Thanks to the Friday the 13th film franchise, a day steeped in unlucky superstition is now a horror fan holiday often spent binging all things Jason Voorhees. With twelve films, novels, documentaries, fan films, comic books, and video games, it’s easy to see why it’s become synonymous with the calendar day. It’s such a profitable franchise that news of potential sequels and TV series comes on the regular, never mind that perpetual roadblocks of legal rights that will take a massive, daunting untangling before any new entries come to pass. Until then, nearly every Friday the 13th tends to become a recycled marathon on cable.
There’s one aspect of the franchise that’s often overlooked, though, for having very little association with the films with no ties to Crystal Lake or Voorhees. Technically, it wasn’t meant to be tied to the franchise at all, then titled The 13th Hour. Executive producer and co-creator Frank Mancuso Jr., the producer behind six of the film series’ sequels, realized he could draw in audiences by changing the name to Friday the 13th: The Series. Even with no character ties, many of the actors and directors would crossover, with show’s star John D. LeMay starring in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, guest star John Shepherd portraying Tommy Jarvis in Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, director Tommy McLoughlin (director of Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives) helming multiple episodes, and even David Cronenberg dabbled in both the films and the series.
Also like its film franchise sibling, the series knew how to pile up a body count. The series’ premise allowed for it to go to some dark places; it revolved around an antique dealer who sold his soul to the devil and had to sell cursed antiques. He broke the pact and lost his life, and his niece and her cousin inherited the store. Knowing nothing of the curse, they sold off many of the antiques, and the series works as a sort of anthology as they track down each cursed item.
Running from 1987 to 1990, and spanning 72 episodes before sudden cancellation, Friday the 13th: The Series was the fun, often creepy and dark, predecessor to shows like The X-Files that would follow. If you’d like a change a pace this Friday the 13th, the series is worth the watch. Here are 5 fantastic episodes to start with:
The best place to start, of course, is the pilot episode. It serves as the introduction to the major characters as well as the plot setup for the cursed antique hunting. We get to see how it all began, with Lewis Vendredi’s death and Micki and Ryan’s submersion into the world of cursed objects. But, it also functions well on its own, with this episode’s cursed antique being a creepy antique doll. That doll pretty much possesses the 8-year old child that now owns it. It’s a sort of horror cliché, the creepy doll and the subsequently creepy girl, but it’s done well. Even cooler is that the little girl was played by an 8-year old Sarah Polley (2004’s Dawn of the Dead).
The 11th episode of the inaugural season had the gang tracking down an antique scarecrow. Being that scarecrows are inherently creepy, this episode ranks highly as a fan favorite. The gang heads out of state to a rural farm town to track down the scarecrow, which brings bountiful crops to its owner, but only after satiating its bloodlust by decapitating three victims. Directed by William Fruet, no stranger to slasher films, this episode plays out like a very spooky slasher. It also helps that the scarecrow resembles the masked Dr. Decker from Nightbreed.
Tails I Live, Heads You Die
The fourth episode of season 2 centers around the cursed Coin of Zioclese, an object that can bring someone back to life after killing another. A Satanic cult leader uses it to bring back powerful magicians, long dead, to summon Satan and rule the world. As one does. The underground lair beneath the cult leader’s taxidermy shop is somewhat creepy, but his use of the coin makes him powerful and deadly. There’s a few dead bodies that pile up in the episode, as well as a surprising reminder that working against Satan might lead to dire consequences.
Before he would appear in Jason X long enough to get killed by Jason Voorhees, David Cronenberg directed one of the most interesting episodes of the TV series. The episode follows a discredited faith healer who stumbled upon the cursed object of the week, a glove that transfers the sickness or ailment from one person to another. This should come as no surprise to fans of Cronenberg’s work in horror; it’s an episode centered around gooey, gross body horror.
The Prophecies (Part 1 and 2)
Season 3 begins with a two-parter, written and directed by Tom McLoughlin. The cursed object isn’t one that originated from Vendredi’s shop, but still functions the same. It’s one of the Books of Lucifer, and prophecies written in it come to fruition. Naturally, a disciple of Satan plans to use it to bring the Antichrist into the world. An action-packed two episodes that revolve around Satanists and demonic possession brings about one of the boldest send-offs for a major character ever to take place in television. Spoiler alert: Lead character Ryan (John D. LeMay) makes his final appearance of the series in Part 2, having become a homicidal servant of Satan.