Season 1, Episode 4: “A Cup of Time” (F. Harvey Frost, director; Barbara Sachs, writer) (24 October, 1987)
More than one character gets tangled up looking for the fountain of youth.
Birdie, a social worker from Curious Goods’ neighborhood (aka, one seen in this episode and never again) alerts the crew to a rash of disappearances among the homeless people she works with. Micki, Ryan, and Jack investigate, discovering a link to a newly popular rock star, while Jack tries to fend off Birdie’s advances. [Note for the future: see season 3, episode 14, “Repetition,” written by Jennifer Lynch for a very satisfying episode that features a social worker.]
The Cheese: Rock star in question, of whom Ryan is a fan, is named Lady Die. Whose youth depends on killing others. Yes, show, WE GET IT. / Biggest wedge of cheese award goes to Lady Die’s hit single: a hard rock version of “I’m a Little Teapot.” Of all the public domain songs, that’s what you choose?
The Sins: Gluttony and Vanity
The Curiosities: The writer and director of this episode never filled these roles in the series again. Why, I wonder? F. Harvey Frost reads like the pseudonym of a chilly exec. Writer Sachs was a consulting producer; she’d worked on Friday the 13th, Part VII, which is truly terrible.
Erin: I blame summertime [2020, under Coronavirus quarantine, no less] for the fact that it took me until episode four to realize the pattern: each episode’s object corresponds to one (or more) of the seven deadly sins: wrath (the girl with the doll); greed (the pen); envy and lust (the ugly-ass cupid statue); and vanity (cup). I mean, a decade-plus of Catholic school and it takes me this long? Inexcusable. [Note: Prior posts in our blog that associate each episode with a sin or two were retrofitted to include this detail, after Erin’s revelation.] If each episode has a touch of the old-school morality play vibe, in this instance it actually is paired with (and in some ways masks) the more important moral point of the episode: the way Lady Die/Sarah preys on the homeless because she knows no one will care (the police sure don’t; that’s timely) and masks the way she is “draining” people for her own success by hiding it under good works. Birdie is similarly tempted, first by trying to appear younger, then by the cup itself, even though she is presented as a thoughtful, moral person. In contrast to Sarah, she doesn’t need to drain an already vulnerable person; she and the homeless guy connect and it reminds her what vitality really is.
Kristopher: Yes, the doubling going on here was nice to see; Birdie and Lady Die are both charitable givers to the street community, and are also both struggling with vanity, fear of aging. That moment of connection after she throws away the cup and sobs is cool. [Retro-critical metacommentary: Geez, I sound like such a douche.]
E: There’s also the whole protein drink subplot, which seems irrelevant for most of the episode. I actually thought Jack was lying and it was some experiment related to the shop. But weirdly, I think it connects to the Birdie plot in this respect: If I’m reading the ending correctly, it suggests she’s adopting the pickpocket girl; providing a home and nurturing for the next generation without having to give birth. Jack is creating a protein/energy drink, with a side-effect of nymphomania. Birdie wants Jack; Jack ignores this. Yet at the end, Birdie becomes a mom without conventional procreation, and Jack has figured out the formula for boundless energy without nymphomania. What are you trying to say, show?
K: The energy drink seems cleverly tied to the theme in that Jack, too, seems to be striving for some form of youthfulness in his experiment. I wasn’t remarking much on these thematics of the episode, which I wasn’t liking very much until Birdie became more of a focus. This show, even in its weaker moments, has pretty carefully layered scripts.
E: The stop-motion (?) vines were a cool effect, and I liked the way the lore of the “swapper’s vines” fit into the object. I wish Jack had mentioned a bit more about it; I tried to google it, but most of the results were for spouse swapping.
K: Hot. And, yes, the vines seem to be stop-motion when they start to emerge from the cup, and then for the shots where they twist around the necks of the victims, it’s filmed backwards (done with the camera upside-down so that when the film is projected the correct way, things that were shot forwards appear backwards. In other words, they start with the vine around the victim’s neck and slowly pull it off while filming; when projected, it looks like it’s wrapping around the neck, rather than loosening from it. John Carpenter used this effect in The Fog when the fog ‘retreats’ from certain areas.
