Thursday, December 26, 2013

More Of The Same...Only Slightly Better: Friday The Thirteenth: The Series Season 2!

The Good: Interesting plots, Decent character development, More polished acting.
The Bad: Plots are repetitive, Light on DVD bonus features, Still not amazing on the acting/character front.
The Basics: Genuinely creepy when it is not devolving into campy, Friday The 13th: The Series is worth picking up on DVD!

For those who read my many reviews (and thank you for that!), it might seem strange that someone who ripped a new one to the 2009 cinematic incarnation of Friday The 13th (reviewed here!) would then turn around and enthusiastically recommend the more average Friday The 13th: The Series. The reason for this is quite simple: Friday The 13th: The Series has about as much to do with the gore flicks Friday The 13th as Law & Order has to do with Prison Break. Outside sharing a common title, the television and movies Friday The 13th have nothing to do with one another. There are no common characters, actors or concepts between the two.

Instead, Friday The 13th: The Series is something of a treasure hunt, each episode featuring a cursed object that must be recovered. The concept was firmly established (and well!) in the first season of the show (reviewed here!) and was continued in the second season which has just arrived on DVD. The show is an hour-long drama horror and the second season consists of twenty-six terribly formulaic episodes which are made palatable by the sheer freak factor and the way the acting has improved over the first season. For those who might not want to invest in any new series', Friday The 13th: The Series does not require the prior seasons to be comprehensible; the opening credit sequence fills in new viewers to the concept each episode and given the polish to these episodes, it is easy to start here.

Cousins Micki Foster and Ryan Dallion are working on cleaning up the world in the wake of Uncle Lewis's death. It seems he sold his soul to the devil and every item in his shop, Curious Goods, was cursed with a specific occult power, which preys upon the buyer (or whomever has ended up with one of the objects now, years later). The brains of the operation, an expert on the occult named Jack Marshak, follows the books and the clues to determine which objects the trio encounters are from Curious Goods and the three work to recover the cursed objects, usually after a string of murders or other strange occurrences plague a community for a time.

In the second season, Jack, Micki and Ryan hunt down invisible criminals, deranged ventriloquist dummy's, and movie stars who stay beautiful using occult means. They go on adventures to freakish doctor's offices, the Civil War battlefields, concert halls and race tracks. They hunt down a pocket watch that can stop time, a syringe whose properties are best left uncommented upon (but hey, anything powered on the brain fluid of prostitutes has to be good, right?!), and a kid's playhouse that is transporting children somewhere else! 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 as the second season progresses. Jack is clearly 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 by this point in the series, which makes some sense considering how much they have seen by this point and the fact that the first episode of the season has a mirror that leads straight to Hell. 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. For example, one of my favorite episodes of the series "Read My Lips" has the team baffled as they investigate a murderous ventriloquist dummy . . . largely because of a twist in the specific object they are actually encountering! The show has some genuine twists that are memorable and are likely to keep viewers guessing and those who purchase the DVD impressed for years. When it is not surprising, Friday The 13th: The Series has a tendency to be obvious and formulaic (Reaper uses the same essential plot as a comedy now) and can be campy. Episodes like "Better Off Dead" uses the cursed syringe referenced above and even better, "The Secret Agenda of Mesmer's Bauble" has an object of incredible power that its user uses for one of the lamest purposes; simply meeting his rock idol!

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 "The Voodoo Mambo") to the troubled and reluctant users of the cursed objects ("The Shaman's Apprentice"). Villains include ghosts and spectral forces in addition to twisted humans whose ambition or greed has made them monstrous. "The Sweetest Sting" includes vampire bees that are actual vampires and that concept, campy as it may seem, is actually refreshingly original.

Friday The 13th: The Series will never be considered highbrow entertainment, but in the realm of entertainment, there is enough in the second season to continue to recommend it. 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 episodes like "13 O'Clock" and "Eye Of Death" both employ time-travel elements.

While there is not a great amount of time to develop the characters, the series makes a pass at trying by having the characters get smarter about their approach to the victims of the cursed objects as the season goes on. As well, 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.

Despite the generally young and hip cast, Friday The 13th: The Series has some moments of good acting in its second season. 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 Season 2 has only two featurettes and they explore how scary the show was and a general season overview. The episodes look good on DVD, but the bonus features hardly sell the series.

Friday The 13th: The Series - Season 2 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 Tales From The Darkside in some ways, with constant characters and relying less on a single reversal at the end to scare viewers. 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. Despite my "average" rating (the lack of genuine character and plot repetition force the objective viewer to concede it is more average than extraordinary) I have a much higher sense of "recommend" to this boxed set than I did for the first season. The actors seem to know what they are doing better and the directors have polished the look of the series so it looks consistently good.

For other horror television series’, please visit my reviews of:
True Blood - Season 6


For other television reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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