Saturday the 14th (1981) poster

Saturday the 14th (1981)


USA. 1981.


Director/Screenplay – Howard R. Cohen, Story – Jeff Begun, Producer – Julie Corman, Photography – Daniel Lacambre, Music – Parmer Fuller, Stop Motion Animation – Ernest D. Farino, Special Effects – Richard Lacey, Art Direction – Arlene Alen. Production Company – New World Pictures.


Richard Benjamin (John Hyatt), Paula Prentiss (Mary Hyatt), Kari Michaelsen (Debbie Hyatt), Kevin Brando (Billy Hyatt), Severn Darden (Van Helsing), Jeffrey Tambor (Waldemar), Nancy Lee Andrews (Yolanda), Stacy Keach, Sr. (Attorney), Carol Androsky (Real Estate Lady), Rosemary De Camp (Aunt Lucille)


John Hyatt receives a house in Erie, Pennsylvania in his late Uncle Henry’s will. John, his wife Mary and their two children move in, ignoring the claim that there is a curse on the house. At the same time, the vampire Waldemar is seeking The Book of Evil that is hidden somewhere in the house. John finds a note left by his uncle warning him not to open the book. However, young Billy finds the book and inadvertently begins to read from it and in so doing opening a portal that allows demonic forces to emerge. According to the book, all hell will break loose on the coming Saturday the 14th. Believing that what they have is a pest problem, John calls the exterminator who sends their best agent Van Helsing.

Saturday the 14th was one of a spate of slasher/horror parodies that came out around the same time. Others included Student Bodies (1981), National Lampoon’s Class Reunion (1982), Pandemonium/Thursday the 12th (1982) and Unmasked Part 25 (1988). All of these were based around spoofing the slasher film (or at least their titles) – a genre that only really came into existence a couple of years earlier with Halloween (1978) and then Friday the 13th (1980), which quickly produced a host of imitators.

The point that should be made is that for all its title that appears to parody Friday the 13th and the slasher film, Saturday the 14th has no interest in contemporary horror. Rather all its spoofs are of classic monsters – vampires in capes and Van Helsing, the Gill Man from The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), demons and haunted houses. The nearest to a modern horror film that we get (relative to the time this was made) is the scene that spoofs Jaws (1975).

Richard Benjamin and wife Paula Prentiss in Saturday the 14th (1981)
Richard Benjamin and wife Paula Prentiss

The parodies are of intermittent amusement. The tv in the house only plays The Twilight Zone (1959-63) no matter what channel it is tuned to. Van Helsing works for a rat exterminator company and comes with lines like “I never drink … coffee.” There is a pot plant that calls out “Feed me” just like in The Little Shop of Horrors (1960). There are two vampires, one played by no less than Jeffrey Tambor of Arrested Development (2003-19) and Transparent (2014-10) fame, although they never get to do much.

The most amusing of the parodies is the one where Kari Michaelsen runs a bath and a small fin circles around in the suds just like the shark in Jaws, unseen by her as she waits for the waterto fill – only for it to then emerge as a copy of the Gill Man come in search of the book.

The film does have the benefit of some quite good monster makeups for the era, although these are not shot to their optimal advantage and never look like anything more than Halloween novelty masks. More to the point, Howard R. Cohen lacks much of an idea of directing comedy. There is the odd line that comes with a certain deadpan but mostly the film is physical obvious slapstick – of Richard Benjamin and the cast mugging for the camera, or scenes with the Gill Mann chasing a towel clad Kari Michaelsen around the house.

In a parody of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Gill Man appears in the bath in Saturday the 14th (1981)
In a parody of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Gill Man appears in the bath

There was a sequel with Saturday the 14th Strikes Back (1988) from director Howard R. Cohen but without any of the actors from this film.

Director/writer Howard R. Cohen went on to direct a number of other low-budget films for Roger Corman at New World, all genre films, including Space Raiders (1983), Time Trackers (1989), Deathstalker IV: March of the Titans (1990) and Space Case (1992). Cohen also wrote the scripts for a number of other genre films, almost all for New Worlds, including Vampire Hookers (1978), Deathstalker (1983), Stryker (1983), Barbarian Queen (1985), Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer (1985), Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell (1988), Barbarian Queen II: The Empress Strikes Back (1989) and Lords of the Deep (1989).

Trailer here

Full film available here

Actors: , , , , , , , , ,
Themes: , , , , , , ,