Saturday, November 03, 2012

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Land of the Lost: "Baby Sitter" (November 8, 1975)

This week’s episode of Land of the Lost is titled “Baby Sitter,” and like “The Pylon Express” it’s a good, solid Holly (Kathy Coleman) episode.

In “Baby Sitter,” Will (Wesley Eure) and Rick (Spencer Milligan) are off to map distant corners of the Land of the Lost, but Holly wishes to remain at High Bluff to finish sewing a dress.  

She reminds her father that he has been preaching “self-sufficiency,” and that she can’t ever pass that character test if he doesn’t provide her the space to do so.  Marshall sees the wisdom of this argument and agrees that Holly can stay behind, on the condition that she keeps Chaka (Philip Paley) nearby as a companion.

Will -- proving more unlikable and nasty by the episode -- attempts to mock Holly, first complaining about “women’s lib” and then trying to terrify her with stories about the nearby and mysterious Zarn.  Holly doesn’t take the bait, but the Zarn hears Will’s words of warning and decides to conduct some “research” on Holly.

So while Rick and Will are gone, Holly must not only teach Chaka how to defend himself from the bully Ta, she must contend with the mischievous Zarn.  Holly gives as good as she gets, and the Zarn is impressed with her.  The two even form a friendship of sorts.

When I was growing up, Will was always my favorite character on Land of the Lost, but watching the series again in 2012, I wonder why the writers chose to make him so strident, and so mean to Holly.  

Watching the second season this time around, it seems abundantly plain that Holly -- in a very important sense -- is becoming the series’ most important and most developed character.  

We know what her destiny is (via “Elsewhen”), and we’ve seen her resourcefulness before (“The Search,” “The Pylon Express”) but this episode goes some way in revealing that Holly also possesses the latent capabilities of a leader, and furthermore, that she can hold it together when faced with a bully -- The Zarn -- herself.

An interesting moment in “Baby Sitter” sees the Zarn lecturing Holly about pack politics.  He describes how Ta is the “alpha” Pakuni, and how even if Chaka does wins a fight, he will be right back, by the end of the day, treating Ta as the alpha.  

One of the things I admire about Holly in this episode is that she sticks to her guns and doesn’t let anyone -- not Ta, not Will, and not the Zarn – bully her into backing down.  Poor Chaka is a different story, but Holly is truly impressive here.

It would be really great if someone familiar with the original series created a new, more adult version of Land of the Lost, but one in which a new family ends up in Altrusia…and finds an adult Holly already stranded there.  

She would be living the life she once feared as a child -- that Ronnie/Rani warned her about in “Elsewhen.” It’s been a future without her brother and father.  

But we would see that Holly is doing fine, is quite capable, and has survived and even flourished.

One can dream, right?

Next week: “The Musician.”

Friday, November 02, 2012

Cult Movie Review: Lovely Molly (2012)

Lovely Molly (2012), the new horror film from The Blair Witch Project (1999) co-director Eduardo Sanchez, is all about…an empty chair. 

It’s not Clint Eastwood’s empty chair, however, but rather the comfortable-looking easy chair that once belonged to Molly (Gretchen Lodge’s) unsavory but now-deceased father.  That chair appears prominently at least twice in the film -- at critical narrative junctures -- and the notion transmitted is one of a ghostly (and ghastly) figure who hovers over everything, and has a sinister effect upon Molly’s world and very psyche. 

When we first see the empty chair, Molly unearths it from beneath a white sheet.  This act is a metaphor for the bringing-into-the-open of buried memories.  

When we later see the chair again, it is perched inside a messy tool shed.  Here it guards, at least in a sense, the subterranean entrance to a very, very dark place, one decorated, apparently, with a Satanic emblem.  In terms of the metaphor, the memories excavated have now taken root in Molly’s life, and evil comes to the forefront the deeper Molly treads into her own disturbing history.

The symbol of the empty chair is appropriate and resonant in a horror film that so delicately walks the line terms of its psychological subject matter.  In broad strokes, Lovely Molly concerns how Molly’s state of mind deteriorates shortly after she marries Tim (Johnny Lewis) and moves into her family home.  That deterioration is caused either by a demonic possession, or the re-awakening of memories concerning physical and sexual abuse.  The film walks a tightrope of ambivalence for much of its duration, so we aren’t certain at times if we are witnessing a psychological or supernatural descent into madness and violence.

