It’s the Halloween season, so let’s watch season one of Friday the 13th: The Series.
You might recall that the show had nothing to do with Jason Voorhees and everything to do with an evil antique store. The series ran from 1987 to 1990 in syndication, and is perhaps most famous for being at the forefront of the big “too much violence on television” controversy of the late ‘80s. Most important, I love the show dearly, so let’s watch it.
Before going further, I have to give a shout-out to the book Curious Goods: Behind the Scenes of Friday the 13th: The Series by Alyse Wax, which is easily the definitive resource for fans of the show, overflowing with interviews and behind-the-scenes history. If only every making-of book was this exhaustive.
Although the first epiosde, “The Inheritance,” doesn’t include the show’s opening narration, it’s worth repeating as we go into this rewatch: “Lewis Vendredi made a deal with the devil, to sell cursed antiques. But he broke the pact, and it cost him his soul.” The first scene in the first episode is our introduction to Uncle Lewis, the number one villain of the series. A family enters the antique store and wants to buy a doll for their young daughter. Lewis has had enough, and ushers them out of the store, saying the doll isn’t for sale. Lewis is then chased through the store by explosions of fire and ghostly spirits, eventually falling down an elevator pit (This two-story building somehow has a freight elevator) and into a pit leading to (I’m assuming) Hell.
This is a major point in the show’s mythology, and it happens so fast. Who is Lewis? Why was this incident his breaking point? We don’t know. Perhaps leaving the store to Micki and Ryan was also him leaning toward the good. When Lewis later returns, he’ll be pure evil (or will he?) so this short glimpse of such a major character leaves us with a lot of questions.
We finally meet cousins Micki (Robey, a.k.a. Louise Robey) and Ryan (John D. LeMay) as they meet at the antique store. They’ve never met (Ryan thought his long-lost cousin was a guy named Michael). After discovering more antiques in an underground vault, the cousins temporarily reopen the store to sell the last of the antiques. The family from the opening scene comes back, and buys the creepy doll for the little girl.
That night, Jack Marshak shows up, saying he supplies Lewis with some of the rarer antiques an that Lewis often forgets to pay him. Upon learning Lewis is dead and Micki and Ryan are his family, Jack offers more backstory, saying he and Lewis were childhood friends, and Jack was the one who first taught Lewis the ways of magic and the dark arts. When Lewis started getting deeper into stuff like devil worship, their friendship became strained. The cousins find Lewis’ manifest — a huge book containing records of everything he sold — and Jack deduces that Lewis sold his soul to the devil, receiving wealth and immortality in exchange for selling the antiques, which are infused the devil’s evil doings.
Feeling remorse over having sold off the evil doll, Micki and Ryan go looking for it. The doll has been busy, being a loyal (and talking!) plaything for the little girl, and using telekinesis powers to kill anyone who tries to separate them, including the girl’s nanny and stepmother. Micki and Ryan show up, and there’s a spooky battle in a backyard playground, with the doll darkening the sun and summoning a storm to fight back. Micki wrests the doll away from the girl, and it’s over.
Back at the store, Jack explains that the cursed antiques cannot be destroyed, but they can be kept safe by locking them in the hidden vault under the store. Micki calls her fiancé to tell him the wedding is postponed until she gets things sorted out at the store. We get the show’s mission statement when it’s said that the three of them must get back all the antiques. Running the store and selling regular, non-evil antiques will be their cover. (I guess calling the cops is not an option?) It’s also during this scene that Jack gives the store its new name: Curious Goods.
When the show is smart: A line of dialogue states that the little girl has “lost two moms now” revealing that this domineering woman the “evil stepmother” trope. This means the spooky doll isn’t just a spooky doll, but representative of the girl’s biological mother. Best of all, the writers let this psychological stuff simmer in the background rather than hit us over the head with it.
When the show is cheesy: This first batch of episodes had a running gag with Ryan saying flirtatious pickup lines towards Micki. I’d like to give the show the benefit of the doubt and say Ryan is just joking, but it’s still weird. There remains, however, a lot of Ryan/Micki “shippers” among the show’s fandom. The person who edited the show’s Wikipedia entry appears to be one, insisting multiple times that the two are “cousins through marriage.”
Devilish dialogue: Micki: “What’s going to happen to Mary?” Ryan: “Oh, a good shrink ought to be able to fix her up in about 20 years.”
– The little girl is played by Sarah Polley, who went on to have a successful Hollywood career.
– Although written to be the first episode, this was filmed after several others, to give the cast and crew time to gel.
– This episode received the first of the show’s two Emmy nominations, for Outstanding Achievement in Graphic Design and Title Sequence. It lost to the PBS series Mystery.
– Why’s it called Friday the 13th? Paramount had a hit going with Star Trek: The Next Generation, which succeeded with the Star Trek name, but all-new characters in place of Shatner and co. So Paramount gave producer Frank Mancuso Jr. freedom to do whatever he wanted, as long as it was called Friday the 13. The antique store setup was an attempt to give the show a Twilight Zone anthology feel.
Back in the vault: The episode packs a ton of information in its one hour, both introducing us to all the characters and the haunted store, while also doing a full-on killer doll movie alongside it. I enjoy the episode, but there’s so much cheesiness in it that I don’t know if this one alone can justify my love of the show. Things will get more interesting — and a lot crazier — as the show progresses. (I promise the rest of these blog entries won’t be as long as this first one.)
Next: This is the worst crazy sect I’ve ever been in.
Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.