Synopsis: What’s in store for a family that disregards a warning in a will and decides to accept their inheritance of a cursed house in Eerie, Pennsylvania? The answer is plenty, as John and Mary discover in this suspenseful comedy spoof. A “Book of Evil” has been hidden in the house and when it’s opened, it unleashes all the evil in the world. The family is warned that on “Friday the 13th it gets bad, but on Saturday the 14th it gets worse!”. It’s all outrageous fun as John and Mary and their children attempt to exterminate their troubles before their housewarming party just two days away on Saturday the 14th!
eyelights: Paula Prentiss. its attempts at camp.
eyesores: everything else.
“You can’t believe what curtains would do for a place like this!”
Yes, ‘Saturday the 14th’.
I don’t exactly remember how I stumbled on it. I only know that I was trying to find a movie to follow-up our Friday the 13th blurb and, after a few searches (goodness know where and exactly what I was seeking), discovered that this existed.
After that, I kept an eye out for copies of the film (and its sequel – because, yes, it apparently deserved a follow-up…) on DVD but discovered that it was long out of print. Would I really want to pay premium for this title, not knowing what to expect from it?
And I’m glad I didn’t: ‘Saturday the 14th’ is all kinds of bad.
Is it so bad it’s good? Or just plain bad? It’s hard to say. I guess it depends on the filmmakers’ intentions. And, frankly, I don’t care enough to research this; I doubt that there’s any source material anyway, but I can’t be bothered to look beyond wiki and imdb.
The picture tells the story of a family that inherits an old house. Unbeknownst to them, however, the house conceals an evil book of evil. Unfortunately, although their uncle left a warning not to open the tome, he didn’t explain what he was referring to.
So Billy opens it. And monsters from its pages come to life.
At first, only Billy is aware of all the strange occurrences in and about the house, but eventually the family hires an exterminator to rid the place of its pests. In comes Van Helsing, looking for the book. But little do they know that a vampire is also after it.
Yep. You read correctly.
From the onset, ‘Saturday the 14th’ doesn’t bode well:
It begins with phenomenally poor opening credits, animation of such terrible quality that even ’60s TV cartoons look good in comparison. It merely consists of creepy critters (bat, snake, bees, …etc.) going in and out or about a dark mansion. It’s utter crap.
(I later discovered that it might have taken its inspiration from William Castle’s ‘The Old Dark House’. But whoever did the animation was no Charles Addams, I can assure you…)
The rest of the production is equally lackluster: monster costumes look like party store stuff, monster growls are poorly overdubbed, bats are made of wobbly rubber on strings, and the claymation animation looks like it was designed in grade school.
On a technical level, it’s almost astonishing how inept this picture is. For instance, scenes are cut together so incompetently that actors are in different positions. And the closing duel between Van Helsing and Dracula consists of shots of them making faces and bad SFX.
Of course, the picture is built on an moronic script:
- Jeffrey Tambor is Waldemar, the vampire. He and his partner are looking at buying a house that’s up for sale because there’s something in it that they want. Bizarrely, as they’re about to visit, the new owners move in, having had the house bequeathed to them. Um… so, why was the house for sale?
- The new inhabitants are told not to open “the book”. In all fairness, they were not told which book not to open. But the kid not only opens it, he actually reads an incantation from it. Like, duh… who does that sort of thing?
- The book conveniently disappears from the kid’s room. For no reason. But it forces him to look for it everywhere. There’s no reason for this except to stall the film and throw in vignettes in lieu of actual plot development. The result? No plot.
- The kid’s sister keeps saying the house is “creepy”. In fact, she calls everything “creepy”. Was that meant to be funny? Or was that just lazy writing?
- For some inexplicable reason, the mother thinks that bats are owls. This was mildly amusing, but it was admittedly also quite corny.
- People get attacked and scream, but no one in the house seems to hear them. Where is everybody? How can the house drown out the screams like that?
- The family call in an exterminator. Well, lucky them: Van Helsing just happens to work there. Coincidence much? Well, not only that, but he decides to moves in, so that he can look for the evil book of evil. Inexplicably, the family doesn’t bat an eye at this notion; no questions are asked.
- Despite not being able to leave the house or making out calls, the family receive guests for Saturday the 14th. So… what… people can come in but no one can leave? Is that it? Or does it only apply to the family?
The cast did what they could with the material at hand: Jeffrey Tambor serves up a whimpy vampire as only he can, and Paula Prentiss really digs in, camping it up to hilarious effect. But most of the cast are projecting their lines for the back of the cinema.
The most peculiar of the lot is Severn Darden as Van Helsing. I have no idea if it was intentional or just the mark of rank amateurism (despite having been in the business for a long time), but his delivery was reminiscent Alan Arkin crossed with Andre the Giant.
Intentionally or not, ‘Saturday the 14th’ falls into the same category as ‘Troll 2‘: terrible movies that can be enjoyed by the select few who take pleasure in poking fun at such tripe. In fact, I’m surprised that it hasn’t already garnered a cult following. Maybe someday.
But make no mistake: this makes ‘Friday the 13th‘ looks like masterpiece theatre.
Date of viewing: Sept 28, 2015