Friday the 13th: The Series – Season 1 (1987-88): Leave your mask at home

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Now available for weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and exorcisms.

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“No doll outdoes me, not even that bitch from The X-Files.”

Fans of The X-Files, Tales from the Darkside and the like should delight in this set-up of two previously unacquainted cousins who inherit an antique store with a vault of hokey objects cursed by the devil. A lot to swallow, but the chemistry of Louise Robey and John D. LeMay – not forgetting English charmer Chris Wiggins playing their fatherly anchor – more than suffices, making this Tales from the Crypt type premise feel less flimsy. Their first assignment (“The Inheritance”) is to retrieve an evil doll which is far creepier than the one featured in the Stephen King penned ‘X-Files episode “Chinga”; the similarities are also startling for television episodes’ which appeared some eleven-years apart (notice the vinyl records being used as a weapon in both stories).

Whilst not perfect, this hissing doll is enough to give most of us the willies. Then the early slump kicks in. By no means is there anything too terrible, but after a promising début, what begins to follow is formulaic and sluggish; one outing features the trio endlessly play cat-and-mouse with a wannabe Romeo and his evil cupid statue for which the back-and-forth is as procedural as a dusty tennis match. Its only redemption: an excitable performance by Denis Forest, who later appeared in the more compelling sci-fi horror yarn “Brain Drain”. The series picks up only after predictable magician fodder “The Great Montarro” (not that great at all) with “Doctor Jack” (Jack The Ripper’s scalpel saves a life only to take another); and from then on episodes often excel. The better ones being: “Shadow Boxer”, “Vanity;s Mirror” (best in season), “Pipe Dream” and “What a Mother Wouldn’t Do”. Even these better examples have their problems (poor editing, sketchy character motivation..), but this often seems to actually fit with the 80s mood and now let us not completely forget the goofy premise. The baddies are bad and the gore is fun, but what’s more we get some character development from the trio which perhaps loosely resembles an early ‘X-Files on a budget; loved ones die, doubt is often cast and there are some unsatisfying endings for our heroes.

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Also available for supermarket grand unveilings.

Friday The 13th: The Series (Friday’s Curse in the UK) is generally mediocre getting off its feet, but the opener should be enough to make you stick through for later rewards; involving such things as a camera which can produce a subordinate come-to-life copy of a person, a boxer who”s shadow does the real dirty work and a smoking pipe that make cigarettes look like Pixy Stix. Indeed, this series has nothing to do with the franchise’s antagonist, hockey mask fetishist Jason Voorhees, and probably is all the better for it, unlike Freddy’s Nightmares (1988-1990) which often came off a little too half-baked.  Less of a case of be careful what you wish for, than be careful what you buy and perhaps fans of such horror resurgence shows as Bates Motel and American Horror Story will find much to window-shop here.

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