The basic premise behind Howard R. Cohen’s Saturday the 14th is fairly sound. A family inherits a mysterious old house, and their son, Billy (Kevin Brando), discovers a magic book. After foolishly reading some magic curse involving the date of Saturday the 14th, monsters from within the book are summoned to life. Of course, any people not careful around said monsters risk being “devoured.”
While Saturday the 14th is far from the worst horror spoof I’ve ever seen, it’s at least partially saved by its short running time of 76 minutes. There’s just something clunky about it, and it’s not one of those fun movies where an avalanche of creatures run rampant in the streets.
And no, my main critique for such a film would never be the acting (in fact, Kevin Brando does a pretty good job, especially for a child actor). Still, I must say that the characters of John (Richard Benjamin), Mary (Paula Prentiss), and Debbie (Kari Michaelsen) are neither individually nor collectively a match for any character played by Leslie Nielson.
The good things about Saturday the 14th
Oddly, this is not a Friday the 13th parody, but misfits might appreciate Saturday the 14th for its quirkiness anyway. Quite obviously, this flick doesn’t have quite the skilled writing of someone like Richard Matheson. I also doubt anyone considers it a classic.
Still, none of this inherently subtracts from a horror spoof’s magic, and it might even help someone enjoy it more (in a “root for the underdog” sense, or maybe because it was someone’s first horror movie experience, etc.).
Though it was filmed in 1981, it feels like it was made no later than 1975. This might initially give it that “retro” appeal that older movies have and could even contribute to a forgiveness factor for its cheesier elements.
Let’s face it: Some people who are tantalized by the legendary Ray Harryhausen wouldn’t be if he was around applying those methods today. That being said, you should know before watching that, for better or worse, the effects are a mixed bag, at best (the fish creature looks okay sometimes). Though Saturday The 14th isn’t considered a classic horror-comedy that’s terrifyingly funny for the entire family, it’s not the worst little movie in existence.
Viewers seem to like Saturday The 14th more than critics
On IMDb, Saturday The 14th is given 4.7 stars out of 10, which is significantly better than Rotten Tomatoes’ 10% out of 100% rating. To me, this suggests that audiences like the movie better than snooty, know-it-all critics. Maybe ordinary schnooks relate better to characters in the movie or can imagine their relatives in the film. Who knows? In any case, Cohen returned to direct a sequel in 1988 titled Saturday the 14th Strikes Back.
Director Howard R. Cohen would go on to write for the 1985 Care Bears cartoon, which is a show plenty of kids watched (like myself) and it tried to have a positive message. This movie didn’t end the career of actor/director Richard Benjamin, either. He directed successful movies like The Money Pit (1986), My Stepmother Is an Alien (1988), Mermaids (1990), and Milk Money (1994). If you were around in the 1980s and ’90s, there’s a solid chance you saw one or more of those and liked them.
What are your thoughts on Saturday the 14th? Let us know in the comments!