Saturday the 14th (1981) | Movie Review

saturday the 14th 1981 movie poster

Don’t let the title and movie poster fool you. Saturday the 14th is not as much fun as it seems like it would be. A lampoon of actual horror films from 20 years earlier, this movie is neither scary nor funny.

An all-American family inherits an old mansion from a deceased uncle and moves in, only to realize that the house is haunted. The young son, Billy (Kevin Brando), finds an mysterious book that, upon opening it, unleashes monsters into the world. He gets stalked by one of the creatures, but his father (Richard Benjamin), refuses to believe him. He thinks the cursed house is just a legend. But Billy’s sister, Debbie (Kari Michaelsen), gets attacked by a fish monster, and his mother (Paula Prentiss) gets bitten by a vampire and it’s unclear if she’s turning into one or if she’s just as clueless as her husband. Inexplicably, the kids mutually decide to not fill their parents in on anything that’s happening in the house, but still continuously try to escape it–which they’re physically unable to do because of curse reasons.

As the kids make a point not to tell their parents anything for a large portion of the movie, the father does eventually figure out that something strange is happening despite his prior non-belief. But we’re never shown his moment of realization. No a-ha moment. And there’s no tension from the children about him finding out.

There are also two vampires (Jeffrey Tambor and Nancy Lee Andrews) who desperately try to get into the house to retrieve the ancient book. They disguise themselves as bats, but can’t seem to find the book anywhere. The father hires an exterminator, Van Helsing (Severn Darden), to get rid of the bats. Van Helsing is privy to the curse that lies within the book and tries to help the family get rid of their problem.

Despite all these plot points, there’s no actual story arc. There are just a bunch of scenes showing weird things happening in the house, and then there’s the ending. Obviously the movie relies on its comedic aspect to carry the weight. But the problem is, there aren’t many actual attempts at humor. The filmmakers keep the tone light, but don’t even try to make jokes all that often. And the joke attempts they do make aren’t even actual jokes, just acerbic tongue-in-cheek one-liners.

There are 2 or 3 chucklers, but the rest of the comedy is lazy. In one of the first scenes, a disgruntled old lady asks what she receives from her brother’s estate, to which the attorney responds by making a Bronx cheer. Apparently this makes the old lady faint. Hilarious indeed.

Saturday the 14th is a movie written by someone void of the creativity required to make a movie–let alone a clever one. Monsters of different varieties are unleashed into the world, but they’re given almost nothing to do. We see them occasionally, but they serve no creative purpose. Maybe that’s the joke. If so, I don’t like it.

There are some potentially intriguing concepts at hand here. But the characters have no curiosity, so we never get to see anything fun play out either. We do get an interesting twist towards the end, but the ball is quickly dropped, turning the whole thing into something completely juvenile and irreverent. And once again, not funny.

I can see how there could be fans of this movie, I really do. I didn’t completely hate it. It possesses a certain odd charm reserved for people who are into obscure and bizarre ’80s horror-comedies. If you want something to put on in the background to evoke Halloween ethos, this could be a good option. But if you want to sit down and watch a movie paying full attention, Saturday the 14th may come off as frustratingly underwhelming.

Twizard Rating: 57

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