The Bad Father's Empty Chair.

The Bad Father's Empty Chair #2

By the end of the film, the answer is made clear, but rewardingly, Lovely Molly still plays as a commentary on “malefic” psychological influences, whatever their precise nature.  Although it doesn’t rank alongside The Blair Witch Project in terms of impact, and utilizes found-footage, first-person camera techniques only sporadically, Lovely Molly is nonetheless a carefully-wrought, intriguing “cerebral” horror.

But just don’t make the mistake that it’s a fun horror film.  This is a dark, brooding, nihilistic entertainment obsessed with dark acts and human ugliness.  The films’ climax -- which suggests that the cycle of violence and abuse continues -- is thematically legitimate and consistent with the earlier portions of the film, but it permits no light and no optimism to creep into Molly’s world.

“Something is wrong…”

Lovely Molly follows a newly married couple, Molly and Tim, as they move into Molly’s family home.  Both of her parents are dead, and people in town frequently allude to the terrible events that occurred there.  Soon after moving in, the home’s security system is triggered, and Molly and Tim find the back door open, and hear footsteps.  A police man (Ken Arnold) finds nothing.

A truck driver, Tim is away most of the time, leaving Molly alone in the house.  Before long, the creepy noises and strange incidents in the house lead Molly to resume her old drug habit.  She starts out with weed, thanks to her sister Hannah (Alexandra Holden), but before long has graduated to heroin.  Molly grows increasingly unstable, and increasingly convinced that she is being haunted by the spirit of her dead father, a man who abused both his daughters.

Soon, Molly loses her blue-collar job, and her spiral towards madness accelerates.  She begins spying with a video camera on a happy family living next door.  And then she attempts to seduce Pastor Bobby (Field Blauvelt), the preacher who officiated at her wedding.  

Soon, Molly graduates to murder, though all the while she insists that isn’t her doing the killing.  Rather, it’s “him” (meaning her father…).

“It’s not me.  It’s Him.”

Is she mad or possessed?

One quality that really stands out regarding Lovely Molly involves the lifestyle of Molly and Tim.  They both work blue-collar jobs and are experiencing real problems making ends meet.   When Molly begins to show signs of mental illness, she insists she can handle it, because there is no other option.  “We don’t have health insurance,” she reports. 

Similarly, Molly goes to her job exhausted from the nocturnal visits of the (apparent) malevolent spirit, but begs her concerned boss to stay at work because she “needs the hours.”   

Again and again, the filmmaker paints a powerful picture of economic calamity, and the vise grip of unpaid bills and responsibilities.

This is an important aspect of the film’s tapestry, because so often in mainstream Hollywood -- even in horror films -- those who are struggling financially are portrayed as living in arts-and-crafts mansions, without even a nod to economic reality.  The sense of economic desperation pervading Lovely Molly makes the film all the more ominous and tense.  Molly and her husband are people with few options, and fewer escape valves.  Accordingly, when Molly falls sick and can’t visit a doctor, she falls back on religion (not a therapist), choosing to talking to a preacher.  Pastor Bobby doesn’t exactly prove helpful.

In terms of the film’s approach to its tricky psychological subject matter, I appreciate how, for much of Lovely Molly, events can be interpreted in two ways.   After one bout of madness, for instance, a horrid stench infiltrates the house.  You’ll think immediately of brimstone and the Devil. 

But then we learn that Molly has hidden a rotting deer carcass in the basement. 

Similarly, creaky doors and ringing security alarms can suggest the presence of a ghost…or merely the wind.   Lovely Molly is admirably subtle and opaque in its storytelling, until one blazing but resonant image occurs at the denouement.  It’s one that will take root in your imagination, if you let it. 

Alone, mad and weak, Molly steps out of her house into a misty front yard, and there, an answer to the puzzle is revealed, albeit briefly.  Reading the image literally, the existence of the supernatural is plain.

But even metaphorically, the image could be read as an embrace of madness, brought on by drug use. Lovely Molly is not a straight-forward found footage horror film, and that fact allows the director some flexibility in terms of storytelling.  Sometimes the film is a conventional drama, with the camera adopting a formal third-person perspective.  But at other moments, Molly picks up a video camera and we see the world through her (mad) eyes.  She becomes insistent upon and obsessive about chronicling the presence of her abusive -- and apparently dead -- father in the house. 