E: I’d say a hard-rock version of “I’m a Little Teapot” is ridiculous, but I’ve heard weirder.
K: I hope I never have to hear that again. Also, the little girl’s Canadian accent is extremely pronounced when she sings the “Little Teapot” song: “short and stoot; here is my handle, here is my spoot.”
E: I noticed that too!
Season 1, Episode 5: “Hellowe’en” (Timothy Bond, director; William Taub, writer) (31 October, 1987)
A family reunion from hell when Uncle Lewis stops by.
The Goods: A Halloween party at the Curious Goods store goes south when two guys sneak into the vault just as Uncle Lewis’s spirit shows up and attempts to escape hell with the help of a demon and an amulet. Hijinks ensue.
The Cheese: It’s an Uncle Lewis episode, so, Uncle Lewis, with his Colonel Sanders accent and bolo tie. / Lewis’s wife, Grace, died from neglect. Subtle.
Sins: If it’s Uncle Lewis, it’s always greed.
Kristopher: Hellowe’en spelled the UK way. The Canadian influence?
Erin: Very likely. I didn’t find a lot of subtext in this episode; it seemed a pretty straightforward “escape from hell by any means necessary” plot. (That I can recall enough “escape from hell” plots to make one “standard” says something about my viewing habits.) That being said, if taken with “A Cup of Life,” there is a shared theme of wanting more than you deserve at the expense of others. That theme of entitlement is mirrored briefly with Ryan’s “friends” who sneak down to the basement because they know the owners and feel they have the right. Some cool effects: I liked the way the apparition of Lewis appeared like an image out of a staticky TV set. Also, I’d be curious as to how accurate the object lore/old dudes chanting at each other bits are.
Things that seemed “off” or troubling: 1) Jack takes over Ryan’s creepy factor: Ryan was surprisingly not creepy toward Micki (no comment on her outfit or off-color remarks); meanwhile, Jack’s dressed as Merlin making boob jokes at the expense of two of the party attendees. Given that he later he uses their own toxic masculine posturing against the two guys in the truck, perhaps it was supposed to be an act? Either way, off-putting. 2) Greta the demon. By switching her from child to an actress with dwarfism had an unfortunate tinge of associating difference with monstrosity. Not untypical, I know.
Question for you: Who was staring through the window at Micki? Was it supposed to be Greta or Uncle Lewis? [Read on for answer.]
K: I also was wondering if you’d find much subtext here, as I didn’t. Lewis’s “ambition” and “greed” are things he, himself highlights, in his manufactured story of his murder of his wife by neglect. At most, this episode seems to deepen the sense of the two characters’ “soft hearts,” along with Marshak’s own soft heart at the end with his story of Grace.
Marshak being creepily misogynistic with two women, performing basic magic on their cleavage is silly and seemed out of character to me. This “playful” magic is balanced later, when he shows (for the first time?) that he’s something of a sorcerer, and something of a pining would-be lover. The story between Marshak and Lewis gets a bit more complex here. But if there is subtext, it is in the playful magic vs. occult sorcery and playful manipulation/flirting/sexual harassment vs. a sense of true unrequited love.
You’re right that the episode is not unique in its unfortunate likening of a small person to both a child and a demon. That line: “Yes, the midget, she’s really a demon.” Ugh. The idea that this body be both infantilized and a marker of monstrosity is awful. And then I think: Hey, this is one of those shows that gives roles to small people!
