Appellate Judge Mac McEntire is both curious and good.
"I just don't know anymore. There was good, and there was evil. Now,
they're blending, mixing together. I can't tell where one ends and the other
begins. I'm not sure what the difference is anymore."
As most everyone knows by now, Friday the 13th: The Series had nothing to do with Jason Voorhees, Camp Crystal Lake, or anything else from the Friday the 13th movies. Instead, this show is about antiques that have been cursed by the devil. If you think that sounds ridiculous, you're right. It is ridiculous, but in a wonderfully entertaining way.
This season is the one when regular character Ryan left the show, to be replaced by newcomer Johnny. It's also the season that the gore and dark themes finally got to be too much for censors, leading to the greatest of all TV evils—cancellation.
Facts of the Case
Scary old Uncle Lewis once sold a bunch of cursed antiques from his store, Curious Goods. Lewis is long gone now, and the task of finding and recovering all the evil objects falls to his niece Micki (Robey, The Money Pit), his nephew Ryan (John D. Le May, The Couch Trip), their occultist friend Jack Marshak (Chris Wiggins, Franklin's Magic Christmas) and streetwise tough guy Johnny (Steven Monarque, Sixteen Candles).
This episode list is safely locked away inside the vault:
• "The Prophecies" Parts One and Two
• "Demon Hunter"
• "Crippled Inside"
• "Stick it in Your Ear"
• "Bad Penny"
• "Hate on Your Dial"
• "Night Prey"
• "Femme Fatale"
• "Mightier Than the Sword"
• "Year of the Monkey"
• "Epitaph for a Lonely Soul"
• "Midnight Riders"
• "The Long Road Home"
• "My Wife as a Dog"
• "Spirit of Television"
• "Tree of Life"
• "The Charnel Pit"
After two seasons of gore, murder, terror, and darkness, the creators of Friday the 13th: The Series went for broke, pushing the envelope as far as they could. It must have been a cursed Curious Goods envelope, because it pushed back. Allegedly, the show wasn't cancelled because of ratings or budgets, but because of censors freaking out over some of the gruesomeness seen early on in this third season. I have no evidence of this outside of Internet rumors, but after revisiting this series on disc, I can see how that argument could be made.
The two-hour season premiere borrows heavily from the likes of The Exorcist, The Omen, and those other "satanic thrillers" of the 1970s. There's a lot of talk about the devil, possession, faith, prayer, martyrdom, and so on. It's a lot of serious business, especially considering this show once did an episode about people shrunk down and trapped inside a snow globe. There have been episodes about sinister devil worshippers before, but this season opener takes us a lot farther into the world of God versus Satan than the series has ever gone. It's not the perfect—I can't believe no one noticed the villain walking around in public in his black robes—but it is more intense and less "fun horror" than this show usually provides. Add to this the fact that it's Ryan's last episode, and the episode gets even darker. There are various hints throughout that Ryan is doomed. Then, when the devil takes a personal interest in Ryan, the episode gets even darker. Ryan's final exit from the series is strange, to say the least, but no stranger than anything else on this strange show.
This Satan-tastic episode doesn't change the show that radically, though. It's still Friday the 13: The Series, and that means it's cheesier than the hike up Cheese Mountain during Cheesetoberfest in the mythical nation of Cheesetopia. Here's another season full of crazed killers, zombified corpses, brutal stabbings, gooey slime, windows spontaneously flying open during thunderstorms, and all the rest of the trappings that the fans enjoy. Most of these episodes follow the show's usual formula, in which someone uses an antique's power for personal gain, often in exchange for killing. What's fun, then, is when other episodes mess with that formula. This happens when some Predator rip-off characters take center stage in "Demon Hunter," and when there's no antique at all in "Midnight Riders."
The writers really put Micki through the cursed wringer in this season. In "Bad Penny," she not only has to deal with losing Ryan, but she's also confronted with the traumatizing memories of what happened to her the last time she encountered the evil coin. Robey makes with the dramatics big time, crying and freaking out all over the place, especially when confronting the coin's new owner. At other times, Micki is too often placed in "damsel in distress" mode, as she's the one captured and/or terrorized by the villain of the week. In some of these cases, though, it's nice to see her use her wits to get herself out of trouble. Chris Wiggins continues to bring his excellent professionalism to the brainy role of Jack. It's hard to imagine him as any other character.
As the newcomer to the Curious Goods store and its world, Johnny is more than just Ryan version 2.0. By this point, Micki and Jack have the whole "searching for evil antiques" thing down to a science. Johnny, however, hasn't gone through everything they've gone through, so this frees him up to question how they do things, and some of the decisions they make. Johnny often argues in favor of using one of the antiques to get out of a jam, in the hopes they can be used for good, and that he can fight the temptation to turn it around and use them for evil. This doesn't go as planned, obviously. Johnny also has his first solo attempt at getting one of the antiques away from its owner, and this too does not go as smoothly as he hoped. Having a character go through the ropes for the first time makes the show still feel new and exciting.
This season's top five best gross-outs:
5: That one lady's fingernails falling off
Going back to those Internet rumors, the "Hate on Your Dial" episode is allegedly what got the show cancelled, thanks to horrific images of Klansmen doing awful things to African Americans. The episode has a lot of offensive language, which is intentional to reflect the villains' evil, but I have to wonder if some is not, and merely pushing 1980s' boundaries, not 1950s' boundaries. It's possible, of course, that I'm taking the episode far too seriously, and that the show's creators needed a monster of the week, and decided on "racists." It's more strange than it is uncomfortable. There's a lot of strangeness this season, such as the guy turning his dog into his wife, the out-of-nowhere Kurosawa homage, the other guys with their dead stuffed parents, and more. There are a lot fewer traditional "horror movie" moments, and a lot more moments that are just plain weird. Whether that's a good or bad thing depends on your own sensibilities.
The picture and audio on this five-disc set is hit or miss. The visuals are soft throughout, but there are times when they look far too rough than they should be, and are hard on the eyes. The audio suffers as well, as many times I strained to hear what the actors were saying. There aren't a ton of extras, but most of the episodes come with their original "next week on" promo, which is a nice little treat for fans.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
No Uncle Lewis this season? He's the big bad. I missed him this time around.
During this season, the minds behind Friday the 13th: The Series experimented with new types of stories and took risks too see how much they could get away with on TV. These choices got their show cancelled, but it also made for some crazy watching. It's cheesy and laughable, but it's also unpredictable and over-the-top. The "fun" quality of the series outweighs the cheese.
Not guilty. Cheesy, yes, but not guilty.
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