11.03.2015

Friday the 13th: The Series - Vanity's Mirror

"I often think if mirrors could give up their dead how wonderful it would be."
Bessie Parkes Belloc

Let's continue our look at

with the 15th episode of the 1st season of Friday the 13th: The Series -

I didn't think of this episode when I made my original list of shows to look at for this TV Proms series. I'm not sure why. It's true that the word "prom" is never actually used in "Vanity's Mirror," making it more of a "TV Dance" episode, but that's not why I initially excluded it. Just didn't think of it, I guess. I'm trying to stick only to proms; if I open the door to homecoming dance episodes, I'd be exploring the topic more than I actually sat down to do. 

Luckily as the junior VP of the Dog Star Omnibus board, I have certain influence with the Senior Partners. And here we all are today.

For those of you who aren't regular TV Tomb of Mystery subscribers, a) what's wrong with you? You're missing out on all sorts of crazy write-ups! Don't delay - subscribe today and receive these bonus reviews of "And Now the News" and "The Playhouse," and b) you may not be familiar with the show. Friday the 13th: The Series was a Canadian-produced show from the 80s centered round a haunted antiques shop.
 



The store is inherited by Micki (Robey) and her cousin by marriage Ryan (John D. LeMay). With the help of paranormal academic and part-time spellcaster Jack (Chris Wiggins), the trio track down the haunted items that were sold from the store's vault by the store's previous owner, Uncle Lewis. (Who's in Hell now.) 

Robey sometimes wears odd hats and berets.
Jack, too, I guess.

The haunted artifact of "Vanity's Mirror" is a gold compact. They see the item listed as "sold to Sylvia" in the manifest but other than that, have no clue as to anything else about it. The audience does, though, as the cold open of the episode shows a flower seller who uses the compact on one of her customers. After haranguing him about not looking at her as a woman "full of love and needs", she opens it and directs light into his face.

Whereupon he falls instantly and obsessively in love with her. Then she kills him.
Have I ever mentioned a rack focus is one of my favorite things? Because it is.

Sylvia is then struck down by a car when she runs out from the alley and into the street. The compact is picked up by Helen, a pimply-faced local with a nasty disposition

Played by Ingrid Veninger.
Helen is ostracized at school but is protected somewhat by her older sister Joanne's popularity.
She lusts after Scott, Joanne's boyfriend.

Scott sticks up for her when she's catcalled by these classic 80s-jerk-looking guys.

More on all of these guys later. But it leads to Helen discovering the power of the compact.
When one of them (Greg) won't leave it alone, she accidentally reflects light at his face.
Leading him to fall instantly into the same sort of obsession with her that we saw in the opening with Sylvia.

It's actually a pretty good example of show-don't-tell writing and structure. It's not until much later in the episode that Micki and Jack discuss what the compact does ("If someone gets love-struck by the compact then they have to be killed") and I don't know if Ryan ever even finds out. He seems to really not understand the way it works, actually, as we'll see in a bit. 

And for her part, Helen never explicates the compact's powers with some "Hear Me, X-Men!" sort of speech. We see it gradually working on her mind instead, ultimately dragging her to an inevitable doom.


We're taking the long way round before we get to the prom, I know. The two plotlines intersect when Ryan shows Jack the newspaper story announcing Sylvia's death. Jack sees something funny in the corner of the accompanying photo and calls for his glass: 


Man! You've got to love this show. I think there's probably something to the theory that too much bad food corrupts the palette into only wanting bad food. Same for bad TV. When I see something like this, I tend to find it adorable rather than scoff at the lazy writing. Then I find myself passing up re-watching Breaking Bad or Thirty Rock in order to screencap Friday the 13th: The Series or something. Anyway:

As aforementioned, Greg has been lovestruck and won't leave Helen's side.
At first she parades him smugly around school.

Greg is played by Zack Ward, by the way, aka Zone from Dollhouse. His constant attentions prove wearying, and when he repeats "I'll love you til the day I die" one too many times, she decides to hurry that process along by maneuvering him into the trash compactor. 


This is the catalyst for all her subsequent behavior in the episode. I suppose once you cross the get-rid-of-this-guy-in-the-trash-compactor line, it's pointless to restrain yourself.

Everyone is distraught over the death of Greg, most especially his best buddy Russel:


Russel (spelled apparently only with one 'l' - is that a Canadian thing?) confronts Helen while they're readying the gym for the dance. 

You can probably figure out how that goes.
   
Nice knowing you, Russel.

The Curious Goods gang sends in Ryan to suss out the situation. Which is never a good idea. 

Even for an era of TV that was particularly undemanding of its male protagonists, Ryan's inability to perform simple tasks or reason out uncomplicated problems is remarkable.

Ryan follows Helen into the basement (where she used the table saw in the wood shop to dispose of Russel) and she quickly tries to get him with the compact.


Granted, Ryan has no real idea of what the compact does; he only knows it's cursed. But his reactions are still kind of funny. After getting himself trapped in a stairwell, he goes into a full panic. Rather than using the backpack to block the penetrating gaze of the compact and overpower the much-smaller teenage girl, he hurls it at her. This doesn't manage to knock her out, and as if to add the final punctuation to his incompetence, he crashes through the railing and falls to the ground several flights below.

The story proceeds apace, but the episode cuts back to Ryan a few times, to remind us he's knocked out down there in the basement, I guess. Each time the pools of blood are a little bigger.
And each time, a rat is added.