Three things that I thought were very curious and/or cool: 1) a hidden room in the antiques shop, makes me wonder if they’ll make this a part of the show—it’s such a cozy space and would serve to make the shop feel much more like a home base. So far, I haven’t been able to get a real sense of the shop’s layout in terms of where these characters inhabit space, where they actually live. They gather in the main room, but having this baroque, cozy room would be a nice touch. [Note from the future: the hidden room never reappears, but we do get a better sense of how Curious Goods accommodates its dwellers, eventually.] 2) Lewis’s dramatic exit seems a reference to both Nosferatu (the cock crows, and morning light destroys the shadow monster), and Hammer’s Dracula with Christopher Lee, where Peter Cushing rips away a curtain after literally leaping upon the window. (I like your point that he appears first as a flickering TV image, or a kind of Pepper’s Ghost illusion, all kinds of references to the illusory moving image.) 3) To answer your question above, I wonder if the opening scene with Micki being observed is an homage to The Spiral Staircase (1946)? I thought it was someone spying on Micki from her closet, through clothing, though—that it was actually a curtain makes more sense, but lessens the chance this was an allusion. And yet the observer is watching Micki get dressed in excessive makeup. In The Spiral Staircase (1946), the killer kills women whom he sees as deficient; this woman, he sees as somehow dirty (it’s implied she might be a sex worker); later, he targets a mute woman. The fact that the “demon” comes in another body that would be “deficient” to the killer of Spiral Staircase, along with the fact that the Abraham Stark Mortuary was established in 1946, the same year as the film, still has me wondering. Probably not enough, though.
E: Well, that would give an added resonance; if it was an intentional tribute, and the focus on bodies suggest it was Greta at the window. In fact, she asks Lewis which kind of body he would prefer: man or woman. (Surprisingly progressive Uncle Lewis: “I don’t care, as long as it’s alive.”) That Greta asks the question could be viewed as a troubling suggestion of “body envy” on her part.
K: Further evidence that the writer sees her body as a figuration of lack.
Wax notes an interesting anecdote that the production of this episode was a bit troubled. The original director (who had done Hammer films … I’d read this after I made my comment about Hammer above!) wasn’t covering anything in his shooting; he was just doing long, single takes. He was fired. Then, the music for the episode (a 38-minute score) was erased due to a technical glitch and had to be written in a day and a half (Wax 2015, 47-8).
E: I’ve been curious about the music used in the show, especially the music that features lyrics. Were they written for the show, or purchased? Apparently, the instrumental score for the first couple of seasons was released as a soundtrack album!
Season 1, Episode 2: “The Poison Pen” (Timothy Bond, director; Durnford King, writer) (airdate: October 10, 1987)
In which Gossip Girl meets Sister [well, Brother] Act, complete with flying guillotine blades!
The Goods: The series settles into what will become its season one formula: starting the episode with the individual in possession of, or about to take possession of, one of Uncle Lewis’s cursed objects. The first of two series episodes devoted to cursed writing utensils (the second will be season three’s “Mightier Than the Sword” [3.10]), “Poison Pen” starts with the monks of “The Eternal Brotherhood” debating the potential sale of their building; the abbot who opposes the sale ends up taking a literal flying leap as a mysterious hand writes his fate as a portentous prediction. Is the monk in question psychic, or does he cause these things to happen? (Spoiler alert: It’s the latter, powered by a cursed fountain pen used by a criminal posing as a monk.) Micki and Ryan go undercover as monks to retrieve the object—though between Micki’s looking like a supermodel in a cassock, and Ryan’s incessant wisecracking, it’s difficult to believe even the dumbest of the brotherhood would buy into their ruse.
The Sins: The first of many many entries into the “Greed” category. Lust also plays a part.
The Cheese: Besides Micki and Ryan dressed as monks, that is … This episode also has both flying guillotine blades and flying abbots. / It also has Jack’s questionable ornithological (er, cryptozoological?) opinions: “Giant Chilean Condors: they’re the worst kind!” / Oh, and there’s this bit of dialogue between Jack and Brother Lacroix:
Jack: “I thought you were meditating.”
Lacroix: “But I am … premeditating!”
The Verdict: We're just getting started ...
