Friday the 13th - The Series: Hellowe'en

For this year's Halloween post, let us return to the world of Friday the 13th: the Series (aka Friday's Curse). Today's excursion:

Season 1, Episode 5.

"Watchin' horror movies, right there on my TV! A horror movie, right there on my TV! Horror movie, right there on my TV, and it's shocking me right out of my brain! (waa-aaa!)"

That Skyhooks song doesn't appear in "Hellowe'en" anywhere. I just felt like starting things off with it. Nor does the episode contain any music from the band Helloween - apologies to any fans who found their way to this post under false pretenses.

What does this episode have? For starters, a little something I'll call -

So, so much Robey insanity in this episode. It's been almost a year since I last looked at a Friday the 13th - the Series episode, so just a reminder of Robey's modus operandi: one part Shatner, one part alien-in-human-form-forever-experiencing-feelings-for-first-time, and one part J-Lo. 

Things kick off with Robey getting her costume ready and checking herself out in the mirror.

She hears something in the corner and thinks Ryan is in there spying on her. She's close - it's Ryan's random buddy, who Ryan has stashed in there to watch her get dressed. It's all part of the Halloween prank tradition, he explains.

"It's all right," he says, "he's pre-med. Come on, let's get to the party."

Jack has thrown open the doors to Curious Goods and invited everyone in the neighborhood to a Halloween party. 

He flirts it up and makes boob-jokes and performs magic tricks for the ladies.

But what about all the haunted items the Curious Goods gang has in the vault? Isn't this asking for trouble? Not to worry - Ryan hung up a sign.

Unsurprisingly, a couple of partygoers (one of them is the aforementioned pre-med student) find a way past this formidable obstacle and head into the basement.

This didn't screencap too well, but they simply move the sign and head down into the basement. It's tough to see, I know, but Ryan has hung the sign from a string that is apparently tied to the (open) door. I guess closing the door (maybe even locking it) and then hanging the sign was too much to expect from Ryan.
It takes about ten seconds for them to invoke The Evil.

When Jack's magic act is interrupted by supernatural shenanigans, he first admonishes ("Those friends of yours threw out a psychic line and hooked something. There are people who think that Halloween is a kid's game- it isn't. It's the one night of the year the spirits of the dead can roam the earth with freedom!" In other words: perfectly cromulent night to throw a party in a haunted antiques shop...) then slips into action:

"In the name of Melchesidek, Belerephon and Set, I command you, spirit, to be gone! From the depths of hell to the halls of darkness to the black pit, I command you to be gone!"

From here on out, things move pretty quickly. Jack warns Ryan and Robey to stay alert and then wanders out into the street. 

He meets an unchaperoned little girl and volunteers to safely escort her home.
But turns out - she's a demon.

While Jack works to free himself from the demon's trap, Ryan and Robey are visited by the ghost of Uncle Lewis, the former proprietor of Curious Goods, whose disbursement of the haunted items before the devil pulled him into Hell is the show's reason for being. I suppose you could call this one of the show's mythology episodes for that reason. 

He reveals a hidden room behind a bookcase and convinces them he's returned not to spread more evil but to atone for his lifetime of strenuous devil worship. All he asks is for one of them to retrieve the Amulet of Zohar from the vault and give it to him. This will allow him to free the soul of his wife, cursed to wander between the worlds like some eyeless Comanche

Naturally, it's all a ploy just to get the amulet.

Uncle Lewis and the little demon ("Greta") make their escape. Robey and Ryan spend some time bemoaning their gullibility then escape the secret room behind the bookcase via an old fireplace. (I guess it's somewhat possible that no one would have known this room existed, as they're all relatively new tenants, but you'd figure Jack would have done some mapping of the place. There has to be a spell for that, no? Anyway.) They look up the amulet in one of Jack's books and discover that it's primarily used in a ritual where spirits can come back from the dead into the body of someone who died peacefully. 

Reasoning that this means a mortuary and that he'd choose the closest one (since the ritual has to be performed before sun-up), they race off in pursuit.
Leaving a note for Jack, of course. This is even funnier when you consider that neither Robey nor Ryan have communicated the re-appearance of the very dead Uncle Lewis to Jack.
Sure enough:

Uncle Lewis dispatches Greta to deal with them, since he has to concentrate on his spell. ("Toth-Agremmon, hear me!" yadda yadda.) 

Greta rounds them both up with little difficulty.

