Friday the 13th: The Series Part Ten – Long Goodbyes
Welcome back to part ten of my weird exploration of that unsung classic Friday the 13th: The Series as we wrap up the third and final season of the show; a beloved mainstay of late-‘80s anthology horror TV, even though I had never actually seen it before embarking on this journey that we are now taking together…
As I mentioned last time, the first part of the third and final season of Friday the 13th:The Series felt more like a feature film than the series ever had before, and as we head into the second half of the season, they’re keeping at least that globe-hopping spirit alive with “Year of the Monkey,” an episode that involves a samurai who uses a series of cursed monkey statues to test the honor of his heirs and also prolong his own life.
Not only does the episode boast not one but two cursed items and jet-setting around to places as far from home as Tokyo, it also features a guest turn from none other than Tia Carrere as one of the samurai’s modern offspring. Surprisingly, for an episode that came out on American TV in 1990, there aren’t any ninjas in the episode. I was pretty sure that American TV and film in the ‘90s was contractually obligated to include as many ninjas as the episode’s structural integrity would allow.
Jumping ahead a bit, because we are short on time here, the episode “Midnight Riders” is another that could have been a completely unrelated anthology segment. Our regular Scooby gang are visiting a small town to watch a rare planetary conjunction when they happen upon that town’s local ghost myth involving a gang of undead bikers, complete with a Psychomania nod as a motorcycle rides up from an unmarked grave.
The episode is also notable for bringing in Jack’s father, who apparently (spoilers) perished at sea some ten years earlier, but is now here to lay to rest some unfinished business revolving around his own role in generating the aforementioned ghost myth.
In the next episode, we go from functionally not needing the Scooby gang to almost literally not having them. Jack and Johnny are off on a buying trip and while Micki shows up briefly at the beginning and end, she never actually interacts with the central conflict at all. Instead, a friend of hers who runs a homeless shelter encounters a prominent newspaper columnist (remember when we had those) who is being driven mad by guilt (and voices) after accidentally running over a child with his car, and then committing a series of murders in order to use a cameo pendant to bring each victim back to life by replacing them with the next.
This oddball episode was written by Jennifer Lynch – yes, David Lynch’s daughter – some three years before she made her directorial debut with the critically-reviled Boxing Helena. Which also makes this her first writing credit on IMDb.
That’s followed up by “Long Road Home,” in which Micki and Johnny run afoul of a pair of rural degenerates on their way home from picking up a yin-yang charm that allows someone to trade bodies with a person they just killed – not an especially practical curse, but one that the teleplay puts to excellent use before all is said and done.
Interestingly, the episode opens in media res, as Micki and Johnny are wrapping up the search for the charm, and the meat of its actual threat has nothing to do with the charm itself, merely putting it into play in working out the mechanics of the situation. The degenerates in question are firmly in the Texas Chain Saw column, keeping a menagerie of taxidermied family members and former victims in their attic (as the Sawyer family is want to do).
Besides a suitably grotesque visual centerpiece for the episode, this also provides the fairly bonkers ending, which involves one of the villains inadvertently transferring his consciousness into a grisly stuffed corpse before he perishes in fairly spectacular fashion. I’ll let the episode synopsis on Wikipedia sum it up, because I couldn’t outdo its ridiculousness if I tried:
The next episode returns to more normal form for the series, even if it’s also one that I particularly wasn’t looking forward to. I have to give screenwriter Jim Henshaw (who also penned several other series episodes) credit for taking undoubtedly the show’s most misogynistic-sounding logline and turning it into not their most misogynistic episode.
“My Wife as a Dog” features series regular Denis Forest, who previously turned in memorable villain performances in several other episodes, as a firefighter going through a drawn-out divorce that he doesn’t want. After finding a cursed leash in a fire, he uses it to (gradually) transform his wife into a dog and his dog into his wife. The episode avoids being as misogynistic as that sounds by establishing how much he already loves his dog before it establishes what a creep he is.
The episode is also helmed by another series regular, Armand Mastroianni, who gave us some of the better episodes to date. There’s still one more by him in the tank, too. The very last episode of the series, “The Charnel Pit.” Before we get there, though, we’ll have to go through a jack-in-the-box that drowns people, an old TV that brings back the spirits of the dead, and an all-woman Cernunnos cult.
We’re going to have to give them short shrift, though, because we need to talk about “The Charnel Pit,” the episode that closes out our time with Friday the 13th: The Series. As I mentioned up above, it’s directed by Mastroianni and features the return of another series alum, Neil Munro, who we previously saw in the distressing season 2 episode “Better Off Dead” and also earlier this season in one of the episodes we had to skip over for time.
This time around, Munro plays none other than the Marquis de Sade himself, who gets involved because a history professor (played by sometime Cronenberg collaborator Vlasta Vrana) sends Micki back in time to go visit him through a two-sided painting. Naturally, this results in Micki being brutalized, because traumatizing Micki is what this show does. This time around, though, Micki is actually kind of into it, and seems to almost relish playing De Sade’s games, which is something of a nice change, and I kind of wish we’d gotten to spend more time on it.
Like so many shows, Friday the 13th: The Series ends on a rather ignominious note. No grand series finale that wraps up any of the series’ loose ends. Just another mundane episode about another cursed object. Which is not to say that “The Charnel Pit” isn’t a good episode – it certainly is, featuring surprisingly high production values in its recreation of 18th-century France, at times. Rather, just that it’s another episode like any other, instead of a capstone on the series.
Nevertheless, it’s where the series wraps up and where it leaves all of our characters – more or less where they have been for the entirety of this whole season. So that’s it for our continuing coverage of Friday the 13th: The Series, but not to worry. Something Weird on TV will be back in 2022, tackling another classic from earlier in the ‘80s, George A. Romero’s Tales from the Darkside, which ran from 1983 through 1988.
Besides his work as Monster Ambassador here at Signal Horizon, Orrin Grey is the author of several books about monsters, ghosts, and sometimes the ghosts of monsters, and a film writer with bylines at Unwinnable and others. His stories have appeared in dozens of anthologies, including Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year and he is the author of two collections of essays on vintage horror film.