Those rats didn't screencap too well, but that detail really amuses me. None of the rats bother Ryan or anything, they just come and sit on him and crawl around. Kudos to Robey - when she arrives to save him, she clears his body of the rats. I thought they were props of some kind, but nope, they are actually live rats. I assumed Robey would balk at handling live vermin - not just because most people would, I bet, understandably, but because she's Robey. She strikes me as someone who'd hold most things at arm's length with an unspoken "Ewww."

Helen eventually goes over the deep end on the night of the dance.
She keeps insisting her date will show up any minute, delaying Joanne and Scott's departure.
There is no date, of course, and when Joanne and Scott finally decide to leave, out comes the compact.
"Let's fix it so she never bothers us again... lover!"
Scott ties Joanne to the ceiling fan, and he and Helen leave for the dance.

Robey rescues Ryan as described above, and Ryan lets out a dance-disrupting, furious "HEL-E-N-N!" when they get to the auditorium. 

Despite being unconscious from a serious head wound, he's pretty lucid. But shrugging off concussions is hardly unique to Friday the 13th: The Series.
Helen takes Scott to the roof, where she tells him how much she died inside everytime he came over the house to take out her sister. She urges him to dance with her on the ledge.
Meanwhile, Jack saves Joanne and bring her to the school.
Just in time to see:
"I want you so much, but the only way I can have you -
"is in death...!"

"This time," Jack muses back at the shop, "we just failed."

Robey doesn't want to hear it. She's pissed. And sad. Both, actually, right on top of one another. Robey's mood swings are as notorious as the Witch of November.
And the episode ends with an unidentified person finding the compact beneath a bush.

Fun stuff. Did I overdo it? Likely yes, but so it sometimes goes. What TV-prom lessons are re-enforced by all of the above?


1. DON'T STEAL YOUR SISTER'S BOYFRIEND


2. THERE'S NO POINT BEING NICE TO THE UGLY DUCKLING; SHE'S JUST GOING TO TRY AND KILL YOU. AND/OR EVERYONE/ HERSELF.  


3. BEWARE THE MARGINALIZED WHEN GIVEN A CAPTIVE, GAWKING AUDIENCE.



Before we go, I tip my cap across time and space to Ingrid Veninger, who is pitch perfect as Helen. She goes for broke throughout the episode: the way she snarls "lov-er!" in a few spots, her slow head turns, her grimaces and facial contortions, everything.


They may have overdone her slovenliness just a tad, though.

Then again, I think this show is impervious to any charge of over-exaggeration; it was part and parcel to the proceedings from the get-go.


~
with
and

6 comments:

  1. I really shouldn't go back and watch these, should I? You've captured them so well that I realize "damn, these were just awful! Why did I like them?" I don't want to know, bro, I just don't. :-)

    -BRAD

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    1. Oh, I'm watching them all enough for everybody. :-)

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  2. Those dudes-can't-believe-it screencaps are GREAT.

    I can't say enough about how hot Robey is at the end of this episode. I'll be damned if I can figure out what's up with her accent, though.

    I thought this was a pretty good episode. (It leans a little too heavily on the ugly-girl-maniac trope, but hey, it was the eighties. Ugly people were OUT.) I admire the good guys losing at the end. That always seems extra satisfying in one of these episodic genre shows; that's the sort of thing that, if you were an impressionable kid watching it at the time, would have stuck with you.

    Ryan really does seem to suck at life. Is he the most inept lead male character (assuming you think of him as the lead) of the entire decade? My knowledge isn't encyclopedic enough to say for sure, but he's got to be on the short-list.

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    1. Got to be on a short list, sure. I've barely scratched the surface here.

      There was a rumor going around for awhile that Ryan - who is turned into a child due to some evil spellcasting as a way to write him off the show at the start of season 3 - proceeded to grow up to become Jason Voorhees, with the hockey mask being one of the haunted items from Curious Goods. It plays a little fast and furious with Friday the 13th continuity, but a) who cares, and b) as a fan of the show more than the movies, I thought that was an admirable attempt to tie the two seemingly-incompatible franchises together.

      But, I don't think anything ever came of it. In fact, I can't even remember where I heard it. Dawn might know. Her horror movie trivia mojo is formidable.

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    2. I seem to recall hearing something about that somewhere, too -- possibly from you! But I think I heard it years ago.

      I would personally not place too high a premium on "Friday the 13th" continuity. Although if such a thing really and truly did exist, I'd get a big kick out of that. I know the sort of fanboyish knots I tie myself in with other franchises' continuities, so it makes me happy to think about hardcore F13 fans out there, laboring away to try and have it all make sense. Poor sonsabitches, they've got to take all the "Elm Street" movies into account as well, which presumably means that "Freddy's Nightmares" needs to be included.

      Oh, the spreadhseets!

      I do like that idea about the hockey mask, though. That's an elegant solution to the quandary that is Jason.

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    3. I agree on the hockey mask - it'd be cool. I have a friend who is a huge slasher-movie fan and we've argued on the topic. I say, whichever side has Robey, I'm on.

      I guess I like the first Friday the 13th all right. And maybe parts of Freddy vs. Jason. The rest, meh. Not my thing, I guess. I prefer 100% of my slasher movies to be made in the 70s and 80s.

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