Appellate Judge Mac McEntire has your curious goods right here, pal.
"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.
Facts of the Case
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"
• "The Poison Pen"
• "Cupid's Quiver"
• "A Cup of Time"
• "The Great Montarro"
• "Doctor Jack"
• "Shadow Boxer"
• "The Root of All Evil"
• "Tales of the Undead"
• "Faith Healer"
• "The Baron's Bride"
• "Vanity's Mirror"
• "Brain Drain"
• "The Electrocutioner"
• "The Quilt of Hathor"
• "Quilt of Hathor: The Awakening"
• "Double Exposure"
• "The Pirate's Promise"
• "Badge of Honor"
• "Pipe Dream"
• "What a Mother Wouldn't Do"
• "Bottle of Dreams"
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.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
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.
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!
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