Friday, September 13, 2019

Triskaidekaphilia: 'The 13th Friday' (2017)

On the 13th of each month, I write about a movie whose title contains the number 13.

It's been a little while since I ran out of movies from the Friday the 13th franchise to feature in this series, but the concept of Friday the 13th is such a potent source for horror that there are still plenty of other movies that riff on that idea (and may get a little boost from the opportunistic association with a well-known property). Justin Price's straight-to-VOD crapfest The 13th Friday definitely falls into this category, with a title designed to catch the eye of Jason Voorhees fans even though the movie itself bears no resemblance to the adventures of the hockey mask-wearing killer. A Friday the 13th rip-off probably would have been more watchable than this completely incoherent mess, which makes absolutely no sense and contains nothing resembling scares or suspense.

I'm not even sure I can recount the basic plot, since the movie jumps around abruptly from scene to scene and character to character in such a haphazard manner that I was almost never sure what was happening or how the people onscreen were connected to each other. The movie opens with both expository title cards and expository narration, both of which begin with "It is said ..." and offer no useful information for what is about to happen. There's a prologue that is apparently set in the early 1900s featuring a woman setting her young daughter on fire, and as one Letterboxd user pointed out, the girl in this supposed period setting is wearing braces on her teeth.

That kind of sloppy inattention to basic detail is a hallmark of Price's work, which I've actually encountered before via his equally dreadful Christmas-themed horror movies The Elf and Elves. After the prologue, Friday introduces a bunch of people hanging out at the world's most listless party, holding obviously empty red Solo cups as they stand outside this supposedly haunted house (which is also a church, maybe?). The actors all deliver their lines so completely devoid of emotion that you could almost imagine this movie as some sort of experimental performance-art project commenting on terrible no-budget horror movies. But no, it's just a cheap, rushed production that follows these interchangeable people as they all die in various ways after they're cursed by this evil house (where they voluntarily have a party, for some reason).

The curse involves an object that looks kind of like the puzzle box from Hellraiser, but apparently is some sort of calendar that requires the group to sacrifice someone each month for 13 months (hence the title, I guess, although there is more than one Friday in a month). Price awkwardly fast-forwards through most of this, killing and introducing characters so clumsily that I had no idea who was who, even when he sort of settles on Lisa May's Allison as the protagonist. Some of the victims get sacrificed in a cave, although I could never figure out where the cave was or how they got there. There are some crappy-looking monsters that are obviously people in flimsy masks, but then there are also characters who are supposed to be wearing flimsy masks to make themselves look like monsters, I guess?

Anyway, it all relates to the young girl from the prologue being possessed by Satan, I think, and also to the erasure of the cursed 13th month of the year from the ancient calendar (also a plot point in the similarly awful bargain-basement horror movie 13/13/13). It doesn't matter, because the climax just involves the remaining characters wandering around the haunted house before the movie ends abruptly without resolving anything. May, who's worked with Price on multiple projects, delivers all of her lines in a sort of halting whisper, and the rest of the cast sound like they're being fed their lines one word at a time. The special effects are so rinky-dink that you can practically see the strings holding up the ghostly sheets, and even basic things like spiders and butterflies are created with horribly unconvincing CGI. Somehow Price keeps getting funding and distribution for these abominations (I watched this one on Hulu), but he's clearly not doing anything to improve his craft as a filmmaker.

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