One of the horror genre's "most widely read critics" (Rue Morgue # 68), "an accomplished film journalist" (Comic Buyer's Guide #1535), and the award-winning author of Horror Films of the 1980s (2007), The Rock and Roll Film Encyclopedia (2007) and Horror Films of the 1970s (2002), John Kenneth Muir, presents his blog on film, television and nostalgia, named one of the Top 100 Film Studies Blog on the Net.
Friday, December 13, 2013
Friday the 13th Day: Friday the 13th: The Series - "The Inheritance"
A chapter of the Friday the 13th saga that I enjoyed but is long-forgotten by most is Friday the 13th: The Series, a syndicated TV program from 1987 that ran for three seasons and seventy-one hour-long episodes. In broad terms, the series involves two
unlucky souls, Micki (Robey) and Ryan (John D. Le May), who inherit their dead uncle’s
are unlucky because Uncle Lewis Vendredi (R.G. Armstrong) made a pact with the
Devil to become immortal, but then attempted to back out on his end of the bargain. Dragged down to Hell, Vendredi leaves behind on
Earth hundreds of cursed antiques in his shop.
Each one is imbued with a murderous, monstrous spirit.
many of these cursed items are soon sold during a going-out-of-business sale
held by Vendredi’s niece and nephew, meaning it is their responsibility -- with the help of occult expert Jack Marshak
(Chris Wiggins) -- to retrieve them.
the buyers, it is literally a matter of life and death.
The Curious Goods Team
in most of the seventy or so episodes of the series, the action involves the
team from “Curious Goods” attempting to recover an evil relic, collectible, or
antique. During the run of the series,
these objects came in all shapes and sizes, from an evil tea cup (“A Cup of
Time”) and cursed make-up compact (“Vanity’s Mirror”) to sinister comic-books (“Tales
of the Undead”) and even a diabolical weed-mulcher (“The Root of All Evil.”)
this format sounds a little bit familiar, it may be because it echoes the
details of an Amicus horror anthology film from the 1970s directed by Kevin
Connor, From Beyond the Grave (1973).
There, Peter Cushing was the antique shop owner selling dangerous goods.
the 13th: The Series
received mixed reviews during its original run, but has nonetheless become a
cult treasure to horror aficionados today.
Writing in 1987, Variety opined that the series was “a successful terror tease blissfully devoid
of blood and full of the supernatural and imagination.”
Magazine’s Richard Zoglin concluded that “Friday the 13th’s
worst sin “is an obsession with clunky,
over-explanatory dialogue…but the show delivers a stronger dose of pure horror
than anything else on TV.” (November 6, 1989).
Inheritance” is Friday the 13th’s premiere episode, and it first
aired the week of October 3, 1987.
Written by William Taub and directed by William Fruet, “The Inheritance”
quickly sets up the premise of the series by first introducing viewers to mean
old Uncle Lewis, and then to his niece and nephew/odd couple, Micki Foster and
is engaged to a wealthy (and snooty…) attorney, and sees Curious Goods as a
detour from her appointed destiny. Ryan,
meanwhile, is one of cult-television’s early “geeks,” a comic-book collector
and science fiction fan.
first order of business for Ryan and Micki is the recovery of an evil doll,
named Vita, who has fallen into the possession of a little girl, Mary, played
by a very young Sarah Polley (Dawn of the Dead ). Before, Ryan and Micki can recover the doll,
it murders her cruel stepmother.
Sarah Polley plays Mary in "The Inheritance."
Ryan and Micki attempt to recover the doll (and place it safely in a locked
vault in Curious Goods’ basement…), they must also countenance Jack Marshak’s
belief that we are all surrounded by a “world
of spirits, of a netherworld,” and that Vendredi tapped into that world to
dabble in deviltry. For Micki and Ryan,
this means a rude awakening about the nature of reality itself…
back today, Friday the 13thand its series premise seem to
comment deliberately on avaricious and materialistic nature of the late 1980s. For instance, Lewis Vendredi is described as
a man who is passionate about two things:
wealth, and eternal life.
you consider the “wealth” part of that equation as the era’s obsession with upward
mobility and the “not growing old” part a comment on the pervasive 1980s aerobics/fitness
craze, you see how the problems faced here stem from two central pillars of the
yuppie movement. Micki herself seems a
bit like a callow yuppie, though over the course of the series she grows and
matures, and eventually leaves her judgmental and elitist beliefs behind. In some sense, the events of the series teach
her how to care about other people, and not just herself.
have been a plenty of evil dolls in cult-television history, and Vita makes a
fine heir to The Twilight Zone’s Talking Tina. There is a truly horrifying quality to her porcelain white face – especially as it
looms in the blackness -- and “The Inheritance” also imbues the monster
with a horrible, raspy voice. During the
course of the episode, the malevolent doll rips out a man’s throat, suffocates
Mary’s stepmother, and pushes a heavy piece of furniture over on an elderly
neighbor, proving herself a real menace.
folks who remember Friday the 13th: The Series remember this scary doll
well, and thus this particular episode.
That seems about right given Vita’s monstrous nature. In terms of writing, acting and direction, however,
“The Inheritance” seems somewhat primitive today, in some ways even more dated
than older horror series such as Ghost Story/Circle of Fear (1972 –
1973) or Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974).
part this may be so because the DVD prints are muddy and cheap-looking. A re-mastering would certainly seem to be in
the 13th: The Series in some moments feels like a gonzo low-budget
horror movie. That means that it
sometimes takes detours into weird horror that feel far afield from homogenized
television standards. I remember
watching the series late at night when I was senior in high school, for
example, and feeling that anything was possible, and that -- at any moment --
something truly horrible might happen.
on a whole, “The Inheritance” is a solid start for Friday the 13th: The
Series, and the presence of Vita as the cursed object of the week helps
it rank a cut-above some of the other first season installments. Also, the late R.G. Armstrong remains a delight in this series.