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?
S01E015: “Vanity’s Mirror”
Wikipedia Plot Summary:An unattractive girl (Ingrid Veninger) uses a magic compact to make boys who insult her fall in love with her, then kills them to make them stop pestering her. (Sidebar: This description is hilariously on point)
- Director: Thank god William Fruet (“The Inheritance“, “Scarecrow“) is back
- Writer: This is the only credit for Ira Levant (story), while Roy Sallows kicks off the first of many Friday teleplays
- Famous Guest Star: Veninger would go on to become a successful Canadian producer and writer
Cursed Antique of the Week: A gold compact that makes men fall in love with the owner
Setting: Lincoln High School
Best Death: While Greg (Zack Ward)’s trash compactor death is great in theory, the execution is sadly quite bloodless. That leaves Russel (Simon Reynolds)’s death by bandsaw — complete with a massive vertical spray of blood on the wall next to startled Helen — the next best option
Quirkiest Add-On: There’s a trash compactor on the roof of the school because, of course…
Character Bits: Jack (Chris Wiggins) carries a Swiss Army knife, which is super handy when he needs to cut down teenagers hanged in their bedrooms
Corny Finish Line: Considering the bleak outcome and the open ending, there is definitely no corny finish
80s Fashion Closet: OMG this episode is set at a high school during prom season, so there’s no shortage of crazy options to pick from. Obviously Helen’s monstrous teale taffeta dress and accompanying giant bow is AMAZING, but once again, I’ve got to go with a Micki (Louise Robey) selection: her collection of outrageous hats, including a huge (potentially felt?) beret is amazing
Kissing Cousins Incest Watch: Micki seems far more concerned about Ryan (John D. LeMay) than Jack is, but that’s understandable given the way that she and Jack divide up their search
Maybe it’s the red wine talking, but this episode kicked all kinds of ass! What begins as another tired cursed antique that gives the owner power over members of the opposite sex (which <sigh> is so boringly heteronormative) turns out to be something much darker and more depraved.
Credit Ingrid Veninger for her memorably unhinged, unflinching performance as Helen. Her glee at dispatching the high school bullies who mock her is matched only by her insatiable appetite for her sister Joanne (Gwendoline Pacey)’s hot boyfriend Scott (David Orth, in the first of three different appearances on the series). Initially it seems as though Helen is just another one-dimensional villain, but the unabashed relish she takes in murder (or near murder in the case of Joanne) is unparalleled on the series. She is hardcore and it’s a lot of fun to watch.
“Vanity’s Mirror” also strikes a really interesting balance between its horror and its (likely unintentional) comedy. Watching Ryan try to dodge the light from the vanity using his bag is, if we’re being honest, totally fucking hilarious. As are the scenes where rats crawl over his unconscious body when he falls from the railing. These oddball moments are juxtaposed by really, really dark moments of violence, including the scene when Joanne is strung up in her bedroom, or the shocking force of impact of the opening murder when a businessman is killed by a fire escape ladder. This violence is MUCH darker than most of the other episodes we’ve seen, which tend to pull back or mute the intensity of the murders.
I wonder to what extent director William Fruet had? It’s becoming increasingly clear that his episodes are among the best of the series, to the point that when I see his name in the credits, my expectations immediately increase. Here, once again, the direction, particularly of the action sequences, is much more visually dynamic and clear (sometimes the low production budget is evident in what the show does and does not show).
Throw in the fact that the Curious Goods crew are unable to save the lives of teenagers or recover the cursed object for the first time, and “Vanity’s Mirror” is a milestone episode.
What Doesn’t Work…
Honestly, between the craziness, the insane fashion and the super dark ending, this episode pretty much worked on every level for me. It’s one of the series’ best!
Stream of Consciousness Musings
- The episode opens with yet another nighttime flower vendor. This is NOT A THING, Friday The 13th!
- The businessman explains that he used to think Sylvia the flower vendor was “ugly”. Because she wears earmuffs over a hat and a few stray strands of hair are peeking out? I mean, sure, those teeth are a nightmare, but that hardly makes you ugly, right UK peeps?
- The sound effect of the ladder hitting his face? A+
- The first sign that this episode is unique is how it subverts expectations. I expected the businessman to be hit by a car because he’s standing in the street when Sylvia flashes him with the light. Instead it is she who is killed by a vehicle after she runs away from the murder scene in the alley
- Is Helen meant to be ugly because she has acne?
- In case you were wondering how the Curious Goods crew is faring on their cursed object hunt, we learn that they have recovered 23 objects (10% of the total). This means that they’re collecting 1.5 objects per episode (23 objects in 15 episodes) so it will take them 153 episodes to recover them all. Unfortunately Friday The 13th only runs for 67 episodes, so *spoiler* they’re not going to make it!
- Those 80s insults, though. The bullies suggest Helen is from “the shallow end of the gene pool” while Scott explains she comes as “part of the package” if he wants to date Joanne. Greg also implies Helen is a dog when he comments that he would take her to prom on a leash. Way harsh, Tai
- I probably wasn’t listening closely, but I didn’t realize Helen and Joanne were sisters until waaaay later in the episode
- There’s something exceptionally grim about the way Helen dispatches Greg in the rooftop (?) trash compactor, but this death is too bloodless. It needs some gore
- Micki’s efforts to recover the vanity at Helen’s place is exceptionally misguided. She comes on way too strong right off the bat! I would have slammed the door in her face, too
- Can we talk about Russel’s frizzy-haired ponytail? Because wow…that is something
- The death by bandsaw moves this episode from “good” to “great” in the space of a single blood splatter. That is some full-on slasher shit there and I am here for it
- Ryan dodging those rays and yelling at Helen to stop it may be the funniest sequence of the series thus far. It’s highly amusing watching a high school teen threaten him to near death with a beam of light!
- Also: the rat wrangler needed to do a lot more to make those rats look threatening. One appeared to be whispering into his ear “where’s the cheese?”
- Ok, I’m all in on Helen’s prom dress: multiple levels, a matching head bow, a purple rhinestone belt, some pearls and a side ponytail. Holy hell. Now I know where Drew Barrymore’s Josie Grossie flashback prom look from Never Been Kissed comes from
- Also: WTF is with Micki’s felt beret? That thing must be at least two stories tall
- The moment when Helen finally turns the vanity on Scott and he roughs Joanne up (pushing her aggressively against the wall, punching her and hanging her in her room!) is shocking. Perhaps it is just because they’re teens, or because she has no idea it’s coming, but what happens to Joanne is genuinely upsetting. These events really reinforce the severity of the violence in this episode. It’s no joke
- After Micki rescues him from the rats, Ryan screams at Helen from across the gymnasium, which is not exactly what you would call subtle
- Did anyone notice that Helen’s dress is undone in the back? Is this a mistake by the costume department, or a reflection of the fact that Helen has no one in her life to perform simple tasks, like zipping her up?
- The scenes of Helen and Scott dancing on the ledge of the roof is a smart second use of an existing set. That American flag isn’t fooling anyone, though. This show is as Canadian as they come
- The moment Scott and Helen both go over the edge in slow motion is another genuine surprise because it never occurred to me that they might actually die. It’s so dark and so grim. This is the first time our heroes have failed to save an innocent bystander (and it’s a teenager, to boot)
- Micki freaks out because they do not recover the mirror, which is yet another subverted expectation because they always find the cursed object. Instead the episode ends on an open-ended cliffhanger as a random hand reaches into frame to grab the compact as the credits roll. Does this mean we’ll see the vanity mirror in a future episode? Stay tuned!
See you back here tomorrow for Friday The 13th The Series episode sixteen: “Tattoo”