Friday the 13th - The Series: The Playhouse

The TV Tomb of Mystery is an ongoing attempt to stave off acquisition of any more impulse-buy DVDs by taking better inventory of the ones already in hand.    

Let us return to the world of 

Today's excursion:
Season 2, Episode 12.
Easily a top-3 most-disturbing-episode of the series. Here's the plot with some help from Staystillreviews and plenty of screencaps.

"The episode tells the story of (Mike and Janine Carlson) two young siblings who live with their abusive mother who's constantly out picking up different boyfriends, leaving the young boy and girl to fend for themselves." 

When one of these boyfriends gives them a large playhouse for their tiny backyard, the two discover its power. 

Once inside, they teleport to an impossibly vast different playhouse.
"(One which gives them) anything they want: toys, candy, even the ability to fly."
"It gives false love and comfort that these two children need badly."
"For several weeks they use the playhouse before they discover in order to continue its hidden power, they must lure innocent children from the neighborhood inside and start shouting -"

This 'I Hate You!' business is quite shocking when it appears. Kudos to the director and to the child actors (Robert Oliveri and Lisa Jakub, both of whom played the kid parts in lots of 90s stuff) for conveying it so uncomfortably. I like the writing and all the Alice-in-Malevolent-Wonderland stuff going on, as well. 

Once they chant the hate mantra, the walls open up and trap the children to feed on them for eternity. 

Once that happens, Mike and Janine can go back to playing to their heart's content, as amplified by the Playhouse.

"With several local children missing, the neighborhood is up in arms wondering who is taking their children and why."

Enter: the Curious Goods gang.

"Micki, Ryan, and Jack hear a news report dealing with the missing children and dismiss it."
But once they discover a Playhouse associated with missing children on their Haunted Items to Recover list, they methodically make their way to the Carlson household and espy it in the backyard.  "Ryan and Micki take matters into their own hands..."

"This is a party -"
"in your honor!"
Here's where I had to pause the DVD and rub my eyes and pinch myself to make absolutely sure I wasn't hallucinating.

That's a chainsaw the clown is brandishing at the camera, in case that didn't 'cap very well.

Jack finds his way inside the Playhouse and saves the day with some good ol' fatherly misdirection: 

"Tell your sister you hate her and regain your power."
"Mike, you can't be afraid to give love if you're ever expecting anyone to give it to you back."
Like the Gorgon from "And the Children Shall Lead" and the Hate Entity from "Day of the Dove," once the Playhouse's "hate consumption" levels fall below a certain point, it rolls over. 

And all the kids come back, and the Playhouse Hate Dimension warbles to a stop.

This wrap-up scene is fantastic, as the cops are involved and there have been all of these missing children, and suddenly, this eccentric antique goods store owner and Micki and Ryan come stumbling out of this Playhouse with all the missing disheveled kids. (And the captured children all seem pretty complacent given what's happened to them.) 

When confronted Jack simply shames the mother: "What these children need is love.
Since you don't seem to be capable, I'm sure the courts will find someone who is.
I believe you have some very joyful calls to make." And then walks on off, no questions asked.

I leave you with this exchange from the epilogue:

"Jack, you think the police actually believed our story?What do you think they're going to tell the press?"
"Oh, some story about the kids hiding in the playhouse and creating a little world of their own. That's not too far from the truth (...) fortunately, or unfortunately, people never really listen to children or quirky antique dealers."
"What about Mike and Janine? What do you think's gonna happen to them?" 
 "Like most child abuse cases, there'll be a hearing, and then the court will try and find them a good foster home. (...) You know, the power of a child's imagination can be really incredible. When the child is unloved, that power can be truly terrifying, can't it?
Good night."

Roll credits.

I mean, for as fantastic and supernatural the premises and as heavy-handed as some of the dialogue appears to be, it can also credibly be read as a surreal flashcard-series on the psychology and symbolism of neglect and abuse.

Whether this is accidental or deliberate I don't know, but I'm glad it came together the way it did. 

It's not quit Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me or Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy, but that's probably a good thing.

And as always:


  1. This sounds like it could very easily be a plot from "Doctor Who," and it makes me wonder how much more of the series might theoretically fit that bill. Probably not that many, at a guess.

    Lots of great screencaps on this one, especially the one where Robey looks scared.

    Some of that stuff is pretty dang demented for eighties television. I bet a lot of kids were seriously weirded out by it. Which, really, serves 'em right for watch "Friday the 13th: The Series."

    1. Indeed, heck, I was one of those kids! Perhaps this blog is my group therapy session...

      I don't know Doctor Who well enough to speak to that, but the idea intrigues me.