In these found footage-styled moments, the film is indeed reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project and its deliberate uncertainty about “seeing.”  In that film, the camera provided a filter to reality, and nobody could agree on what was happening in the woods, despite the presence of video tape and film as impartial observers.  Here, similarly, the camera is never positioned quite right to see any spirits, even though we hear Molly screaming and crying for help. 

One scene that conforms to this approach involves a store’s surveillance video.  In this video, Molly pulls down her pants, and goes through the (disturbing) motions of being savagely raped from behind.  But no rapist is visible.  Either she is bonkers, or there is an invisible force attacking her.  Again, there’s simply no easy or certain answer about what is happening to Molly.  The more cameras are rolling, it seems, the less we actually “see” (or can agree we’ve seen.) 

Again, Lovely Molly offers the engaged viewer the opportunity to interpret the narrative through the rubric of sexual/physical abuse.  Such abuse occurs all too frequently, we know by the facts, and yet many family members and friends make a point not to see it.  We watch Molly’s rape, likewise, and don’t really see it.

What is really happening here?  Even the camera can't tell us for certain.

At a point about two-thirds of the way through the film, Molly -- either mad or possessed – commits a genuinely awful act against an innocent, and I must admit that I found myself troubled and disturbed by these visuals.  I don’t want to state that the film is depressing, but I should make plain that it isn’t an easy watch, or mere entertainment.  Rather, Lovely Molly is hard core in a sense, and really, that’s a valid and legitimate artistic approach given the seriousness of the subject matter.

If the idea is that the cycle of abuse in families is transmitted -- demon possession-like from one generation to the next -- then a film could hardly have treated the subject matter more artfully or more respectfully than does this one. 

Lovely Molly is a legitimate and consistent work of art, with some occasional scares, and it peers, eyes wide,  into the very heart of human darkness.  Gretchen Lodge must be commended for a gutsy, courageous, unblinking lead performance that reminded me of Barbara Hershey's in The Entity (1983), or Mia Farrow's in Rosemary's Baby (1968).   I must admit that I feel torn between praising it as a serious, carefully-crafted and meaningful horror film and wishing that, in some sense, it was more unpredictable or fresh.   But that predictability too may be the point, actually.  

Once you get a look at the empty chair, and realize the emotional burden that Molly carries, the horror in her life is indeed inescapable.

Movie Trailer: Lovely Molly (2012)

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Ask JKM a Question #48: The Outer Limits Remake?

Reader and commenter Trent writes:

“While horror, by far, is my favorite genre, I do appreciate smart science fiction. I enjoyed 'TNG' and watched it irregularly however my personal favorite was 'The Outer Limits', 1995-2002. You have not acknowledged this series, as far as I can tell, even once, and I am curious as to the reason why.  After all, 'TNG' had 178 episodes & 'TOL' had slightly less at 154, I would think that there would be a substantial amount of material available for review .Your thoughts on this series would be appreciated.”

Great question, Trent. 

I can’t really quibble with your assessment of my writing on the remake series.  I may have mentioned it on the blog once or twice in seven years, but you’re right, there’s been nothing substantive about it here.

In part, I haven’t written about the remade Outer Limits simply because I don’t have a deep familiarity with it. 

I watched it on and off during its first season or two, way back in the 1990s when I was working in a blood bank (don't ask...) but that is the extent of my knowledge.  And I have learned from professional and personal experience it is better for me not to write about productions that I don’t have a very clear memory of, because I am more prone to making mistakes.

From what I saw of the Outer Limits series back in the nineties, I liked it fine, but was disappointed that it didn’t feature the atmospheric camera-work of the original, and that some of the writing was not as strong as that found on the original Leslie Stevens/Joe Stefano anthology.  It may just have been the episodes I saw, because I didn’t watch the series regularly.

I don’t want to over-promise, because I’m already watching Timeslip and have Fringe in my queue at the moment, but I honestly wouldn’t mind re-visiting The Outer Limits. 

That said, I also have an urge to watch Quantum Leap and Sliders.  But on your recommendation, I will definitely re-visit (or more accurately, visit…) The Outer Limits remake.  I see it is available on Netflix, so…I’m on it.

Ask JKM a Question #47: Star Wars and Disney?

