Friday the 13th: The Series: Season One (DVD)

“Lewis Vendredi made a deal with the devil, to sell cursed antiques, but he broke the pact, and it cost him his soul. Now, his niece Micki and her cousin Ryan have inherited the store, and with it, the curse. Now, they must get everything back, and the real terror begins.

If you’ve ever watched Antiques Roadshow and thought, “This show could use more bloody stabbings and slimy face meltings,” then have I got a DVD box set for you.

Friday the 13th: The Series debuted on syndicated television in 1987 and ran for three seasons. To answer the number one most asked (I’m assuming) question about this series: No, it has nothing to do Jason Voorhees or anything that happened in any of the Friday the 13th movies. Producer Frank Mancuso Jr. has his name on both movie and TV series, and actor John D. LeMay appeared in both, but as two unrelated characters.

So, if there’s no Jason, why bother with this show? I’ll tell you—it’s cheesy b-movie horror fun, with a plenty of over-the-top craziness on screen and tons of creativity behind the camera.

Micki Foster (Robey, The Money Pit) and her cousin Ryan Dallion (John D. LeMay, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday) have never met, but they’ve both just learned they’ve inherited an antiques store from their mysterious Uncle Lewis Vendredi (R.G. Armstrong, Predator). After meeting, the cousins decide to hold a “going out of business sale,” selling off everything in the store. That’s when antiques dealer/occultist/magician Jack Marshak (Chris Wiggins, Franklin’s Magic Christmas) shows up, revealing that Uncle Lewis had made a deal with the devil, one that cost him his life. Further, all the antiques Lewis sold, as well as the ones Micki and Ryan got rid of in their sale, are cursed, causing murder and evil everywhere they go. Micki, Ryan, and Jack must now find the antiques, come up with ways to separate them from their monstrous owners, and tuck them away in the vault beneath the store.

This episode list carries with it a grave curse:

• “The Inheritance”
Evil antique: A doll
What it does: Uses telekinesis to kill anyone who gets in its owner’s way
It’s the origin story, in which Micki and Ryan learn that their Uncle Lewis, whom they’d never met, flooded the world with cursed antiques, and now it’s up to them and their new pal Jack to get them all back. First up is the doll, in the hands of a little girl (young Sarah Polley, John Adams), who does not like her new stepmother.

• “The Poison Pen”
Evil antique: A quill pen
What it does: Whenever the owner writes about another person’s death, that person dies—just as it was written
A monk in a monastery has the pen, and is causing a stir as everyone believes he has prophetic powers. Ryan and Micki go undercover as monks—with Micki disguised a man no less—to get back the pen.

• “Cupid’s Quiver”
Evil antique: A miniature statue of cupid
What it does: It makes anyone fall in love with its owner, and then compels its owner to kill them
Directed by Atom Egoyan (Exotica)! This time, it’s off to a college campus, as a lonely loser is using the statue to make the pretty coeds fall for him. Micki and Ryan crash a frat party before chasing the killer through the darkly-lit campus at night.

• “A Cup of Time”
Evil antique: A teacup with a green ivy pattern
What it does: Drains the life from those who drink from it, providing eternal youth to its owner
Micki and Ryan believe an up-and-coming rock star has the cup, and is using it to kill homeless in the park. Just when they think they’ve got the mystery figured out, the cup ends up in a surprising place.

• “Helloween”
Evil antique: The Amulet of Zohar
What it does: You don’t mess with the Zohar! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
It’s Halloween, so Ryan, Micki, and Jack hold a costume party in the store, to show their neighbors that it’s no longer a creepy, freaky place. Naturally, all hell breaks loose, courtesy of Uncle Lewis, whose ghost shows up. He says he’s seeking redemption, and he wants Micki and Ryan to use an antique amulet to free his dead wife’s soul from hell. Jack, meanwhile, has an adventure of his own on the streets of the city with an unconventional trick-or-treater. If you haven’t already guessed, this is an especially insane episode.

