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Saturday The 14th (1981)

DVD Cover (New Concorde Home Entertainment)
Director:
Howard R. Cohen Howard R. Cohen
Starring:
Richard Benjamin Richard Benjamin
Paula Prentiss Paula Prentiss
Jeffrey Tambor Jeffrey Tambor
Severn Darden Severn Darden
Kari Michaelsen Kari Michaelsen

4.8 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Comedy, Creature Film, Farce, Haunted House Film, Horror, Horror Comedy, Parody / Spoof, Vampire Film
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Review by Chad
Added: February 14, 2009
After landing in theaters on Halloween just one year after the release of Friday the 13th, I can only imagine how many people bought tickets to Saturday the 14th and walked away thoroughly confused. Hell, I got suckered by the title when I was a six-year-old browsing the horror section of my local video store, so I imagine that there were some disappointed moviegoers on the night of that premiere. Personally, I know that I was completely disgusted when I got home and popped it in expecting another round of brutal murders and found myself watching an extremely cheesy comedy affair, and thus, I've had a bad taste in my mouth about this movie ever since. However, what with all the commotion about that little remake that landed in theaters last night, I decided to revisit it and see if it could change my mind now that I know what the film is really about. It did, to a certain extent.

We kick things off with an introduction to Waldemar (Jeffrey Tambor) and his lovely wife Yolanda (Nancy Lee Andrews), two centuries-old vampires who are looking into buying a rundown old house for a bargain price. There's just one catch: the real estate lady says that another family has just inherited it, and thus, it's no longer for sale (watch for a cameo by Stacy Keach Sr. right around here). Our two Transylvanian friends are rather upset over this news, and we soon discover why: inside that house is "The Book of Evil", a book that we'll learn all about in due time.

First, we get to meet the new family. We've got John (Richard Benjamin) and his charming wife Mary (Paula Prentiss), along with their two kids Debbie (Kari Michaelson) and Billy (Kevin Brando) - hell, they've even got a dog named Rover, just to show how normal they really are. Needless to say, they're extremely excited about inheriting a brand new house... up until they see it, that is. You see, this house is in dire need of repairs and cleaning, and to say that it's a bit creepy would be an understatement. Nevertheless, they decide to move in and make the best of it, and that is when Billy stumbles upon the aforementioned evil book.

When he first opens the book, it appears to be nothing more than a bestiary of various monsters from bad b-movies: you've got a Creature from the Black Lagoon knockoff, a mummy, a demonic gorilla, and other assorted baddies. The odd thing here is that whenever he flips the pages, the monsters disappear off of the paper, and unbeknownst to him at the time, they reappear elsewhere in the house. The parents are completely oblivious to what's going on over the next few days, but both of the kids know that they need to find a way to get the beasts back into the book. Meanwhile, the vampires outside are trying to find a way to get their grubby little hands on that book, and if all of that wasn't bad enough, Daddy dearest calls in an exterminator known as Van Helsing (Severn Darden) after discovering bats in his belfry. Van Helsing? Vampires? Monsters? Oh yeah, things are definitely going to get interesting, but it all plays out differently than one would expect.

All of this is presented in the campiest and corniest way imaginable, complete with countless one-liners and references to the various clichés that eighties horror made so popular. Imagine mixing together the one-after-another sight gags and absurd characters from The Naked Gun with a horror comedy release that focuses around ninety-nine percent of its attention on the comedy, and you'll sort of have an idea as to how this little number works. Even though The Monster Squad is a far superior film, I couldn't help but make comparisons between the two movies time and time again as they really do seem quite similar, with the sole exception being that this one is loaded up with a whole lot more comedy.

Now that we know how the film works, how well does it work? I have to admit that it's a hit-or-miss affair that comes in at around 50/50 in regards to said hits and misses. There are some jokes in here that are downright hilarious, such as the repeated references to those "damned owls" whenever any type of noise is made. A woman screams just outside your window? Damned owl. Your kid shrieks from down the hall? Damned owl. The window in that kid's room shatters, followed by a pronounced "thump" from the ground below? Those damned owls sure are annoying tonight. It's obviously a backwards reference to the infamous cat scares, and even though they ran this gag into the ground, I have to admit that I laughed every time they dragged it out for another run. On the other hand, there are a good deal of jokes that fell flat and didn't do a whole lot for me, but as is usually the case with comedy, no two people will agree on how well every joke works.

Shockingly, there were actually some nice monster costumes on display here. Yes, all of the monster effects were done with men in suits, and even though we're not talking big-budget costumes here, I was pleasantly surprised with how nice they did look. Even though the film does rely much more on the comedy than the horror, we do get to see a good deal of the monsters throughout the running time, so it was nice to see that some work went into them regardless of the true emphasis of the film.

Oddly enough, there's not much of the eighties horror mentality to be found here: bloodshed is kept to a bare minimum (I'm talking a shot glass full of the red stuff at most), the body count reaches a grand total of two (both kills happen off screen), and aside from a few panty shots, there is nothing in the "naughty" category to speak of. Truthfully, you could break this one out for the kids and have no worries about them seeing something that they shouldn't, which was one hell of a shocker given the decade, the genre, and the film that was being parodied (in name only, but still).

Overall, I think this one is worth your time if you enjoy a good horror comedy. It's not a perfect film, and yes, a good deal of the jokes didn't do much for me, but the overall product has a certain charm to it that can't be overlooked. It's corny, it's campy, it's silly, and it's a whole hell of a lot of fun. 7.5/10.
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Tristan #1: Tristan - added 02/15/2009, 02:20 AM
Good job, I used to love this as a kid.

7/10
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