A reader and commenter, Grayson, asks:

“Any thoughts on the Disney purchase of LucasFilm?

I saw this news item on Tuesday night, before Halloween, and knew that I should address it on the blog soon, so I want to thank you for bringing it up as a JKM question, Grayson.   

I have read both  pros and cons about the merger of Disney and LucasFilm all over the Net, and I suspect how one feels about  the deal comes down to two questions.

These are:

1.      Do you want more Star Wars films?

2.      Do you want better Star Wars films?

For me, the answer to the first question is an unequivocal affirmative. 

Since I was seven years-old and read excitedly of George Lucas’s plan to create nine movies, I’ve been in fandom for the long haul.  I have always wanted to see Star Wars Episodes 7 – 9, and feel like it was a promise made, and I promise I would like to see fulfilled. 

My mother is a Star Wars fan too, and she has joked for years that I’ll have to wheel her to the movies on life support to see those final episodes.  She’s in great shape, thankfully, and with Episode 7 slated for 2015, she can walk with me to our seats under her own steam.

The second question I also answer in the affirmative.

I am not a prequel basher/hater, but I can’t deny facts about the last iteration of Star Wars.

The general attitude about the prequels is something akin to disgust and loathing.  I posted my first ask JKM about the merits of The Phantom Menace, and was inundated by insistent (but polite and intelligent) Star Wars fans who WOULD ABSOLUTELY NOT HEAR ANYTHING POSITIVE ABOUT THE PREQUELS.

The reasons for such disgust and loathing are complex, I submit, but you can’t deny the cultural vibe. 

A new trilogy -- with George Lucas out of the driver’s seat -- promises a new take on Star Wars.  It could be bad or it could be good.  But if you are already a prequel hater then getting more George Lucas-directed efforts and expecting better results could be the very definition of insanity.  Therefore, a change should be seen as net positive, right?

The burning issue here is what kind of a “creator” is George Lucas?

Is he of the Gene Roddenberry mode?  Is he someone who set down a vision and series of principles which others can dutifully follow (but with a few twists and turns)?

Or is he of the Rod Serling mode, in which’s the author’s writing voice proves so distinctive and unique that nobody else could ever approximate it?  The many remakes of The Twilight Zone, both on film and television, have lacked something that made the original so special.  In my opinion, that’s Rod Serling’s authorial voice.

But I tend to think of Lucas in the former camp. 

Star Trek goes on without Gene Roddenberry to this day, and some of it has been quite good.  I feel that, being fair, the same would likely be true of Star Wars.  A visionary young director with a sense of love for Lucas’s universe may be just the shot in the arm the franchise needs in 2012. 

I hate to bring up the idea of mortality here because I, for one, intend to live forever (if only to continue blogging…), but I came to the realization before the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie premiered that I was very fortunate to have Star Trek in my life.  It was a myth that had meaning to me both as a kid and now, as an adult.  I want that myth to be there for my son.  He may need it, as I have needed it.

Again, the same is true of Star Wars.  It has become bigger and more important than any one artist.   If we want the myth to continue for future generations, there must be a changing of the guard, and now is as good a time as any.

I have also read that some people are upset that Lucas Film is now part of Disney, and that this union will somehow make the Star Wars films more commercial and therefore compromise artistry.

That has to be one of the funniest arguments I have read in recent years. 

Go to Target or Toys R Us and you will detect -- through the piles of Legos and action figures -- that Star Wars is already commercialized to the hilt.  I see very little evidence that Disney-fying the franchise is going to represent any kind of sell-out.  Star Wars -- commercially speaking -- is already a sell-out.

To put it another way: from the comfort and warmth of my plush Tauntaun sleeping bag, I just can’t work myself into a self-righteous froth over the idea of Star Wars amusement park attractions. You know?

I do believe that, going forward, the new creative engineer behind Star Wars must ask some critical questions about the franchise.

In no particular order these are:

Is Star Wars effectively the Skywalker saga?   If so, then this fact necessitates the inclusion of the family in some capacity in Episodes 7 through 9.  If not, then what will the new movies concern, and what characters will front them? 

Is Star Wars the story of the Force and its impact on the universe?  If so, then there needs to be some sense of authorial clarity about the Force.  Is it a parasitic organism in humanoid blood streams?  Is it a spiritual force that can be tapped by anyone?   Is it both?  Is it a sentient thing, engineering the shape of intelligent life? If so, why does it care? 