She stashes them in coffins on a conveyer belt, bound (slowly) towards the incinerator. Luckily, Jack arrives (having freed himself from Greta's earlier trap with the unknowing help of some street hooligans) in time to free them.

Jack has some impressive Doctor Strange / Ronnie James Dio mojo in this episode.
Normally he relies only on the power of his inspirational speeches.
Back to the abyss with you, Uncle Lewis.

Rather than engage them with the hypnosis and paralysis spells that have worked so effectively throughout the episode, Greta chooses to try and physically take them out. Maybe she's like a D-and-D magic-user and can only cast certain spells once or twice a day. Whatever the reason, she manages to trip over something and impale herself. 

Adios, bruja.

Back at Curious Goods (presumably after telling someone about the mortuary break-in) Jack muses about the hidden room he never suspected. Robey asks how much of Uncle Lewis's story was true. "Oh, some of it," Jack says. "He was married, and his wife was called Grace. She's not in there. She never was. She died and was buried, and we all lost a great friend. She was a wonderful woman, Micki *, beautiful like a sunrise. She had the kind of beauty that shone out of her like a beacon."

* What Jack insists on calling Robey.

Jack's reverie leads Robey to ask him how well he knew her.  

"Better than I ought to, perhaps. But not as much as I'd have dearly wished."
The End.

It's a surprisingly touching ending, actually, mainly because Jack manages to sell the somewhat flowery dialogue. It's kind of an odd coda for all the events we've seen. But, on this show, they almost all are.

Happy Halloween 2015!


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.


Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Prom

"Mighty fine shindig."
- Malcolm Reynolds, Firefly

Today's selection: "The Prom," the penultimate story of the third season of

Buffy fans know that season 3 ends with the (awesome) two-parter "Graduation Day." If you were watching the show back when it was on the air, you might remember that there was a two-month gap between pts. 1 and 2. The WB Network felt uncomfortable airing the 2nd part (which features apocalyptic high school destruction and students handling firearms in school) so soon after the Columbine school shooting. 

I remember the controversy (summer of '99, though I only came to Buffy years later via DVD) and Seth Green and Sarah Michelle Geller speaking out against the WB's decision. At the time, it was a question of whether such things would inspire copycat massacres. It's a little uncomfortable reflecting on this in 2015, having seen so many more of these awful school shootings. I suspect the same thing I suspected in 1999, that whatever decisions you make with things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer neither deter nor inspire horrific crimes. But it's worth noting that the idea of a Columbine-level school shooting was so horrific and unprecedented in 1999 that a decision like this was made in the first place.

Too bad the real world doesn't have a Buffy looking out for it. But that's why we create Buffies and Batmen in the first place.

Anyway, let's not be grim - we're here to praise! "The Prom" is both prom-tv-tastic and Buffy-TV-tastic, for lack of a less-dumb-sounding term. Buffy fans all have their own favorite eras; mine is about mid-season-two through mid-season-four, so "The Prom" is right in the sweet spot for me.

In case your life has yet to be illuminated by the show, the set-up for Buffy the Vampire Slayer is pretty much summed up in the title. She's the Slayer, the latest in a line of young women endowed with superhuman strength and agility who are called on by fate to protect humanity against the hordes of vampires, demons, and other undead that spew forth from the hellmouth under Sunnydale High. Aiding her in this quest are her on-again, off-again vampire soul mate Angel (David Boreanaz), her best friend Willow, popular gal Cordelia -

wisecracking sidekick Xander (Nicholas Brendon), part-time werewolf Oz (Seth Green), and librarian/ Watcher Giles. 

Played by Anthony Stewart Head.

Buffy was two parts Claremont's X-Men and one part Dungeons and Dragons. Or maybe the other away around. Maybe a little Heathers, too. However you slice it, it was and is fantastic TV. To say it changed the face of television might be an overstatement (though the internet's favorite TV critic seems to think it did), but it's definitely cast a long shadow. Like each of Joss Whedon's shows, it inspired its own passionate (and ongoing) fan-base. The Buffyverse continues in comics (primarily) to this day. 

As for 

the episode begins with Buffy and Angel in bed. (Just cuddling, of course; having sex with Buffy turns Angel into a monster.) Buffy talks about maybe bringing some of her things over to his place so she can stay the night more often. She also mentions the upcoming prom, which he, being 243 years old, "doesn't exactly get." 

When Buffy's Mom visits to remind him that whatever else she is, she's still just a teenage girl - this sounds creepier than it actually is in the episode - Angel's ambivalence increases.
Ultimately resulting in this dream sequence:

The dream is the final straw. After arguing on their next patrol, Angel breaks up with her, telling her she deserves to have all those things in life he can't give her. Buffy, naturally, is devastated.