• “The Great Montarro”
Evil antique: A pair of matching coffin-size boxes
What it does: Whatever bodily harm is inflicted on the person in the first box is transferred to the person in the second box
A stage magician is using the boxes to pull off amazing feats—he appears invulnerable as swords stab through the box, while his hapless victims bleed to death in the second box backstage. Jack brings back his own stage magic persona as “The Magnificent Marshak” to get close to the boxes.

• “Doctor Jack”
Evil antique: A scalpel once owned by Jack the Ripper
What it does: It can cut through anything, such as iron bars and brick walls. Oh, and people’s throats, of course
A renowned doctor, famous for his genius, gets more skilled at surgery with the more people he kills with the scalpel. It’s a lot of sneaking around in and around the hospital for Micki, Jack and Ryan. Ripperologists beware, there’s very little actual historical info here about the famous killings.

• “Shadow Boxer”
Evil antique: A pair of boxing gloves
What it does: While their owner is in the ring, they create a literal shadow boxer that beats victims to death elsewhere in the city
The plot here is pretty simple—an up-and-coming boxer is using the gloves to win fights. What’s not so simple is the risky and potentially deadly decision Ryan makes to stop him.

• “The Root of All Evil”
Evil antique: A garden mulcher
What it does: Turns human bodies into money—the more you’re worth, the more cash it dispenses
This tale of a gardener obsessed with greed is appropriately gruesome, with victims getting chewed in a mulcher left to right. But the real story is Micki’s reunion with her fiancé, Lloyd (Barclay Hope, Eureka).

• “Tales of the Undead”
Evil antique: A classic comic book
What it does: Brings the comic’s hero, Ferris the Invincible, to life, to unheroically slaughter whomever its owner wants to die
Ryan, a comic book geek, is delighted to learn that there’s a cursed comic in the manifest, owned by a bitter comics writer determined to take out revenge on those who wronged him. I’ll leave it up to all of you to decide if the “live-action-turns-into-comic-panels-during-the-murder-scenes” gimmick is cool or corny.

• “Scarecrow”
Evil antique: A scarecrow
What it does: Comes to life and beheads its owner’s enemies
The monster of the week is a genuine monster this time, but the human controlling is more of an unconventional monster. Micki and Ryan head way out into farmland to confront this nasty pair.

• “Faith Healer”
Evil antique: A white glove
What it does: Takes fatal diseases away from one victim and transfers them to another
Directed by David Cronenberg (A History of Violence)! This is one of the gooier, slimier, gorier episodes, no surprise from the man who gave us The Fly a year earlier. Televangelists were popular go-to villains during the 80s, and this one plays up their allegedly corrupt ways to the hilt.

• “The Baron’s Bride”
Evil antique: A vampire’s cloak
What it does: Time travel!
While battling out with an evil vampire, Micki and Ryan are transported back in time—and in black and white—to London, 1875, where more bloodsucker action is afoot. Vampires are cool, and so is black and white cinematography. Some of the so-called “English” and “Irish” accents are really scary, though.

• “Bedazzled”
Evil antique: A lantern
What it does: Points out the location of hidden treasure, microwaves people
This time, we jump into the middle of the story, skipping over all the usual business of how Micki learn about the lantern and track down the killer, which is a refreshing change. It also jumps from “horror” to “hostage thriller” in its latter half, as all the characters are trapped together, making this episode a little different from the rest.

• “Vanity’s Mirror”
Evil antique: A handheld makeup mirror
What it does: When its owner uses it to reflect a light into someone’s eye, that person falls madly in love with the owner
A mousy teenage girl has the mirror, and is using to pursue the cutest boys in school, leaving a trail of bodies in her wake. Our heroes head back to high school to confront her. This is basically a younger, gender-switched take on “Cupid’s Quiver” from earlier this season. I absolutely love the ending, which is beautiful in that it flies in the face of the show’s formula.

• “Tattoo”
Evil antique: Tattoo needles
What it does: The owner draws something on the victim, like, say a poisonous spider, and it comes to life and kills the victim. This somehow gives the owner incredible good luck.
All these 80s shows always had to do the obligatory Chinatown episodes, and this one is Friday the 13th‘s turn. The plot is more about the dangers of gambling than it is about Chinese culture, though. And it’s always awesome to see Keye Luke (Gremlins) on screen.