I’m not saying we need to know all the answers in the movie itself.  I’m saying the artists need to make some hard choices and proceed creatively from those selections.

Is Star Wars the story of constantly overturning political cycles? If so, then that necessitates the idea that a “rebellion” will form against the Republic again, possibly with Sith-based roots.     

Finally, what about casting?

I would certainly love to see a Star Wars VII that features Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams in major roles, but I also remember how vicious the reviews of Star Trek grew in the late 1980s and early 1990s as the original crew aged.  All the headlines were “The Over-The-Hill Gang Rides Again” and the coverage was insulting and mocking.  I doubt Star Wars would be immune from this kind of criticism (especially considering the reception of the last Indiana Jones movie).

Yet, I’m honestly in the camp that doesn’t care if journalists complain.  I’d like to see the old gang back in action together at least one last time, and that desire supersedes this consideration.

I suspect the toughest part of producing Episodes 7 – 9 will be finding a story that doesn’t feel like a retread of what we’ve already seen.   

For all the hatred directed at the prequels, those three films certainly repeat many motifs from the original trilogy, from the heroic pilot plucked out of obscurity to save the universe to the comic-relief antics of the droids.

The big change ushered by this recent news is that more Star Wars movies are coming soon, and that a new era is beginning.

I see this as very exciting, and I’m cautiously optimistic.  Again, I let Star Trek’s history be my guide.  After Roddenberry’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture, we got Nick Meyer’s and Harve Bennett’s re-invention of the mythos, The Wrath of Khan.  And after Roddenberry stepped aside again, we got some great seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Star Wars could be in for the same healthy re-invigoration at Disney, and so I say: may the force be with those souls who endeavor to make it happen.  

Thanks for asking the question, Grayson.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween at Our House

Here's a batch of holiday pictures from Muir Land!

Joel in Costume Round #1: Darth Vader

Joel in Costume Round #2: Swamp Fire

Our front (grave) yard.

Take one if you dare...

A fellow traveler....


Happy Halloween!

Well, I'm off trick-or-treating with Joel, er, Swamp Fire.  I hope you all have a great time trick or treating tonight, or watching scary movies.  After Joel's bed time, Kathryn and I are going to relax with a viewing of Rosemary's Baby.  If I get the chance, I'll post some photos of Joel in costume before the witching hour.

Remember, it's Halloween, and everyone deserves one good scare...

Cult-TV Gallery: Ray Walston

In My Favorite Martian

In Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: "Cosmic Whiz Kid."

In The Incredible Hulk: "My Favorite Magician."

In Friday the 13th: The Series: "Tales of the Undead."

In Picket Fences.

With Kate Mulgrew in Star Trek: Voyager.

Friday the 13th: The Series: "Tales of the Undead"

“Tales of the Undead,” a first season installment of Friday the 13th: The Series, is likely my favorite episode of the entire series. 

In part, this is so because the episode -- while being a crackling good horror tale – also speaks a lot of hard truths about the worlds of comic-books and science fiction fandom.  Specifically, those talents who create characters and stories that millions love aren’t always rewarded financially in the way they should be, and spend their final years in poverty and desperation.  It’s a sad fact of life.

In “Tales of the Undead,” a determined comic-book fan who loves the classic character “Ferrus the Invincible” (think Rom: The Space-knight), steals the ultra-rare first issue of the comic-book, which would sell at auction for twenty-five thousand dollars.  During this act of theft, the young man grabs the comic-book issue and suddenly transforms into Ferrus, a malevolent, indestructible robot.  In that form, he kills the comic-book store owner, a kind of live-action version of The Simpsons character, though this character probably precedes him by a year or so.

Ryan witnesses the violent act and traces the cursed comic-book back to Ferrus’s creator, Jay Star (Ray Walston), who has fallen on hard times and has become a bitter recluse since he first created the character in 1947. 

After the character Ferrus built the empire of Peerless Comics, Jay was shoved aside by corporate politics and his beloved creation was taken away from him.  When Star learns that the cursed comic-book can turn anyone who holds it into the indestructible Ferrus, he realizes he must possess it, himself.  This is especially so because he is succumbing to arthritis and a heart condition, and can no longer afford medication.  By becoming his own indestructible creation, he gets a second chance at life.