The Angel/Buffy relationship was a defining characteristic of the show, but with Angel spinning off into its own show, they had to do something about it. Choosing this pre-Ascension prom episode as the one to cut the cord was definitely the right move. 

Giles is sympathetic, to a point.

Never mind the ascension for now; it's outside our TV Prom theme. But there is a supernatural threat, which is brought to everyone's attention when Xander and Cordelia are attacked by some manner of hell-beast at April Fool's, the clothes store where Cordy works. 

Charisma Carpenter jumped ship for Angel as well after Season 3.
As did Alexis Denisof (Wesley, the Watcher who joined the cast specifically for the ascension.)

There's some nice character-arc-wrap-up stuff between Xander and Cordelia. Cordy is working at the store because she has to in order to pay for her prom dress; she's been in the poor house since her father got busted for tax fraud. ("Now you can run along and tell your friends that Cordy finally got hers. And how she has to wear a nametag. I'm a name-tag person. Don't leave that out.") Cordy and Xander used to have a thing but it ended badly (long story), but Xander tries to make up for things by anonymously paying for her dress.

Wesley approves. (He and Cordy had a bit of a will-they-or-won't-they, as well.)

Anyway, the hell-beast who tore apart April Fool's turns out to be more specifically a hell-hound. When the Scooby Gang studies the store-video of the attack, Oz recognizes the guy standing around outside as one Tucker Wells, with whom Oz shared a chemistrylab. ("Let me guess. He was quiet, kept to himself but always seemed like such a nice young man.") They then discover a voicemail Tucker left for another friend - "Those Sunnydale High lemmings have no idea what awaits them. Their big night will be their last night!"

Tucker, it turns out, has plans to ruin prom night by sending a hell-hound trained to attack those in formal wear to the dance.
"So... that's how you brainwashed the hounds to go psycho on prom?"

Buffy is determined not to let Tucker Wells ruin her friends's prom, nor hers, which she resolves to attend despite the whole break-up with Angel.

Buffy tracks Tucker down (running into Angel at the butcher's where Tucker got his cow brains to feed the hell-hounds, and where Angel gets his cow's plasma) and easily subdues him. ("Luckily for me, you're an incompetent maladjust.") She doesn't care to learn his reasons for why he instigated this hell-hound plan, but we-the-audience are treated to this hilariously quick flashback:

And that's all it took.

Turns out it's hellhounds, plural, but Buffy easily enough subdues those, as well.
This screencap also-known-as Reason Number 43 My Wife Won't Watch Buffy.

Threat dispatched, let's have a look at the prom sequence, which is the real heart of the episode.

Anya (a vengeance demon, played by Emma Caulfield) and Xander become an item in Season 4. This is a nice precursor to that.
Oz and Willow enjoy themselves. (Also a nice precursor to Season 4.)
And as for Buffy...

After she arrives and tells everyone the problem's taken care of, she's surprised to hear her name called out from the stage by the head of the prom committee (recurring Buffy foil Jonathan Levinson), who delivers the following speech:

"We're not good friends. Most of us never found the time to get to know you. But that doesn't mean we haven't noticed you. We don't talk about it much, but it's not secret that Sunnydale High isn't really like other high schools. A lot of weird stuff happens here."

(From the crowd: "Zombies!" "Hyena people!" "Snyder!")

"But whenever there was a problem or something creepy happened, you seemed to show up and stop it. Most of the people here have been saved by you, or helped by you, at one time or another. We're proud to say that the class of '99 has the lowest mortality rate of any graduating class in Sunnydale history. And we know at least part of that is because of you. So the senior class offers its thanks and gives you this:

"It's from all of us, and it has written here: "Buffy Summers: Class Protector."

Noel Murray considered 'The Prom' a "nice, low-stakes palate-cleanser before the coming apocalypse. In some ways it’s the most 'high school-y' episode of the series, because more than anything, it’s an adolescent fantasy come to life. What sullen high school student hasn’t dreamed of the day when his or her classmates would finally appreciate them?" 

Exactly. It's a fantastic intersection of series mythos and adolescent wish fulfillment. 

This episode is recalled memorably in the Season 4 episode "Superstar." Man! Let's all do a Buffy re-watch, for real. 

Songs: "Wild Horses" by The Sundays and "Praise You" by Fatboy Slim. (Some fine prom music, there.)