Saturday The 14th (1981)

FEBRUARY 15, 2012


Two horror spoofs starring Richard Benjamin in under a week? Only at HMAD...

I'm sure I'm not the only one who thought Saturday The 14th was a spoof on the slasher boom of the early 80s, but it's actually a kid-friendly haunted house movie more in line with the House films or a less scary Monster Squad, with a Griswold-esque family of four moving into a new house that they had inherited only to discover monsters living inside, a vampire neighbor who wants the place for himself, and other silliness.

Like First Bite, it's nothing spectacular, but it's a harmless little movie that breezes by, feeling even shorter than its 75 minute run time. It takes roughly 3 minutes from the time they move into the house for the first monster to show up, and it rarely slows down too much from there. Most of the action centers around Billy, the ten year old son of the family who also seems to be the only one aware of the monsters (and thus is the only one trying to do anything about them). The others chalk up their experiences to dreams or a lack of curtains (a charmingly odd running gag), even when they're pretty intense - a bat attack on the mom is legit scary. Nothing much bad happens to the dad (Benjamin); one of the monsters eats his (pretty awesome looking) sandwich, that's about it. He's a bit dim; when I compared them to the Griswolds I mean the later films when Clark had gotten somewhat stupid, not the original Vacation where he was merely too optimistic.

One thing I dug was the variety of the monsters (and, this being 1982, they're all practical!). There's a few alien type things, plus takeoffs on the Universal monsters - a Creature type, a Wolfman type, etc. Plus a "wraps and bandages" Mummy, not the "old guy" type from the Karloff film. This was a Corman production (Julie, not Roger), so you know they didn't have a blank check budget, so seeing so many monsters with pretty good costumes was a nice surprise. And there's even a Van Helsing, played by a guy who looks like Guillermo Del Toro dressed as Dan O'Bannon for Halloween. In a fun twist (spoiler for a 30 year old spoof movie ahead!), Helsing is actually the villain of the film, seeking the book that unleashed the monsters for his own world-takeover plans, while Valdemar (Jeffrey Tambor dressed as Dracula) actually wants to contain the book and PREVENT evil. It got me thinking; I know they were planning to make a Robin Hood film in which the Sheriff Of Nottingham was actually the hero - it might be interesting to see a serious movie where Van Helsing and Dracula's roles were switched.

The film's budgetary constraints do creep in at times, however. The whole movie takes place in the house; they mention the land around it as part of the inheritance, but we barely see any of it. And the finale amounts to Valdemar and Van Helsing just making silly faces at each other while the family just stands there watching. I'm not expecting a Michael Bay-esque action fest, but even in a horror comedy where the emphasis is on the latter, the finale should be exciting in some way, not inert. The movie's action highlight comes rather early, actually, as one of the monsters chases the kids around the house before a cop arrives and starts shooting him. That said, I was somewhat surprised to see the monsters actually a kill a few folks (distant family members) in the 3rd act - there's even a disembodied head! Oh the good ol' days, before the PG-13 rating kept such things out of PG fare (there's no way they could justify giving this an R).

There's a sequel called Saturday The 14th Strikes Back, which has the same writer/director (the late Howard R. Cohen) but is apparently nowhere near as fun; my buddy Jeff in fact dubbed it one of the worst movies ever made, and not in a "so bad it's good" way. With only about 400 movies to go, I doubt I'll go out of my way to make it one of them, but now that this one is on Instant, give it a go if you love "man in suit" monsters, or if your kid is a budding horror nerd but not quite ready for Fulci movies.

What say you?

P.S. Best sight gag in the movie - a box of Count Chocula. There's a reason he was the last one of the monster cereals to be available year round (he's now relegated to the Halloween season like his buddies though; very sad).


  1. the book The Dracula Tapes by Fred Saberhagen does, to a certain extent, make van helsing the villain. it's dracula as told by dracula and van helsing is this utterly incompetent boob who has conned all the others into going along with his crazed plans. interesting read.

  2. The only thing I remember from this movie (from one movie channel viewing in the early 80s) is the unending Twilight Zone episodes on TV. Oddly, I don't remember any of the monsters! Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss had been married for about 20 years when they made this, and are still together. At about the same time as this movie they co-hosted a Saturday Night Live episode, though I don't remember if it had anything to do with this movie's release.

  3. 2 things:

    1) The blonde teenage daughter was one of the stars of "Gimme a Break!" w/ Nell Carter and so...there's that and
    2) I saw this in the theater as a kid and the only thing that scared me was....the fur coat that eats the woman in the closet. I don't know why but...terrifying!


Movie & TV Show Preview Widget