The first “Friday the 13th” (1980) is a trope codifier for the lake-cabin slasher flick, and by definition, trope codifiers lead to a lot of imitators, which have the reputation of being lesser films. “Friday the 13th: Part 2” (1981) lives up (or down, as it were) to that bad reputation. The slasher stuff is fine in this directorial debut from Steve Miner, who would go on to a steady career, mostly in TV. But there are so many missed opportunities in the screenplay by Ron Kurz.
The coronavirus of 2020 is pretty scary, but it’s nothing compared to what theaters scared up in 1995. In addition to “Outbreak,” that year gave us “12 Monkeys,” wherein a virus in 1997 kills off 5 billion people, leading to a post-apocalyptic world where humans live underground in miserable fashion. The film has the grimy production design, stark camera angles and general quirkiness you’d expect from director Terry Gilliam (“Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” “Brazil”), along with a screenplay by David Webb Peoples (“Blade Runner”) and Janet Peoples that’s more confusing than it needs to be.
Ilove the fact that there are still some weekly shows on TV (as opposed to all-in-one seasonal drops), but “Westworld” (Sundays, HBO) is not the ideal show for this format. Then again, even when binged, it’s hard to keep all the characters and their goals straight. Still, after a Season 2 that I found tough to get through, I decided to give Season 3 a chance. And the season premiere, “Parce Domine,” is one of the best episodes of the series to date.
Creator Damon Lindelof has taken the lessons learned on “Lost” – where time-jumping was a sometimes fun, sometimes hoary narrative device – and beautifully applied them to the nine-episode “Watchmen” (2019, HBO), a sequel to the comic/movie of the same name. Time is central to the “Watchmen” saga, the primary image of which is a clock counting down to the 1980s nuclear doomsday, especially with Dr. Manhattan existing outside of time as we mere mortals perceive it.
To celebrate our 2,000th post here at Cold Bananas, we’re launching a new weekly series. Frightening Friday will look back at some classics (and not-so-classics) of the horror genre through the years. With today being Friday the 13th, and the slasher touchstone marking its 40th anniversary, we’re starting off with the most appropriate entry …
The “Conjuring” series is unusual among horror franchises in that its core stories come from true events – in this case from the lives of paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson). Adding outside intrigue is the fact that many people doubt the validity of the supernatural, on which the Warrens made their living. “Annabelle Comes Home” (2019), now on HBO, acknowledges this issue, as the Warrens are the subject of a “Heroes or Hoax?” newspaper report in the wake of the events of “The Conjuring” (2013).
Writer Shane Black, in one of the most assured directing debuts ever, delivers a great modern detective noir while also poking fun at the genre in “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (2005). The film marks the last great Val Kilmer performance before his slump and the start of the superstar portion of Robert Downey Jr.’s career. It’s RDJ’s first team-up with Black; they’d join forces again for the underappreciated “Iron Man 3” (2013).
Briarpatch” (Thursdays, USA) is the latest prestige murder-mystery series to clog up modern TV screens, and whether you stick with it after the first two episodes – available for free on the USA app – will depend on your appetite for depressive lead investigators and small-town weirdness. Rosario Dawson, not once cracking a smile, plays Allegra “Pick” Dill, a federal agent on leave who is investigating the car-bomb murder of her younger sister in her hometown of San Bonifacio, Texas.
The formula of using a Philip K. Dick short story as a foundation for an action film had been established by the time director John Woo got around to making “Paycheck” (2003). It’s the earliest PKD story – written in 1952, published in 1953 — to be turned into a film. Writer Dean Georgaris (“Lara Croft: Tomb Raider — The Cradle of Life”) takes the hookiest part of the story – a person sends clues to his future self before his mind-wipe – and builds a fairly engaging mystery-actioner around it.
In Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s co-authored debut “Relic” (1995), Agent Pendergast is already established in his career. The same goes for Lt. D’Agosta and other staples of their quarter century of novels. What’s particularly neat about “Old Bones” (August, hardcover) is we see the very first case of FBI Agent Corrie Swanson, whom we first met as a punkish Kansas teen in “Still Life with Crows” (2003).