Director Danny Cannon and writer Trey Callaway pump up the humor and simple slasher pleasures in the sequel to 1997’s “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” which popularized straight-down-the-middle slashers (as opposed to winking examples like “Scream”) for a new generation. Hey, you have to have a sense of humor when your movie is called “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer” (1998).
Scream” (1996) introduced a new era of slasher films by being brazenly self-referential, but also by having better production values and acting than the previous era defined by the “Halloweens,” “Friday the 13ths” and “Elm Streets.” The second major entry of this new era — “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (1997), likewise written by Kevin Williamson – doesn’t have many insider nods, but it keeps the quality high.
Usually when a director drops his calling card, he has a few minor credits on his IMDB resume before that. But Andrew Patterson’s resume is empty other than “The Vast of Night” (Amazon Prime); the same goes for writers James Montague and Craig W. Sanger. The film itself shows few signs of being helmed by first-timers, and not only in the sense of professionalism, but more importantly in its original sense of style.
Sleepaway Camp” (1983) is one of the most prominent lakeside summer camp slasher flicks in the wake of “Friday the 13th” (1980), and refreshingly its tone is nothing like “Friday the 13th.” If it were made today, maybe by Robert Rodriguez teaming up with David Robert Mitchell, we’d say it’s a masterful homage/parody to the style of the time. Writer-director Robert Hiltzik’s film is often technically bad, sometimes aimless, and inexplicably engrossing.
Leigh Whannell was a writer before he was a director, but “The Invisible Man” shows off his directorial skills more than his screenplay-penning talent. This third entry in what was originally intended to be a “Dark Universe” but is now just standalone films (“Dracula Untold” and 2017’s “The Mummy” were the first two) has the requisite moments of Cecelia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) being terrified of an invisible man in the room with her. That’s timeless monster-movie stuff.
Despite the fact that “The X-Files” lends itself to standalone mystery novels, the franchise went 18 years between “Skin” (1999) and “Origins: Agent of Chaos” (2017). Kami Garcia’s novel is a sequel to her short story “Black Hole Son” from one year earlier – my favorite from the “Truth is Out There” anthology — although it’s not necessary to read it to understand the novel.
Like “Midsommar” would do nearly a half-century later, “The Wicker Man” (1973) taps into a subgenre called folk horror. These films are not traditionally scary or horrific in any given instant, but the whole is more terrifying than the sum of its parts. The vibe tends to be weird, with many WTF moments. Such films hold a viewer like a magnet even if it is objectively slow-paced, and maybe even boring to those whose pulse tends to run at the speed of an action movie.
Who would’ve thought one of the most sneaky-cool films of 2019 would also be one you can recommend to your parents? Writer-director Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” re-invigorates the mystery genre, and while its unusual smattering of comedy is a big talking point, this ain’t exactly “Clue.” It’s ultimately a masterfully plotted, thoroughly gripping story that reveals new pieces of information right up until the old-fashioned “here’s what happened” finale. It sprinkles comedy and social commentary as spices.
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.