Erin: Ryan’s wisecracking dialogue and sartorial choices are giving off serious proto-Xander Harris (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) energy. Add to that the continued creepy cousin flirting, but this time overshadowed by creepy monks...especially Brother Drake’s spying on Micki as she showered, with a close-up on his eye. Psycho homage? Also, I have to call out the pervy directorial choice for the camera to linger on Micki in her underwear. My guess is that it was being played (somewhat) for humor, but it went on a bit longer than necessary.
Kristopher: Well, we are at the tail-end of the Slasher cycle, so lingering on Robey’s model form is I suppose both a prerequisite and (possibly?) the series making an in-joke (as you suggest) towards such prerequisites. Let’s hope! The Psycho homage is for sure, also in the episode’s gleeful (sinful?) humor. Brother Lecroix struts around like a Diva. He reminds me of a combination of Lost in Space’s (1965) fey Dr. Zachary Smith, and equally fey villain Jafar in Disney’s later Aladdin (1992). I love the moment when he momentarily guffaws when he finds out the real Brothers Simon and Matthew were killed due to his curse! He also has my vote for best line, with the “premeditating” bit (see “The Cheese” above).
E: Cloistered Catholic communities also offer a reliable, Gothic creep factor (see: The Name of the Rose ); note the flagellating monk in the background as Micki and Ryan walk down the hall in their first monastery scene. But, “The Eternal Brotherhood”? Speaking as a lapsed Catholic, that’s not the way monasteries are named. That, and the opening shot crow, made me think they were secretly vampires.
K: Interesting thought. (And I like crows.) The whole brotherhood here felt very cultish, it’s true. They also weren’t very observant. Micki looks nothing like a boy, and Ryan’s gee-whiz Xanderisms make him stick out like a sore Monk. That being said, I liked Marshak’s line that things could’ve been worse while he glances at a skeleton in the dungeon. Also … this monastery has an effing dungeon! The climactic scene there with Marshak tied down and waiting for the candle to burn through the rope that activates the guillotine is pure Poe (a la “The Pit and the Pendulum” ). The intertextuality here is very much of the horror genre; the mystery-quest scenario is also right out of Poe, but the allusiveness to other horror tropes (your point about vampires, for example) keeps this show original. I’m really enjoying it.
E: Practical effects employed were very effective in this episode, especially the bed-crushing scene. Flying abbott and soaring guillotine blade, not so much. Points for trying, though.
K: I also noticed Timothy Bond’s direction. His use of camera movement is extensive; his camera is nearly always shifting and tracking. He directed nine episodes of the series. I’ll keep my eye on this, as it might be interesting to see what individual directorial styles are at play here. Canadian director William Fruet (who directed ten episodes in total) is the director of The House by the Lake (1976), Funeral Home (1980), and most famously, Spasms (1983). He also directed episodes of Tales from the Darkside (1983-88), the 1980s reboot of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1985-89)and Poltergeist: The Legacy (1996-99). This point just trails off into nowhere, but the point is, this series seems to have nurtured or attracted some significant talent behind the camera.
E: I’m enjoying the anti-capitalist thread thus far; greed/lust for power drove Uncle Lewis’s deal...which is tied to commerce. Rupert Seldon and his partner—both criminals before, it seems—hide out as monks, and make the Church complicit in everything that follows. (Nice axe-ing, pervy Brother Drake!) That’s two stories in which greed is the primary motivator.
K: Yes! Greed and real estate. It’s funny, my head is perpetually in Scooby-Doo mode, because one of my initial notes was, “Like Scooby-Doo, the episode turns on a real estate deal.”
Season 1, Episode 3: “Cupid’s Quiver” (Atom Egoyan, director; Stephen Katz, writer) (airdate: October 17, 1987)
In which incels can be traced back to 15th century Italy.
The Goods: A series of murders occur connected to a seriously ugly cupid statue that ends up in a frat house. (Like, seriously ugly: it looks like Freddy Krueger with a bow and arrow.) Maintenance man Eddie Munroe steals the statue, and once he figures out what it can do, goes full Phantom of the Opera on the girl he’s obsessed with.
