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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Friday the 13th - The Series: The Second Season
Friday the 13th - The Series: The Second Season
Paramount // Unrated // February 10, 2009
List Price: $49.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Cameron McGaughy | posted March 25, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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"Wow, that's sweaty work, toiling in the gates of hell..."
- Jack





The Series

You might think that after the successful first season of Friday the 13th: The Series, the show might get a bump in its budget and dazzle us with superior effects and stronger performances. But any hopes (or is that fears?) that the series would lose any of its cheap, kitschy appeal are quickly quashed in the opening minutes of Season 2's first episode. Our trio of antique hunters are forced to do battle with Uncle Lewis--the man who made a deal with the devil, unleashing dangerous objects into the world (and by world, I mean Canada).



The first episode offers clips from the Season 1 finale (a clip show in itself), hokey effects, overblown acting from the School of Shouting graduates (another series staple), a cheesy postscript ending and (my favorite moment) a gunshot scene where the victim prematurely covers his face so the stunt double can step in more seamlessly for the next shot. And if you want lots of shaky camera shots to simulate explosions or earthquakes--complimented by the requisite gyrations from the actors--you're in luck. That technique is employed frequently in "Doomsday to Hell" and pops up throughout the 26 episodes in Season 2, which was broadcast in the 1988-89 season.





Oh, who am I kidding...that's why you love this show in the first place! Very little has changed from Season 1's formula, which had distant-enough-so-they-can-flirt-yet-it-still-creeps-you-out cousins Micki (Louise Robey, aka Robey...you know, like Moses) and Ryan (John D. LeMay) under the not-so-watchful eye of Jack Marshak (Chris Wiggins). Each week, they had to track down an item possessed by the devil, who used the cousins' uncle as a pawn: "Something has changed," notes Jack in the opener. "Lewis seems closer now. We can all feel it. Perhaps he's no longer imprisoned for eternity, but once again a very active servant of Satan!" (Hey, the show was never one for subtlety, right?)





Watching all of the episodes back-to-back proved to be a daunting task, and this outing isn't quite as strong as the first season. I expected a few more risks, but was left a little disappointed at the show's routine--it's repetitive and does a lot of stalling, and would be far more effective as a half-hour show. LeMay also seems to fade into the background more this season, becoming duller and more forgettable until the strong season finale ("Coven of Darkness"), where he's under the spell of witches.





Maybe that's why the producers brought in some fresh blood--Steve Monarque shows up in Episode 22 ("Wedding Bell Blues") as Johnny Ventura, a cocky ladies' man and friend of Ryan's who catches Micki's eye and helps invigorate the show with a little more attitude. He only appears in two episodes this season (popping up again in Episode 25, "The Prisoner", to show off his chest), but would go on to have a much larger role in Season 3 as LeMay lightened his workload.





Highlights of the season include the episodes directed by Armand Mastroianni, including my favorite: "Better Off Dead", where a man tries to save his sick daughter using a silver syringe. It's one of the more thought-provoking and effective shows, even if you catch glimpses of cinematic influences, like The Exorcist and Night of the Living Dead. But that can be said of almost every episode: "Symphony in B#" is a Phantom of the Opera clone, "Master of Disguise" follows the classic Beauty and the Beast storyline and "Read My Lips" is Magic meets Child's Play.





Mastroianni also enlists Prince protégé Vanity (!) and her breasts, who live up to her "Nasty Girl" reputation in the so-silly-its-good "Mesmer's Bauble". (If you're looking for more esteemed guest stars, you'll be looking for a while...but Colm Feore pops up in "The Maestro" as a psychotic dance instructor.)





My second favorite episode is Bruce Pittman's "And Now the News", which has an antique radio spelling trouble for two rival doctors at a loony bin--it's one of the more mean-spirited episodes, and proves that the series had bite when it wanted to (for 1980s network TV, this is still pretty aggressive stuff). And while the series has nothing to do with it's more famous slasher franchise, Jason Lives director Tom McLoughlin turns up to direct two solid episodes, "Master of Disguise" and "The Playhouse", which tackles an uncomfortable subject: child abuse.





McLoughlin also serves as a story editor on a few other episodes, while Jason Takes Manhattan director Rob Hedden directs the weak "13 O'Clock"--which features a bunch of "tough" homeless kids straight out of Annie (they steal soda cans from vending machines). But he redeems himself by writing the much better "Scarlet Cinema," another one of my favorites--directed by David Winning, it follows a werewolf-obsessed film student and includes some classic horror tributes.





An interesting moral quandary is raised in "The Shaman's Apprentice", and the Jack-only entry "The Butcher" is a great entry that has a few genuinely unsettling sequences with its Nazi Zombie story (Wiggins is absent for four episodes, Robey sits out two and LeMay is absent for one).



The series also continues its abuse toward little people (a midget gets shoved to the ground in "Wax Magic"), has its ample supply of snoozers (if you thought the Civil War was boring before...), fails with a few experimental episodes ("Wedding in Black", where the three amigos are kidnapped and brought to the same mansion by an evil snow globe; and "A Friend to the End", which has two cases in one), and has its own semi-clip show ("Face of Evil" regurgitates a lot from Season 1's "Vanity's Mirror", but you gotta love the death-by-hairspray scene).





And through it all, Micki and Ryan pretend they don't want to have sex with each other, yet get all jealous when others intrude as potential love interests. Meanwhile, LeMay shows off a Julie Newmar t-shirt in two episodes, while Robey and Wiggins continue to compete for the Most Annoying Accent award as their upper-crusty affectations randomly pop up mid-show (and sometimes mid-sentence).



As for Robey's hair, it goes through a whirlwind of torment, her bangs contorted into some of the most impressive positions (although I don't know what the hell is going on in Episode 9...maybe she pissed off a stylist?). The producers seemed intent on sexing her up this season, where her cleavage fights with her hair for your attention ("Look ma! No bra!"). And in a staggering number of episodes, she's squeezed into blindingly white stretch pants (I can think of at least two things wrong with that phrase...).





But the most hysterical moment comes in Episode 4, "Tails I Live, Heads You Die", where Micki's (temporary) death has zero effect on Jack. "She knew she could run out of luck some day," says the stone-faced mentor--who later sobs like a baby in Episode 23 when another young woman (who he didn't know nearly as well) bites it. Oh, Jack...you emotionless asshole!



Actually, the killer bees are pretty hysterical, too. And the blinking eyes on the dead body in Episode 13, and the manly Lizzie Borden, and the killer rabbit, and the...





The DVD



Video:

Hopefully your love for the show is greater than the studio's for this set. Like Season 1, the full-frame transfers here are bottom of the barrel, and look about as bad as they did on your crappy rabbit ears TV. They're extremely dark and full of fog, lacking any sharpness, detail or color--they just slapped these on without any care.



Audio:

The stereo soundtrack isn't as distracting as the poor video, but it isn't anything to write home about. The dialogue is usually clear enough, and the sounds are sometimes surprisingly distinct for such a meager track (the ticking clocks at Curious Goods may start to drive you batty...).



Extras:

If you thought Season 1's extras were paltry, get a load of this: nothing outside of unrelated trailers!



Final Thoughts:

Cheap, silly and fun, Friday the 13th: The Series hams up the horror. While I didn't enjoy Season 2 quite as much as Season 1, there's still enough amusement to be found in about half of the 26 episodes here. Unfortunately, the weak transfer and zero extras make this a must-have for series diehards only. Everyone else is advised to Rent It first.



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