Those hoping Jason Voorhees will show up to slice and dice some nubile campers will be sorely disappointed in this dated, campy television series. Although they share a name, Friday the 13th: The Series has little in common with the horror films or their machete-wielding killer. This American-Canadian television show ran from October 1987 to May 1990, and each week offered a new adventure for Michelle "Micki" Foster (Louise Robey) and Ryan Dallion (John D. LeMay), cousins by marriage who inherit an antiques shop from their uncle, Lewis Vendredi (R. G. Armstrong). Uncle Lewis made a deal with the devil for wealth and power, and in return sold cursed antiques in his store. Micki and Ryan join magician Jack Marshak (Chris Wiggins) to retrieve each item before its evil powers are unleashed upon the world. Although it has its charms, Friday the 13th: The Series is often dull, repetitive and a chore to watch.
I vaguely remember catching an episode or two of this show in my youth, though it failed to make much of an impression. Originally titled The 13th Hour, this was renamed to gain (or trick, depending on how you look at it) a built-in audience, though the series is produced by Frank Mancuso Jr., who worked on several of the Friday the 13th films. When Lewis Vendredi dies, he leaves his business to Micki and Ryan, who initially decide to sell off the stock and close up shop. They stop at the urging of Jack Marshak, who helped Vendredi collect many of his antiques before the man sold his soul. The basic story of each episode is more or less the same, and the plots usually follow a relic's manifestation of evil and Micki and Ryan's quest to stop it.
As a lifelong horror fan, this really should be a show I like. Unfortunately, I could only make it through a handful of episodes in the series' 72-episode run without hitting eject. There are vampires, evil dolls, demons, murderers and deception, but rarely is the evil compelling. The show is dated as hell, and spends a lot of time spinning its wheels at the beginning of each episode on uninteresting, vaguely off-putting banter between the leads at the antiques shop. Like a mix of "Tales from the Crypt," "The X-Files" and "Goosebumps," this series tries to be simultaneously spooky and funny, to mixed results. There are a couple of creepy episodes and some inspired moments, but most of the episodes feel like lazy homages to classic horror films. It does not help that these 40-odd-minute episodes feel long, and the show may have worked better in a shorter format.
The acting and production design are not particularly impressive. Robey and LeMay get better as the series moves forward, but the supporting characters are stock bit players and rarely make a positive impact. The special effects are not notable, and the show has the tendency to cut away at the moment before something interesting happens. The budget was slim here, and it shows. I think Friday the 13th: The Series too often leans toward the comical, which undercuts its impact. "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" had a similar concept, and did it better around the same time on Nickelodeon. Fans of the series may want this reasonably priced collection, but I found it has little replay value. Nearly three decades old at this point, Friday the 13th: The Series offers little excitement for modern viewers.
Dated and unimpressive are these 1.33:1 full-frame presentations. They offer sub-standard-definition detail and look about as good as a VHS recording of the original broadcast. There is print damage, wobble and black crush galore. Fine-object detail and texture are weak, and contrast varies. Sharpness stumbles, noise and grain are excessive, and nothing about this comes close to now-dated DVD quality.
The mono audio is equally uninspiring. The tracks vary in quality, but expect hiss, distortion, clipping and clutter. Yes, you can hear the show, but nothing about this impresses. There are no subtitle options.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This three-season, 72-episode box set includes a whopping seventeen discs in one mammoth case. A flimsy slipcover wraps this giant clear case. Inside is a freestanding, hard-plastic binder of sorts the holds the DVDs, four to a page and stacked. It is unwieldy, but appears to do its job, as the majority of the discs in my review copy were spotless. The only extras are a couple of promos, sales presentations and trailers.
This campy horror show has nothing to do with the film series, and offers little more than dated, repetitive episodes that do not hold up. There are a couple of minor triumphs amid the filler, but this series, about cousins who inherit their dead uncle's antiques business and his cursed artifacts, is largely a bore. The DVD presentation is unimpressive, and this one is only for fans. Skip It.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.