The Cheese: Ryan continues to be weird about cousin Micki.
The Sins: The episode would want us to say Lust, but really Wrath is the sin at play here.
Kristopher: The backstory around the Cupid of Malek (1453 Italy) is a kind of ugly duckling tale, but also a tale of misogyny—the would-be lover is first a serial killer of women, and then one of a group of “college guys.” “They must fancy themselves as loverboys or something,” says one character. Next shot is through the crosshairs of a camera lens. In the case of stalker Eddie Munroe, the camera isolates the woman’s body parts as Eddie’s eyes would. I like this. It’s not the camera (aka the series’ perspective) ogling Micki’s bum in underpants. Here, it’s a particular gaze motivated by character that we get to inhabit. The series often puts us right up next to the perspective of unsavoury characters, challenging our allegiances in ways that divert viewers to other aspects of the episode, including cinematography and script. The viewers have to figure out not only where their allegiance lies, but just what it is about the scenario that attracts them. Eddie, it turns out, is not a Sigma Delta Chi member, though he wears one of their shirts. The setup is stacked in almost allegorical proportions, like a kind of fable.
Erin: My notes basically say: “Oh, it’s about incels!” While I could write for hours about the dodgy way “love” is defined throughout the episode, I was pleasantly surprised that neither the camera nor the dialogue seemed to suggest the viewer should sympathize with Eddie (or the bar patron at the beginning).
K: On an interesting note of generic tropes that other series will pick up, Micki and Ryan pose as cops in this episode, a la the much later Supernatural. Also, yes, “love” isn’t really the object here. The men in the episode in possession of the statue don’t want to date these women; they want to consume them, to destroy them. This makes it all the more delicious that our resident elder Jack Marshak spikes the frat party’s punch bowl with sodium pentathol—like, he totally roofies the frat boys!
E: Micki also gets the great line, in response to Ryan’s “he’s got a serious problem”: “Not as serious as hers.” The bar is low, but not bad for the era.
K: Eddie takes a girl at a bar to a place that he calls “a beautiful spot, lots of lovely flowers.” Again, love here is violent. It’s about not just possessing but entirely consuming the beloved. Like Nick Cave’s song, “Where the Wild Roses Grow,” this is the kind of mythical, idyllic place of death where a person destroys a lover so that no one else can have them. As soon as the pursuit in both cases is over and the woman says, “I love you,” the next move is to destroy them. As he watches his date being stung to death, Eddie mimes “I love you” into the truck window and draws a heart on the window. Chilling. By the show’s rules so far, the cursed object will only, ultimately, perform or serve evil; the cupid falls only into the hands of killers, or perhaps draws only them. This series “rule” will change and be compromised in later seasons/episodes.
E: I think even here the narrative leaves it open as to whether those affected will kill regardless, or if the cursed object brings violence out of them, a la “Billy” from Angel (1999-2004). And like “Billy,” why is the effect only on men? I’m not trying to make a gender parity argument here, just think it would be interesting if the episode had explored a man using it, and a woman using it for the same reason.
K: Yes, and as we’ll realize with more episodes under our belts, this series misses (or intentionally skirts [haha, no pun intended]) many such opportunities. The chase scene between Ryan and Eddie, for example, misses the chance to have Eddie “sting” Ryan with the cupid, thereby bringing him under Eddie’s power. But I’m sure the suggestion of homosexuality was probably too much for even a syndicated show in the late 80s. Too bad. Cool post-industrial space for the climactic set piece, with the two guys chasing each other around a kind of steely web, like monkeys.
E: It would have been fascinating to see that dynamic; still, if my recollection of 80s-era North American TV serves me, would have been followed by a chest-pounding assertion of masculinity that would be embarrassing to watch.
K: "No homo,” I guess. Also, have I mentioned that I’m not really a big fan of this episode’s ‘Canadian darling’ director, Atom Egoyan? There, we mentioned his name in the writeup.