Micki (Robey) and Ryan (John D. Le May) attempt to retrieve the cursed comic-book issue, but realize that they must find a rare, legendary (unpublished) manuscript featuring the death of Ferrus to learn how to kill the robot once and for all…

Although the technique used is not expensive, I love how “Tales of the Undead” depicts the transformation from mortal man to monstrous machine.  The screen transforms into comic-book frames as the transformation occurs, and we watch the entire sequence in illustrated form.  The murders are also depicted as excerpts from a comic-book, and thus this episode gives once the chance to visualize Micki and Ryan in that form.

Some of the visual compositions in this episode -- in both illustration and video form – strongly echo familiar comic motifs.  My favorite image finds the colossal Ferrus emerging from an elevator, a slain enemy at his feet.

Beyond the non-conventional visualizations of the action, “Tales of the Undead” works remarkably well as a human story, and in fact, one of the most “human” stories of the canon.  A budding illustrator himself, fanboy Ryan holds Jay Star up as a hero, only to learn that he has clay feet.  His hero worship turns to sympathy and pity when he learns that Star has become weak and bitter with age and because of desperate conditions.  There’s something very powerful about this particular relationship, and Ryan’s slow realization that Jay Star, though incredibly talented, is as human and fragile as he is.

I mentioned above how the episode lingers on the idea of an artist dwelling in a kind of financial and creative exile.  We have seen this happen again and again in Hollywood, and in the comic-book world too. 

Inevitably, it seems that one partner in a beloved collaboration ends up with the lion’s share of the credit, or with the fame, while the other slowly disappears from sight.  Great works of art have also been taken out of their creator’s hands frequently by business interests, and of course, “Tales of the Undead” explores that truth as too.  In all, it’s a much more nuanced approach than the “cursed antique of the week” premise may suggest.

Finally, the episode is enhanced greatly by Ray Walston (1914 – 2011) one of cult-tv history’s greatest treasures.  Walston starred in My Favorite Martian (1963 – 1966), and The Magician (1973), and made the cult-tv rounds as a guest star on programs as diverse as Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Evil Touch, and The Incredible Hulk. 

Walston makes the interesting acting choice in “Tales of the Undead” not to play Jay Star up for sympathy or pity.  Instead, he ramps up all the darker emotions, namely rage and bitterness.  And yet, in part because of Walston’s frail physicality partly because of his incredible, raspy voice, the character nonetheless gains our sympathy.  He wants what we all want: more life.
“Tales of the Undead” came early in the Friday the 13th: The Series run but it stands out as one of the very best episodes of all.

Cult-TV Gallery: R.G. Armstrong

In The Twilight Zone: "Nothing in the Dark."

In The Invaders: "Panic."

In Friday the 13th: The Series: "The Inheritance."

In Millennium: "Beware of Dog."

Friday the 13th: The Series: "Hellowe'en"

Although Friday the 13th: The Series features plenty of good episodes, the best of them invariably feature the late, great R.G. Armstrong as Lewis Vendredi, original owner of Curious Goods.  Armstrong could really portray a great villain, as one can detect from his performances in movies such as Race with the Devil (1975).  And on Friday the 13th, he made for a very malevolent, if recurring presence.

“Hallowe’en” (original airdate, October 26, 1987) is another early first season episode of this syndicated series, and the first one to feature the return of Vendredi.  In this story written by William Taub and directed by Timothy Bond, Ryan (John D. Le May) and Micki (Robey) host a Halloween costume party at Curious Goods in an attempt to allay the fears of the (rightfully…) concerned neighbors.  The basement vault where all the cursed items are locked away is marked as “off-limits” by Ryan for the occasion, but two partiers ignore the warning and conjure up a spirit in a glowing crystal ball: the spirit of Vendredi, himself.

While Jack (Chris Wiggins) is mysteriously led away from the party (and Micki and Ryan) by a lost little trick-or-treater, Greta (Adrienne Pocock), Vendredi appears as a ghost in Curious Goods and begs Micki and Ryan for their help with an act of mercy.  He claims to desire only to save the soul of his long-suffering, deceased wife, Grace.  He even takes them to her corpse…which happens to be in a secret room in the store.

