Saturday the 14th (1981) — Little boy summons every monster in the book

“Selling the house now would be like closing the barn door after the horses eat your children.”

Justin’s rating: They did the mash — the monster mash!

Justin’s review: Many modern moviegoing audiences falsely assume that the horror genre only really started to get parodied, satired, and spoofed somewhere in the 1990s. The truth is that there are plenty of examples that stretch back much further than that. Back in 1981, Saturday the 14th came out swinging against haunted house movies and creature features.

As the name implies, Saturday the 14th isn’t big on subtle humor, so all the plot you need to know is that a family inherits a cursed house, some vampires want it, and the house itself starts regurgitating spooks and creatures like a discount Halloween costume vendor went out of business next door. The humor aspires to be Airplane! in a creepy house, and it’s not quite able to achieve the joke density of the ZAZ crew. But it does try, bless its soul, and sometimes it scores. Sometimes.

While the family tries to adjust to life in a mansion that’s clearly out to get them, the little boy opens a great big Book of Evil and unleashes a ton of monsters as a result. It’s this book that a pair of vampires (including Arrested Development’s Jeffrey Tambor) want to obtain, so their greatest hope is that the family freaks out enough to leave.

A running gag is that the parents are too oblivious to what’s going on in the home (they even think bats are owls), so it’s up to the two kids to handle the monster invasion. The Creature from the Black Lagoon comes up out of the bathtub, the television only plays the Twilight Zone, a houseplant tries to eat people, and Van Helsing shows up on a hunt of his own.

While there are some cute moments where the jokes work to poke fun at horror tropes, for the most part — how do I put this? — Saturday the 14th plods. It’s a slow movie that is too stingy with its gags when it should be firing them at us faster than we can process. Yet if you can find in yourself a little patience, some endearing silliness and fun monster getups await.

Didja notice?

  • The absolutely terrible animated opening credit sequence
  • Jeffrey Tambor… so weird to see him this young
  • You can dictate in your will for the reader to give a raspberry to specific people
  • Switch-activated candles
  • A whole lot of superstitious omens
  • The painting rolling its eyes
  • The boy trying to make friends with the monster
  • The angry eggs
  • Monsters like to do dishes?
  • Curtains are the answer for everything
  • The shark fin in the bathtub — a Jaws gag that goes on for like five minutes
  • Monsters subtitles
  • You should not put your unconscious sister in the bathtub

4 comments

  1. The quote you used for your tag line? We used to say that to each other for years after we saw the movie 🙂 Hey, we were big Richard Benjamin fans back in the day, what can I say.

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