Welcome to Two Guys, a Girl, and an Antique Shop, which, in the spirit of international cooperation offers a Canadian-American (Kris) and an American (Erin) watching an 80s Canadian/American/German co-production and spewing our deathless thoughts on it.
We never settled on a strict format for the posts. The intrepid reader will find a combination of call-and-response, where one of us initiates commentary for the other to consider, and more essayistic musings where we each offer a more extended take. We may annotate each other’s responses with comments. At times, we will take the liberty of going a little “Siskel and Ebert” on the episodes’ strengths and failings.
Occasionally, you’ll see references to Alyse Wax’s 2015 book on the series, Curious Goods: Behind the Scenes of Friday the 13th: The Series, a decidedly-for-fans collection of episode summaries, many interviews with cast, crew, and creative team, and very brief observations by Wax on individual episodes that fall somewhere between “fun fact!” and gossamer-light analysis. Accordingly, any references to Wax will be occasionally appreciative, often frustrated, and sometimes very critical. Still, no one else is writing about the show, and we praise Wax for her terrific work with the interviews of the show’s creative team, and giving us something to riff on.
Because the roots of the horror anthology and semi-anthology TV series lie in the pulp-horror tradition’s gruesome morality tales, each episode write-up will come with a nod to which “deadly sin” forms the episode’s base structure. And once we’ve finished the (re)watch of Friday the 13th: The Series, we’ll offer our list of choices for the best episodes the series had to offer.
Season 1, Episode 1: The Inheritance (William Fruet, director; William Taub, writer/producer)
Airdate: October 3, 1987
In which deals are made and broken, and a little girl works out her issues … with a creepy doll.
Small business overhead being brutal, Lewis Vendredi (get it?), played by R.G. Armstrong, makes a deal with the devil to sell cursed antiques, until he gets a momentary attack of conscience and the devil drags him to hell. (That fine print is a killer.) His remaining family—niece Micki and nephew Ryan—inherit the shop and sell everything off before they realize what they’ve done. Jack Marshak, a friend of Lewis’s before Lewis went dark side, vows to help them retrieve all the objects, starting with a creepy-ass doll currently in the possession of an extremely angry and dead-eyed little girl (Sarah Polley).
Greed rules this series—a fitting a theme for a show that often comments implicitly on Reagan’s America—and it provides the initial impetus for Lewis’s transgressions. This pilot episode’s title, “The Inheritance,” pushes the notion further, alluding to a legacy of greed left to a new generation by their forebears. Micki and Ryan (and later Johnny) will spend many episodes in a brutal struggle to vault the cursed objects, cleaning up Uncle Lewis’s mess. Perhaps this also is why the episode’s central child figure has some serious issues with Wrath management.
Erin: Visually, the episode was a bit grainy; that and its dark palette made me think of Forever Knight (1992-96) (so Toronto!) Some of the special effects weren’t great, but I thought the flaming cloven footprints on the staircase was an inspired choice.
Kris: Agreed. I like the murky aesthetic, and we’ll come to see that one of the striking aspects of this entire series is its beautiful cinematography. Fruet’s opening direction makes nice use of camera movement to suggest claustrophobic spatial dread. The Curious Goods shop space (and the title sequence version of it) reminds me of the overstuffed writing room set for Ray Bradbury Theatre (1985-92). I was surprised by the fairly graphic makeup effects, I suppose allowable because of the show’s late-night timeslot.
E: One can’t go wrong in Gothic series like this by basing the first story on a creepy doll and creepy kid. (A young Sarah Polley, no less!) The acting is...not great, but Polley really does sell the blank-faced sociopathy. Dialogue didn’t sparkle, but it wasn’t terribly clunky either; not bad for a pilot episode. Definitely fits into the semi-anthology format; the narrative is primarily concerned with the case of the week, but with some plot advancement/character development for Micki and Ryan. (Ryan’s dorkiness and useful knowledge gleaned from comic books in this episode seems ahead of its time.)