• “Brain Drain”
Evil antique: A trephinator (a medical device designed to drain spinal fluids)
What it does: As it kills the victim, it transfers the intelligence of the victim into its owner
This episode goes off into crazy sci-fi mode, combining elements of Frankenstein and Flowers for Algernon, as a mental patient gets smarter and smarter the more he uses the antique. Jack gets unexpected help from a former lover he runs into in search of the device.

• “The Electrocutioner”
Evil antique: An electric chair
What it does: Electrocutes its victims and then gives its owner electro-powers
The opening execution sequence from this one is notable, with a lot of long silences that add to the creep factor. The rest of the plot, though, is standard “killer comes back from the dead and seeks revenge” stuff.

• “The Quilt of Hathor”
Evil antique: A quilt
What it does: The owner sleeps underneath it and dreams about the deaths of his/her enemies, and those enemies die—just as the owner dreamt it
The season’s only two-parter takes the main characters to an Amish-like secluded community, in search of the kills-by-dreams quilt. Ryan is surprised, however, to find true love in this strange new place.

• “Quilt of Hathor: The Awakening”
Evil antique: That quilt again
What it does: See above
In order to defend the right to stay with his new lady love, Ryan must confront her jealous ex-suitor in ritualistic combat (so these people aren’t Amish, I guess). And folks are still dying thanks to that evil quilt.

• “Double Exposure”
Evil antique: A camera
What it does: It makes copies
Ryan, Micki and Jack suspect a TV news anchor of being a killer, but the anchor has the perfect alibi—and tons of rating—when the killer calls him live on the air. A cursed camera has the answer, but it also means there are twice as many bad guys protecting it.

• “The Pirate’s Promise”
Evil antique: A foghorn
What it does: Summons a ghostly sea creature who exchanges gold coins for dead bodies
After all these weeks of murderers and serial killers, we get another genuine supernatural monster, and this ghost of the sea is a cool image. This episode is also interesting how the characters such an emotional connection with a friend they during their search, instead of just passing in out of the guest characters’ lives.

• “Badge of Honor”
Evil antique: An Old West sheriff’s badge
What it does: When it touches its victim, the victim spasms around and died in a fast-motion special effect, leaving a badge-shaped burn mark on them
Suddenly we’re in Miami Vice territory, with an episode about stylin’ cops, oily-lookin’ counterfeiters, and a rockin’ synth and saxophone score. A vigilante cop is killing off a bunch of gangsters through supernatural means, and an ex-boyfriend of Micki’s enlists her help in finding out what’s happening.

• “Pipe Dream”
Evil antique: A tobacco pipe with the devil’s face carved on it
What it does: Kills people by turning them into bright orange smoke
A weapons manufacturer is using the pipe to kill off competitors and stealing their ideas. Meanwhile, Ryan is about to be reunited with his estranged father. See if you can guess how these two plotlines will merge. On the plus side, this episode provides a lot of interesting background about the sinister Uncle Lewis.

• “What a Mother Wouldn’t Do”
Evil antique: A cradle recovered from the Titanic
What it does: It can keep a dying baby alive, as long as its parents keep drowning people
Micki and Ryan face an ethical crisis. The cradle is keeping a couple’s baby alive. If they take the cradle, the baby dies. If they don’t take it, the murders continue. Also, Uncle Lewis makes another appearance.

• “Bottle of Dreams”
Evil Antique: An urn
What it does: Makes people relive their most frightening memories
So this urn traps Micki and Ryan in the vault and they scream in terror while clips from previous episodes play. Frickin’ clip shows.

This show is cheesier than 20 Velveeta delivery trucks simultaneously crashing into an exploding cheddar processing plant somewhere in the mythical state of New Cheesington. And yet, I love it. This is “fun” horror, as opposed to “genuinely scary” horror. Prepare yourself for bargain effects, overwrought acting, ridiculous dialogue, and a surprising amount of gore for television.

