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?
S01E012: “Faith Healer”
Wikipedia Plot Summary: A debunked faith-healer acquires real healing-powers, but gets debunked again, and worse, by one of Jack (Chris Wiggins)’s peculiar old friends (Robert A. Silverman)
- Director: My all time favourite Canadian director David Cronenberg takes the reins
- Writer: Christine Cornish pens her one and only Friday episode
- Famous Guest Star: Conenberg regular Robert A. Silverman (Scanners, Naked Lunch) takes center stage as Jerry Scott
Cursed Antique of the Week: The Sforza glove that transfers a magnified ailment from one person to another
Setting: Jerry’s floating house. See Quirkest Add-On below
Best Death: Jerry’s grisly tumour face is a sight to behold
Quirkiest Add-On: Jerry lives on a GIANT barge docked in the harbour
Character Bits: Micki reveals that she studied the Renaissance Italian court at university
Corny Finish Line: After an uncomfortable encounter, Micki and Jack make up when they jokingly compare different curse — science vs magic — for Ryan’s cold. Jack jokes: “If he gets worse or dies, all bets are off”
80s Fashion Closet: Is Fishoff (Miguel Fernandes)’ all white ensemble inspired by Southern faith healers or is it just an unfortunate 80s fashion choice? It really could go either way
Kissing Cousins Incest Watch: With an episode primarily dedicated to Jack, Jerry and Fishoff, there’s less cousin-ly love to go around, though at one point Ryan (John D. LeMay) drapes his arm around Micki (Lousie Robey) in an overly affectionate fashion. Earlier he also chastises her with the very sexist line: “Patience and tolerance. I thought those were traditional female virtues?”
Not unlike the Atom Egoyan episode from earlier in the season, “Faith Healer” embodies a number of visual and thematic components that reflect guest director David Cronenberg’s interests. Directed in between The Fly and Dead Ringers, this is the height of Cronenberg’s (more respectable) body horror period and the episode feels more indebted to his vision than any other instalment of the series thus far.
While the Sforza glove is a very traditional “cursed object” (akin to the teacup from “A Cup Of Time” in its transferrable powers), “Faith Healer”s more or less casts aside the Curious Goods crew in favour of a two person showdown between guest stars Fernandes and Silverman. Micki and Ryan barely appear and even Jack feels cursory — he’s more involved, but only because of his ties to Jerry.
The prominence of Silverman is unsurprising given his history with Cronenberg (they had already worked together on Scanners and The Brood by this time), but within the historical context of the series it is fascinating to see an episode given over to the will of a director and guest star in such a prominent way.
Another element of significance is Cronenberg’s direction, specifically the lighting and the use of enclosed spaces. The famed directed heavily favours shadowy lighting across characters’ faces, which casts both Fishoff and Jerry into suspicion early and often. As for the enclosed spaces, Friday The 13th has always used alleys for sets, but “Faith Healer” features a preponderance of them. Cronenberg shoots these alleys so that they feel more narrow and threatening than ever. This includes Jerry’s floating home, which feels similarly suffocating. Plus the presence of a boat where violence breaks out clearly evokes Videodrome.
Finally, there’s the increased prominence of practical makeup effects. The pulsating bubbles on victims’ faces, Jerry’s gory chest tumours, as well as the glove, are classic Cronenberg body horror. The fact that these effects are so much more realistic and graphic is fascinating considering that special effects makeup artists Darren Perks and Randy Daudlin were already been working on the series before this episode. I imagine that Cronenberg brought his experience with macabre makeup effects to set. It will be interesting to see if this uptick in the quality of special makeup effects continues in subsequent episodes.
What Doesn’t Work…
It’s possible that your mileage on this episode will vary depending on your willingness to accept change. Although in many ways “Faith Healer” adopts the familiar plot beats of any other episode of the series, the diminished roles of Jack and (more specifically) Micki and Ryan does give make the episode stand out. Add in the extended climax that (literally) traps Jack in a closet so that the two guest stars can have a shoot-out and car chase and it’s clear that “Faith Healer” is less interested in the core cast than traditional episodes. This didn’t actually bother me, but it may rankle the feathers of purists.
Stream of Consciousness Musings
- The opening sequence when Jerry debunks Fishoff (Fernandes) in front of a two-tiered audience feels very ceremonial and — dare I say it — cultish
- Did anyone else think that the leather glove looks like a woman’s glove?
- Initially it seems as though the glove has eaten away at Fishoff’s hand. It took me a few seconds to realize that the leather accessory had actually taken on the attributes of the illness itself
- When Micki and Ryan first see Fishoff’s infomercial, it is revealed that there has been a significant time lapse (a minimum of six months) between the opening sequence and the present. This is a first for the series, which typically finds the crew investigating a crime shortly after it is committed
- Remember when these kinds of infomercials were common fare on TV? That’s a blast from the past
- Jack’s disbelief when he is kicked out by Fishoff’s staff is hilarious since he was attempting to break and enter. “What kind of man bends a man’s lockpicks?!” he bemoans in melodramatic fashion
- There’s an interesting extreme long shot of Micki and Ryan waiting on the fire escape for Fishoff to sneak out of the back of his building. It is notable if only because it highlights how infrequently Friday The 13th pulls back to show bigger sets, which is an unfortunate by product of a restrictive budget (The outdoor fields in “Scarecrow” are another great example of “opening up” the filming space)
- Who will take care of Porky the poodle after her poor owner is assaulted and killed by Fishoff in the alley?
- According to Jerry’s claim, he’s debunked 400 “parasites” in 20 years. Who knew there were that many phoney faith healers kicking around in the late 80s?
- Jerry’s cutdown of Jack is savage: “Is this where you try your magic top hat routine?” Way to tear down Jack’s interest in magic, Jerry!
- There’s a time discrepancy when Jerry recalls that a year has passed since he exposed Fishoff as a fraud in the opening scene. So how much time has actually passed: six months or a year?
- I either turned away for a moment or it’s not entirely clear, but it seems like Jerry and Jack are talking one moment and then Jack is tied up in the closet the next. It feels very abrupt
- I appreciated that Fishoff mocks Jerry’s request to heal him. I truly had no idea why the televangelist would agree to help the man who publicly ruined him
- The fact that Jerry winds up being a killer – of both Fishoff and his bodyguard – even before he lays hands on the glove makes him distinct from most of the killers on the series. Traditionally villains are compelled by a cursed antique. Here Jerry is just acting out of his own malicious intent
- The logistics of Fishoff’s death are different from the others, but it is visually impressive to see him repeatedly shot out of nowhere when he fails to transfer his wounds to Jerry. I liked this death quite a bit
- Intriguingly writer Christine Cornish lays the foundation for the next episode by having Micki reference a cape she thinks they should investigate
- I’m glad that Jack verbally acknowledges his poor taste in friends because I had just made that observation in my notes. Between Jerry and Lewis (see episodes 1 and 5) Jack really should never trust another living person
- Finally, is Micki’s cruel admonishment of Jack’s desire to leave behind the cursed object life a callback to his somewhat cutthroat comment about her own struggle back in “Root Of All Evil“?
See you back here tomorrow for Friday The 13th The Series episode thirteen: “The Baron’s Bride”. It looks like the halfway point of season one involves…time travel?!