Welcome to the Friday The 13th The Series rewatch. Each day throughout October, we’ll watch one episode of the seminal 1987 television series and tackle the highs, the lows and Micki’s hair (of course). Now step into Curious Goods and peruse our cursed antiques, won’t you?
S01E017: “The Electrocutioner”
Wikipedia Plot Summary: Eli Pittman (Angelo Rizacos), an innocent survivor of an electric chair uses the chair’s magic powers to get revenge on those who put him in t
- Director & Writer: “Root Of All Evil” writer Rob Hedden returns to both write and direct
- Famous Guest Star: Rizacos makes his first of three guest appearances on the show
Cursed Antique of the Week: An electric chair that transfers electrical charges to its owner in exchange for bodies
Setting: Haverstock Reform School
Best Death: The dental chair deaths of the orphan kids are the most visually impressive, what with the black and white faces of death and the disappearing bodies
Quirkiest Add-On: Jack (Chris Wiggins) uses a needle and the charge off of the electric chair to create a compass to track Pittman in one of the show’s best science lessons yet
Character Bits: Micki (Louise Robey) once again expresses concern that a killer may get away unpunished, which is one of her recurring character traits
Corny Finish Line: “Kinda gives me a tingling feeling” Micki laughs as the static electricity from Ryan (John D. LeMay)’s lightning lamp makes her hair stand up straight
80s Fashion Closet: As always I could rest on my laurels with Micki’s hair, which is still in bouffant/bang mode, but it’s so much more fun to comment on the punk rock styling of teenage victim Melissa (Jennifer Cornish) who looks like she has stepped right out of A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors
Kissing Cousins Incest Watch: They wind up in a few harrowing situations together, but there’s a lack of sparks (ha!) between the cousins
The sequence when Micki and Ryan see Pittman kill Judge Avery and have to hide from him in the car while he repeatedly sends electrical current through the hood ornament is easily the episode’s best. It’s well directed, tense setpiece that combines science and showbiz magic in equal measure.
Outside of this, however, it is a bit more sparse. I’m not sure that I love Hedden’s handheld camerawork during Pittman’s black and white flashbacks, though it does help these sequences to stand out against the episode’s more traditional elements. The fact that these flashbacks are actually false memories, complete with Carrie-esque laughter by Pittman’s executioners, is an intriguing attempt by Hedden to visually capture Pittman’s state of mind as he carries out his murders. It’s a small touch, but effective.
It sounds a little odd, but the other piece of this otherwise mundane episode that stands out is the science. No, an electric chair cannot be disguised as a dentist chair and used to make orphan teenagers disappear in puffs of smoke, but the aforementioned car scene when Micki and Ryan, the homemade compass bit and the use of rubber gloves to ground Pittman’s electrical charge makes it apparent Hedden did at least some research in preparation for his directorial debut.
What Doesn’t Work…
Friday The 13th loves a good revenge episode, but in this case it just falls flat. Pittman starts out as a sympathetic character, but following the ten year time jump he’s already a full-on killer. The fact that this “innocent” man is murdering orphan teenagers, as well as his kindly boss, is pretty despicable. It also immediately eliminates any sympathy the audience may have harboured for his quest for vengeance.
It’s evident that the sole creative reason Pittman’s innocence is even included in the narrative is to explain why he was released from prison. The series has never satisfyingly explained why cursed objects turn reasonable, law-abiding citizens into killers and while most of the time I’m willing to overlook it, here it grates on me because Hedden’s script repeatedly brings up his innocence as though it somehow excuses his behaviour.
Another reason this particular storyline stands out more than in other episodes is because there’s so little else that is innovative or interesting to distract from it. The men that Pittman wants revenge on are all unknown to us, so it doesn’t matter if they’re killed. Even Frank Adamson‘s Warden Hobbs doesn’t have much character, despite multiple scenes with the Curious Goods crew. Between Pittman’s confused portrayal and the pile of anonymous bodies he leaves in his wake, “The Electrocutioner” feels long, drawn out and, sadly, not very exciting.
Stream of Consciousness Musings
- The special effects in this episode are confusing. There’s nothing in the initial scene when Pittman is zapped (aside from the soundtrack), but then there’s a cacophony of effects in other scenes, including superimposed black and white skulls on the teen victims, smoke, red lights when Pittman collects their energy, and then blue lightning bolts when he uses his powers. It’s very inconsistent
- Warden Hobb’s refusal to put Pittman back in the chair because “You can’t execute a man twice” sounds like some Double Jeopardy BS
- My favourite line comes from Melissa, who comments (admittedly while high on dental gas) that dentistry is a “semi-groovy job”? What teen would honestly say that?!
- There’s some initial discomfort when Pittman uses the electric chair on a black teen girl after reminding her that as an orphan, no one cares if she lives or dies. Considering this actress is not even given a line of dialogue, this scene comes off feeling icky and more than a little problematic
- I will confess that I kind of love the idea that someone could disguise an electric chair as a dental chair. It’s completely ridiculous
- Pittman sure does love to stretch out his murderous encounters. He always spends enough time with his victims to ensure they know who he is and let them recoil or demand that he leave because he zaps them
- The most memorable visual in this entire episode is the dummy head that Pittman has on his desk. It’s terrifying
- Another amazing Melissa moment occurs when she learns she can skip history class for a dental exam and she gets excited! “So history class is history” she exclaims. Who is this odd unicorn?!
- The episode’s biggest groaner line occurs when Pittman’s boss, Mr Downing (Ron Hartmann) enquires of Melissa: “If you see her, would you give me a buzz?” Nyuk nyuk nyuk
- I wish that Pittman’s torture of Downing with the dental tools was better executed. It’s obvious that there was no budget or capacity to actually make it look like there was tooth trauma, so it just looks silly to keep cutting away
- That long sequence when Jack and Micki track Pittman in the basement using the home made compass starts off feeling really compelling, but quickly feels like padding for the episode runtime when it amounts to nothing
- There was something inappropriately funny about Jack, Micki and Ryan trying to get to the Hobbs’ home in time for a 6pm dinner. 24 this ain’t
- The use of a storm that knocks out the phones is reminiscent of “Bedazzled” which used the same narrative crutch, but in a more satisfying way. Here it just feels cheap
- I love how Mrs. Hobbs (Marcia Bennett) apologizes to Pittman for calling him old when he tries to impersonate Ryan. It’s a funny, authentic touch in Hedden’s script
- Probably shouldn’t have expected anything different, but when Pittman turns into a fried skeleton in the climax, I definitely groaned. The whole plot about how and why he escaped death ten years before is completely nonsensical, but wouldn’t it have made as much sense to simply have him lose his powers and go back to jail to pay for his real crimes this time. Friday The 13th loooooves to kill its villains
- While it’s evident that Ryan’s lightning lamp is only included in the episode to connect visually to the case of the week, it’s still fun to end on a humourous note with Micki’s hair standing straight up from the static electricity
See you back here tomorrow for Friday The 13th The Series episode eighteen: “Brain Drain”