Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Just another Friday the 13th

Did we really need a remake of Friday the 13th?

I mean, the past three decades have foisted umpty-zillion (okay, ten) sequels to that pitiful chapter in Kevin Bacon's résumé on the movie-going public. Now, New Line Pictures is remaking the original?

If the new flick is successful, will New Line remake each of the sequels too? Will we see fresh takes on such cinematic classics as Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, and the ever-popular Freddy vs. Jason?

Heaven help us.

Or perhaps that's the wrong phrase.

At any rate, the incessant commercials for the updated Friday the 13th put me in mind of the only facet of the Friday the 13th franchise worthy of revisiting...

Friday the 13th, The Series.

Those of you sufficiently long of tooth to have experienced the 1980s firsthand (and you know who you are) may recall this minor trifle of syndicated television history, which aired for three seasons beginning in 1987. Interestingly, Friday the 13th, The Series had nothing whatsoever to do with Jason Voorhees of hockey mask fame. Aside from the common title, the only connection between the film franchise and the TV series was the producer behind both: the semi-legendary Frank Mancuso, Jr.

When first he decided to bring his horror stylings to the idiot box, Mancuso, Jr. didn't intend to call his latest venture Friday the 13th. With partner Larry B. Williams, Mancuso developed the show under the title The 13th Hour. At some point before the series hit the airwaves, however, Mancuso decided (doubtless with a nudge from Paramount Pictures, which distributed the first several Friday the 13th movies) that it would be a shame to waste all that built-in branding, and thus Friday the 13th, The Series was born.

The show's plot revolved around the adventures of cousins Micki (erstwhile model and pop singer wannabe Louise Robey, billed only by her last name here) and Ryan (John D. LeMay, who would complete the circle by starring in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday), who inherit their late uncle's antique shop. They soon discover that their uncle had sold his soul to the devil, and all of the objets d'art in the shop bore a Satanic curse. Micki and Ryan, aided by a magician and occultist named Jack, make it their mission to round up all of the already-sold curios before supernatural disaster befalls the people who now own these accursed items.

Needless to say, this mission often fails. Because, after all, horrific consequences are what Friday the 13th is all about.

And in truth, the events instigated by the bedeviled antiques were about as gruesome as anything on television prior to the advent of CSI and its spinoffs. With only a handful of exceptions, the people who came into contact with the haunted articles in each week's episode met grisly ends. (Because the show ran in syndication rather than on network broadcast, and was typically shown in the late-night, post-primetime hours, Mancuso and company were granted almost cable-like leeway to display graphic violence.) Even the show's protagonists were not immune: Ryan was written out of the series at the beginning of the third season, when he is de-aged into a young boy by one of the store's wares.

Although shot in Canada on a limited budget, Friday the 13th: The Series offered consistent entertainment for horror and fantasy fanatics. Familiar C-level character actors occasionally turned up as guest stars, and such talented directors as David (The Fly) Cronenberg and Atom (The Sweet Hereafter) Egoyan directed episodes.

Friday the 13th: The Series still turns up on cable and independent stations now and again, and I'm sure it's available on DVD. (These days, what isn't?) Fans of the current CW series Supernatural, which bears certain superficial resemblances, would probably enjoy checking it out.

It's got to be better than yet another Jason movie.

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4 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger MCF offered these pearls of wisdom...

I vaguely remember catching one or two of those in syndication at odd hours on FOX on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon; for some reason I thought it was an anthology show with the store as a framing element for different stories, a la The Cryptkeeper. My mind is probably blending Tales from the Crypt, Freddy's Nightmares and other similar shows. Comparing it to Supernatural almost makes me want to give it a second look.

I'm dreading the day we get a remake entitled "Jason X Squared"...

8:10 PM  
Anonymous Scott offered these pearls of wisdom...

I never missed an episode as a gore-starved horror fan. I particularly remember the episode with the horrific haunted hearing-aid.

And I'm not sure what to think about the Jason "reboot". I was a fan of the first few Jason movies. It looks like this one will be more "serious" or edgy than the originals. I'll probably watch it at some point.

9:32 AM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

MCF: You're not far off the mark with the anthology observation. There were several episodes of Friday the 13th: The Series in which the continuing characters played minimal roles in the story of the week.

Somewhere in Hollywood, some screenwriter is already pitching Jason X2.

1:30 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

Scott: This will likely come as no surprise to anyone -- my favorite of the cursed curios was the comic book that turned its owner into its villain, a superpowered killing machine.

That episode was made even better by the presence of Ray "Mr. Hand" Walston as the comic book artist.

1:36 PM  

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