HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Thursday, September 17, 2009

FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE SERIES--THE FINAL SEASON -- DVD review by porfle

Perfect for Halloween viewing, FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE SERIES--THE FINAL SEASON is another outstanding collection of stories that delve headlong into darkest fantasy and full-blown Gothic horror, from one of the finest series of its kind ever made for television.

Richly evocative of the 80s-90s era in horror, yet steeped in the moody aura of the classic fright films of the past, each episode from the 1989-1990 season is like an atmospheric mini-movie replete with hideous monsters, evil spirits, malevolent magic, and everyday people taking a walk on the dark side.

As usual, beautiful redhead Micki Foster (Robey) is still trying to track down the cursed items that were sold from the curiosity shop she's inherited from her evil Uncle Lewis (R.G. Armstrong), who died after his deal with Old Scratch fell through. She's aided by her uncle's former antique dealer, Jack Marshak (Chris Wiggins), whose knowledge of arcane lore and the dark arts is invaluable. Micki's cousin Ryan (John D. LeMay) is half-owner of the shop, but his character is done away with during the season premiere and replaced by Steven Monarque as Johnny Ventura, a wide-eyed novice in the world of the supernatural.

The cursed antiques, which can be anything from a coin to a child's toy to a haunted television set, wield an evil influence over their owners and are usually used for deadly revenge or personal gain. Either way, they tend to kill people in extremely horrible ways, which is bad for our heroes, but great for us horror fans.

The season gets off to blood-curdling start with a two-parter called "The Prophecies." Jack finds himself in a small French village whose convent is the home of a revered nun, Sister Adele (Marie-France Lambert). Her childhood vision of the Holy Mother has made the village a mecca for people seeking to be healed of their afflictions. But this haven of holiness finds itself under attack from fallen angel Asteroth (Fritz Weaver in full Fritz Weaver mode), who, armed with a cursed copy of the Satanic Bible, is determined to fulfill a series of prophecies that will enable Lucifer to walk the earth.

The story loses steam during the second part as Weaver's one-note character begins to grate on the nerves, but the first half of this tale contains some of the scariest stuff ever done for television. When Jack is awakened at 3:33 a.m. by groaning, distorted church bells, the effect is chilling. Then we see Sister Adele attacked by a possessed nun while in prayer, a scene that should unsettle anyone who was ever scared by THE EXORCIST. Soon after, a sequence in which a ward full of mental patients attack the convent's staff and slaughter them in unholy ways is pure bedlam, and very strong stuff. Topping it all off is the bizarre and unexpected fate of Ryan, which is one of the strangest main character departures ever.

"Night Prey" is an old-fashioned wing-flapping, cross-shunning vampire tale which ends with some nice messy disintegrations. In "The Charnel Pit", Micki is sucked into the past via an old painting and falls into the hands of none other than the Marquis de Sade. "The Tree of Life" is the story of a modern sect of Druid priestesses who grow new recruits in their own fertility clinic and then sacrifice the parents to a tree god.
A cursed wheelchair enables a paralyzed girl to get revenge on the boys who tried to rape her in "Crippled Inside", which boasts one of the most amazing stunts I've ever seen--a stuntwoman goes down a flight of stairs in a wheelchair, backwards! Other episodes deal with a headless biker, a television that serves as a conduit for angry ghosts, an evil jack-in-the-box, and a man who uses a cursed leash to (as the episode summary puts it) "merge his dog and his wife into one super-devoted companion." Cool!

As Micki, Robey does her usual great job of being a big-haired babe while bringing depth and conviction to her role. Chris Wiggins as the ever wise and stalwart Jack grounds the show with his dignified presence and experience, no matter how far-out the plots may get. New castmember Steven Monarque's character of Johnny Ventura, first introduced in season two, gives the viewer a fresh, unjaded perspective through which to witness all the weirdness that Micki and Jack have become accustomed to.

Production values are high and the feature-level direction and writing are consistently good. The show doesn't skimp on the horror factor, either--there are lots of awesome old-school makeup effects such as the impressive full-body costume and cable-controlled head for the main creature in "Demon Hunter", and the horrific acid-dissolving victim (like something out of Cronenberg's THE FLY) in "Crippled Inside." In "Stick it in Your Ear", guest star Wayne Best's repulsively organic hearing aid, which allows him to read minds, causes him to break out in some wonderfully disgusting and squishy air-bladder makeup. The show's use of CGI is still hinky-looking as ever, but for the most part the effects are first-rate.

This five-disc set from CBS/Paramount contains all 19 third-season episodes, most with the original network promos. The 1.33:1 picture and Dolby Digital English mono sound are good although the show's cinematography always tended toward the murky side. (A heavy-handed racial episode, "Hate On Your Dial", is shot largely in beautiful black-and-white and is probably the best the show has ever looked.) The episodes often have that melancholy, autumnal atmosphere that is somehow common to many Canadian horror productions of the era, which contributes in large measure to the show's effective mood.

I was very impressed by this series' first season, and FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE SERIES--THE FINAL SEASON continues in the same high quality vein to the very end. Horror fans in search of the real deal can't go wrong with these satisfying, finely-wrought tales of terror.

Buy it at Amazon.com
Read our review of "Friday the 13th: The First Season"

 
Share/Save/Bookmark

4 comments:

Wings said...

Great review!

This has always been my favorite show, and fans have waited a LONG time to get the show on DVD. Now, we are at the home-stretch, getting the final season in our hands very soon. So cool.

porfle said...

Thanks, I'm glad you liked it!

It's definitely an awesome show.

Dave Kaye said...

Glad to see a positive review. This season gets too much heat for the departure of Ryan.

I'm planning on reviewing this season once I have the time to revisit the episodes again. Based off memory I felt this was the strongest season episode by episode. Again based off memory (been a while since I've watched the series) but season 1 & 2 perhaps had the better overall episodes, but both also had a few duds here and there. Whereas I felt season 3 was the most consistent.

porfle said...

Thanks for the comment! Unfortunately I never got a chance to see season two.