The Good: Interesting plots, Moments of acting, Mood
The Bad: Lack of decent DVD extras, Light on character
The Basics: Fun, creepy and well ahead of the curve of what horror television could do, Friday The 13th: The Series makes for a decent DVD boxed set.
Every now and then, something disastrous happens between young people and their parents. For me, one of those things was that I decided to share with my step mother Friday The 13th: The Series. After several late Friday nights in middle school or high school, I had begun watching the episodes and I was pretty thrilled by it. It was frightening, somewhat clever and fun. So, naturally, the night I decided to show the show off to her, Satan appeared. At least I saw the episode with the Marquis de Sade before I was restricted from ever watching the show again.
So, when Friday The 13th: The Series dropped on DVD, I was looking forward to picking it up and seeing the show from the beginning. My big hope going into the viewing of this DVD boxed set was that it wouldn't be as big a disappointment as when I finally got my hands on V: The Television Series (reviewed here!). Wow, was that deadly bad. Instead, well before The X-Files (reviewed here!) made its debut, a little show from Canada tried to freak viewers out with a remarkably simple premise that worked. That show was Friday The 13th: The Series. And do not let the name fool you; this show has no resemblance to the horror cult classic series of films, save that they are both horror projects.
Uncle Lewis, owner of Curious Goods, has died and his shop has fallen to his niece and nephew, Micki Foster and Ryan Dallion to keep. Unfortunately for Micki and Ryan, it seems Uncle Lewis made a deal with the devil and he was a pretty uncaring guy in life who didn't exactly love his fellow man. Instead, Uncle Lewis let the devil curse every object at Curious Goods, imbibing each artifact with a different power, always with a pretty horrible price. After discovering that the antiques from the shop have been sold to collectors around the world, Micki and Ryan set about attempting to recover them for safekeeping to try to stem the flow of evil into the world.
Accompanied by Jack Marshak, a scholar of the occult who is quick on his feet and believes in the more fantastic elements involved in the cursed objects, Micki and Ryan set to recovering the artifacts. This takes them on adventures to monasteries, magic shows, medical labs, and farm fields. They hunt down a tea cup that grants eternal life, a scarecrow that kills, a cradle with a grudge, and a nightmare-inducing urn. They discover that most of the artifacts from Curious Goods comes with a lethal price and that - ultimately - they must rely on one another to track them all down.
To be fair, Friday The 13th: The Series is remarkably formulaic, especially in its first season. Jack quickly takes over as the brains, Ryan is the muscle and Micki is the heart of the operation and none of the three truly questions the plausibility of the evil-embodying artifacts after the original premise is laid down for them. As a result, the episodes tend to fall to a rather predictable series of events wherein a murder occurs, the gang investigates and comes to suspect one of the objects from the shop is involved. They track the object, risk their lives to recover it and ultimately manage to recover the object, usually at the cost of the life of the person utilizing it for their own gain.
This is not a particularly original show episode to episode, but it does have some genuine twists that work for it. Fox example, "Doctor Jack" features a fairly noble protagonist reaching his ends through ignoble means, via the cursed scalpel he uses. And what isn't obvious and formulaic (this, for example, is essentially the same quest used recently on the show Reaper) is downright campy. Episodes like "Root Of All Evil" features a cursed mulcher and (one of my favorites in the camp department) "The Electrocutioner" has a dentist who is utilizing an electric chair. It's so bad it's funny.
What keeps the show interesting, even more than the three heroes who are attempting to track down all of the enchanted items and prevent them from doing more harm, are the various antagonists. Episodes range from characters who are knowingly evil (as in "Faith Healer") to the troubled and reluctant users of the cursed objects ("What A Mother Wouldn't Do"). And there is a good balance of hokey with the creative, as evidenced by "Brain Drain" where the villain is simply an ambitious scientist vs. "The Pirate's Promise," which features the specter of a dead pirate who kills for the bearer of a cursed foghorn.
Friday The 13th: The Series will never be considered highbrow entertainment, but in the realm of entertainment, there is enough in the first season to actually recommend it. First, despite the fact that the plots are predictable, there is enough to them to keep them interesting in a purely entertaining way. So, for example, the episodes go beyond just straightforward paranormal murder mysteries and as a result, for example, in "The Baron's Bride," Micki and Ryan end up transported back to 1875 London where they must battle a vampire in order to recover a cape. The show takes some risks, for example with Micki's obvious attraction to a vampire in that episode.
Second, the series makes at least a pass at establishing decent characters. Micki is more than simply a damsel in distress, just as Ryan is more than just a good-looking artifact hunter. Jack's whole motivation appears to be to attempt to undo the injustices in the world and some of the artifacts actually tempt him, which works well for keeping the story interesting.
As well, despite the generally young and hip cast, Friday The 13th: The Series has some moments of genuinely decent acting. The main cast is comprised of Louise Robey, John D. LaMay, and Chris Wiggins. Wiggins adequately portrays Jack as a reliable adult who has a clear vision for the group and he has a decent screen presence to him that makes all of the technobabble - or, in this case, occultobabble - seem plausible. Similarly, Louise Robey is more than simply a sex symbol, though she does quite well when her character gets into a stride. Lead John D. LaMay seems comfortable in the character of Ryan and all three come together quite well to make a believable team.
On DVD, Friday The 13th: The Series has only two featurettes and they focus on how the show came to be. The episodes look good on DVD, but the bonus features hardly sell the series.
Friday The 13th: The Series - Season 1 is ideal for people who like scary television, but also are willing to suspend their disbelief and not take what they are watching too seriously. This is like Buffy The Vampire Slayer (reviewed here!) in some ways, without the constant tongue-in-cheek banter. Instead, it strives to freak the viewers out and there are some moments that endure as some of the creepiest I've seen on television. Of course, I might just be saying that because success of this boxed set virtually insures that all three seasons will eventually be released on DVD and Micki and the Marquis de Sade . . . sigh. It's torture to have to wait until season three!
For other science fiction or horror series', please check out my reviews of:
Jeremiah Season 1
Invasion The Complete Series
Firefly The Complete Series
For other television and movie reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2013, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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