The storylines really more like little morality tales as opposed to straightforward monsters-of-the-week. In each episode, an antique’s owner uses it to kill someone, and then benefits personally from the murder. Then, the owner commits more murders, and reaps more rewards. But the owner gets too greedy, goes too far with the killings, and life unravels around him or her. While all this is happening, Micki, Ryan and Jack are busy tracking down the owner and learning what the antique does. There’s a whiz-bang finale in which our heroes confront the owner, and then everything’s OK until another deadly antique shows up next week.

For as cheesy as this show is, I admire its creativity. The easy thing for the writers would to be to do the “Zuni Fetish Doll” routine once a week, where an antique comes to life somehow and just chases people around for an hour. Instead, the writers have taken the higher ground, by making the true monsters the antiques’ owners, not the antiques themselves. The antiques are merely the catalysts, bringing out the dark sides within their owners. This is good, because it puts the emphasis on people. Who are these characters? What do they want? How far are they willing to go to get it? Are they pure evil, or are they conflicted? This makes for more interesting and varied storylines beyond just “Oh, no, someone’s chasing me!”

Another way the series is varied is that the main characters visit different environments and interact with different types of people in each episode. In just this season, they’ve explored the worlds of the filthy rich and the homeless, they’ve wandered through high schools and college campuses, high-tech hospitals and low-tech farm communities—they go everywhere in search of those pesky antiques. This gives the show a fun, “where will their adventures take them next?” quality.

Then, there’s the acting. To be fair, this isn’t really what you’d call an actor-driven show. And, you’ve got to remember what I said above about the cheesiness. The basic character traits for the main cast is that Micki is the heart of the group, Jack is the brains, and Ryan is the wisecracker. The actors stick to these traits throughout. As Jack, Chris Wiggins is probably the best of the bunch, delivering lines about curses and demons with just the right amount of weight that the story deserves. Robey does fine when she’s playing the “nice girl,” but during the scenes that require more dramatic intensity, she too often jumps right into crying-and-shrieking mode. John D. LeMay is serviceable as the comic relief, and he smartly knows when to dial back on the slapstick when the story goes into more serious territory. R.G. Armstrong appears on screen very rarely as Uncle Lewis, but Lewis’s shadow looms over the entire show, so it’s good that when Armstrong finally does get some lines, he’s able to sell the character as pure evil. As for the many guest actors who come in and out of the show, I’ll be as kind as I can and describe their work as…uneven.

As for the horror elements to each episode, I again fall back on my “cheesiness” argument. First off, the creators weren’t hesitant about showing off blood, slime and other such gore whenever they could. The series aired on late night weekend in most markets, I hear, so perhaps that’s how they could get away with it. The big set pieces in which our heroes face off with the killers are usually well-staged, and the show’s varied environments means different kinds of killers with differing skills every week, so, again, it never feels repetitive. What you won’t find here is any genuine suspense. This isn’t the show to watch for the white-knuckle, give-you-nightmares experience. Still, that doesn’t mean it has to be bad. The cheesy and campy sides of horror can be enjoyed on their own merits, and it doesn’t get much more cheesy or campy than Friday the 13th: The Series.

I had a blast watching this series on DVD, but the digital presentation is lacking. The picture is overly soft and grainy, and the 1.0 mono sound is merely good, not great. The only extras are some original promos and a “sales presentation” used by the studio to pitch the series to local markets. There’s a big fan following for this show out there, and a lot more about to discover it for the first time, so it’s a shame the discs couldn’t have beefed up a little more.

Also, the episodes no longer have the original narrated segment that preceded the opening credits every week, which started, “Lewis Vendredi made a deal with the devil…” Instead of the narration, each one just starts with the credit music. Shame.

I suppose I can’t really call Friday the 13th: The Series good television, but, I tell you, it’s a lot of fun to watch. So it must have done something right. I can’t wait for Season Two.

The Verdict

After much deliberation, the court has decided to find Micki, Ryan, Jack, and everyone else from Friday the 13th: The Series not guilty, but only if they promise to take this cursed gavel away from me…before I kill again!

Average User Rating
0 votes
Your Rating

Lost Password