (and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio), the film follows the attempts of Zeman and a team of scientists to track down the enigmatic “52 Hertz Whale.” Experts believe this mystery whale has spent its entire life calling out at a frequency different from any other marine mammal. Through this intense mission to locate 52, Zeman also looks at how the relationship between humans and whales has evolved (tackling the brutal huntings and ocean disruptions that have devastated the populations).
So, why are we fascinated by this whale? What can it teach us about ourselves? Can 52 indeed be found after three decades of searching?
The documentary is as much a hangout movie with its competent crew as it is a thrilling quest. Zeman offers an infectious, well-balanced, and tender experience that fills you with wisdom and wonder. It’s compulsive viewing for all ages.
(Note: Be sure to also check out my story on whale culture, featuring quotes from Zeman here>>)