K: Agreed, on all counts here. Polley plays the bad seed fairly well. The series is not particularly interested in psychological realism, or in developing how the doll affects (or brings out?) the personality of the girl played by Sarah Polley; Ryan’s insensitive final line is a little gross (see “the Cheese” below)! Yet, the episode’s twisted climax in a playground with events on a swing set and on an haywire merry-go-round is a nice touch. There is some rushed storytelling going on here, likely due to the pilot format of having to shade in quickly any character backstory, at least for Micki. I also found Ryan’s comic book knowledge to be a prescient feature, linking the series to roots in pulp traditions. So many pulp horror stories read as cautionary morality tales, and that’s also going on here.
Jack Marshak is a cool character, kind of a mystic version of Van Helsing. He’s a bit clumsily introduced, but I like that he has known Louis Vendredi, taught him his “first magic” and “tarot”; He’s a bit like Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s (1997-2003) Giles in that respect (or an FBI supervisor who brings cases to agents), and in the sense that he acts as their guide in terms of information and, at episodes’s end, as their prompt for the next case. He reads headlines and finds symptoms of the items. This particular feature—how the cases will come to the Curious Goods group’s attention—will become more varied, much less prescriptive, as the series develops. Supernatural (2005-2020) also comes to mind in the sense of a dead/lost family member sparking two of the younger generation to become questers. Here, there’s the added element of the two younger investigators having to deal with the sins of the fathers (or, here, the Uncle).
E: Absolutely! And Supernatural and The X-Files (1993-2002, 2016, 2018) have their own connection to each other, with a number of shared writers and directors (and visual aesthetic and so on). How much of a role will travel play in this? It seems like a set-up for a new location each week.
The Cheese: Ryan wastes no time perving on his cousin Micki (suggesting that his cousin being a woman “changes things” and “makes them more interesting”), thus initiating a long series of such behaviour from him. It’s so pervasive in season 1, it’s almost a leitmotif. Later episodes make it clear it's “cousin by marriage,” but still. Ew. / Lewis being dragged into hell is the first in a long line of chuckle-inducing ‘doorway to hell’ moments in the series. / Ryan’s crass analysis when they finally get the doll away from the girl (but not before she’s gone full spree killer): “Nothing 20 years of psychotherapy won’t fix.” / Micki calls their uncle Uncle Lewis, but Marshak calls him Louis. His surname is Vendredi, so Louis makes more sense. But casting the southern-accented R.G. Armstrong as Lewis makes this an even more complicated rabbit hole.
The Verdict: Pilot episodes sometimes struggle with juggling numerous objectives—introduce the characters; tell a story; set up the series’ landscape, tone and logic. But “The Inheritance” pulls it off rather well, largely due to the compelling 'bad seed' story at its center. The series’ willingness to chip away at childhood innocence with Sarah Polley’s deliciously wicked, creepy-cursed-doll-toting Mary suggests, we think, an innovativeness in pushing into more uncomfortable horror territory that characterizes Friday the 13th: The Series as a whole. As we’ll see, this show was not afraid to confront audiences with uncomfortable issues, including allusions to the HIV-AIDS crisis, and extended treatments of neo-Nazi hatred, religious fundamentalism, racism, and misogyny.
The same tentativeness that characterizes some series pilots also characterizes our first post in some respects. It’s difficult to put an individual episode into the context of a series that you haven’t yet seen (Kris), or seen all of, or barely remember (Erin)! As we get deeper into the series, so will our musings on the episodes gain more analytical depth (we can promise this because we’ve already written them!). We thereby invite you to join us next Friday for our thoughts on the next two episodes: “The Poison Pen” and “Cupid’s Quiver,” directed by Atom Egoyan.
Critical Rewatch #1
Friday the 13th: The Series aired in syndication from 1987 to 1990. It boasts a large fanbase but almost no scholarly commentary. This episode-by-episode critical blog on the series is part of a research project by Erin Giannini and Kristopher Woofter that will include the series in a scholarly monograph on horror anthology TV series in the Reagan era.