But in truth, Vendredi seeks only a powerful relic called the Amulet of Zohar so he can make himself flesh for a few hours…until daylight.  Misled by their uncle, Micki and Ryan give Vendredi what he needs to save Grace, and then learn they have been deceived, and that he has roughly three hours on Halloween night to find an undamaged corpse where he can permanently house his soul.

Unfortunately for Micki, Ryan and Jack, they must also contend with a demon dwarf, Greta (Victoria Deslaurier) who has come from Hell to do Vendredi’s diabolical bidding…

“Hellowe’en” proves a rather bizarre episode in the canon, in part because of the aforementioned demon dwarf (described in the teleplay and episode as a “midget,”), Greta.  At first she appears as a cute-as-a-button little girl, but then she literally becomes a hell spawn, with the power to levitate and hypnotize victims.  

The episode’s climax descends into something like high camp as Ryan and Micki attempt to escape from Greta in a mortuary, and she tears the place up, pulps coffins and attempts to keep them away from Vendredi as he conducts his all-important ritual.  Greta as a soldier villain from hell -- small in size; big in stature -- adds an unusual wrinkle to the story, for certain.

Otherwise, you have to wonder about a plot-line that sees Micki and Ryan hosting a Halloween party just one floor above a repository for hundreds of cursed antiques.  That’s just asking for trouble, certainly, and probably not the brightest move, wary neighbors or not.  On the other hand, one of the welcome character touches on Friday the 13th: The Series (at least starting out) is that Micki and Ryan are naïve and inexperienced, and they make mistakes.  They aren’t professionals, and they clearly have a lot to learn about battling ghosts and demons..  If they pulled this stunt in the second season, it would seem a lot dumber, but since “Hallowe’en” is the fifth episode of the first season, perhaps the narrative isn’t so far-fetched.

After “Hellowe’en,” R.G. Armstrong returned in four additional Friday the 13th: The Series episodes including “What A Mother Wouldn’t Do” (about a cradle from the Titanic), “Bottle of Dreams,” the second season premiere “Doorway to Hell,” and “Night Hunger.”  

Halloween Blogging: A Curious Goods Manifest

Cursed Object
Series Episode
“The Inheritance”
Quill Pen
“The Poison Pen”
Cupid Statue
“Cupid’s Quiver”
Tea Cup
“A Cup of Time”
Magician’s Cabinet
“The Great Montarro”
Surgeon’s Scalpel
“Doctor Jack”
Boxing  Gloves
“Shadow Boxer”
Garden Mulcher
“The Root of All Evil”
Comic Book
“Tales of the Undead”
Make-up Compact
“Vanity’s Mirror”
Tattoo Needles
Electric Chair
“The Electrocutioner”
“Brain Drain”
“The Quilt of Hathor”
“Double Exposure”
“The Pirates Promise”
Sheriff’s Badge
“Badge of Honor”
“Pipe Dream”
“What a Mother Wouldn’t Do”
Egyptian Urn
“Bottle of Dreams”
Voodoo Mask
“The Voodoo Mambo”
“Symphony in B#”
Make-up Box
“Master of Disguise”
Wax Figures
“Wax Magic”
Ventriloquist’s Dummy
“Read My Lips”
Pocket Watch
“13 O’Clock”
Key Chain
“Night Hunger”
“The Sweetest Sting”
“The Playhouse”
“Eye of Death”
“Better off Dead”
Movie Camera
“Scarlet Cinema”
“The Mephisto Ring”
“Mesmer’s Bauble”
Crystal Ball
“Wedding in Black”
Snow Shoes
“Wedding Bell Blues”
Victorian Symphonia
“The Maestro”
Ceremonial Rattle
“The Shaman’s Apprentice”
“The Prisoner”
Witch’s Ladder
“Coven of Darkness”
Demon Worship Knife
“Demon Hunter”
“Crippled Inside”
Hearing Aid
“Stick It In Your Ear”
“Bad Penny”
Car Radio
“Hate on Your Dial”
“Night Prey”
Fountain Pen
“Mightier Than the Sword”
Monkey Statues
“Year of the Monkey”
“Epitaph for a Lonely Soul”
Cameo locket
Yin/Yang Charm
“The Long Road Home”
Dog Collar
“My Wife as a Dog”
Television Set
“Spirit of Television”
Celtic Statue
“The Tree of Life”
“The Charnel Pit”