When it comes to the pantheon of great WTF horror movies of the 1980s, Howard R. Cohen’s Saturday the 14th Strikes Back ranks right up with classic gems like Troll 2, Blood Diner or Spookies, and is probably a film that most genre fans haven’t heard about, let alone have watched either. And yeah, I’m not going to try and sell you on ST14SB as this grand masterpiece – it isn’t – but it is definitely something I would say fans of oddball cinema should experience at least once in their lifetime. It may have more than a few rough edges, but there’s so much genre love coursing through Saturday the 14th Strikes Back’s schlocky veins (and there may be a few illegal substances mixed in there too – it was the 80s, after all), that I can’t help but admire its total disregard for cinematic rules, and just delivering up a full-blown monster mash that is a ridiculous amount of nonsensical fun.
The basic premise of Saturday the 14th Strikes Back is that a young boy named Eddie (Jason Presson) and his family move into their recently deceased uncle’s old house, only to discover that the property just happens to be resting right on top of a gateway to Hell which allows otherworldly beings the ability to pass into our world rather easily. That’s when weird things begin happening, like creatures randomly taking up residency underneath people’s beds, Eddie’s grandpa (Ray Walston) begins talking with his old pal Leonard (who just happens to be dead), characters start sculpting figures out of pudding in their sleep, and a cavalcade of classic monsters descend upon the residence, ready to claim Eddie’s family abode their home base for their malevolent shenanigans. It’s up to the tween to battle against The Evil One in a fight that transcends both space and time (quite literally, and quite hysterically, I might add) so that he can keep our world safe from the invading forces of evil.
Oh, and let me just go ahead and include these two words so you can fully understand what we’re dealing with here in terms of Saturday the 14th Strikes Back’s final show down: LIGHTNING HANDS. So great. Plus, random musical numbers, too. See? This movie has something for everyone!
If one were to say there is a reason that ST14SB might actually “work” as a film of interest, it would be because of both Presson and Walston’s performances here, albeit the latter is a much more compelling actor to watch due to his ability to somehow sell his character with a straight face amongst the utter lunacy all around him. Presson’s fine, but admittedly I’m always prejudiced against young actors from that era whose names aren’t either Corey, Zach or have the last name Ragsdale, so with that in mind – yeah, I guess Presson is solid, even if he gets a bit whiny from time to time. His growing confusion over just what is happening in his home is easily relatable though, because you’ll be scratching your head along with the young actor on more than one occasion in Strikes Back – mark my words.
Another highlight to Saturday the 14th Strikes Back is Pamela Stonebrook as the almost sultry vampiress Charlene who shows up in Eddie’s room one day, and breaks out into a clever song and dance number about her dissatisfaction with her dietary restrictions as a blood sucker. Frankly, if the whole movie had revolved around the adventures of Eddie and Charlene, that could have been hella fun, but Cohen decides to give us about 50 other creatures too, so we sort of lose track of her towards the end of the movie which is a shame.
It often feels like the film has a somewhat flippant attitude about utilizing any sort of narrative structure at all too, with characters in shared scenes seemingly having completely unrelated conversations with each other, and most lines of dialogue just being dropped pretty much the moment they’re said (seriously, there’s a verbal back-and forth in a scene between Eddie’s aunt and uncle, and it honestly feels like they’re both having two distinctly different conversations there). It’s an approach most viewers will find a bit frustrating, but because I dig on weird stuff from time to time, I just cannot help but sit back and marvel in Saturday the 14th Strikes Back’s lack of sensibility or structure.
Also, something that has always stuck out to me in terms of the tone of ST14SB is that there are some moments that seemingly feel very adult in their intentions, but nearly everything else about the movies feels like it’s aiming to a much younger audience (I mean – this movie could kill at your 6-year-old’s birthday party for all I know), so there are definitely some mixed signals being sent here. Thankfully, because I spend most of my time indulging in sophomoric entertainment, Saturday the 14th Strikes Back falls right into my wheelhouse of wackiness, and I love that Cohen at least tries to make a movie that could be enjoyed by genre fans of all ages.
Cohen also directed the original Saturday the 14th back in 81, but for this follow-up effort, he scraps nearly everything from that first movie (both have houses, I guess?), and just goes for the gusto by taking one decidedly left turn after another as a storyteller. Regardless of however you may feel about the movie, the one thing you have to give Cohen credit for is that ST14SB is truly unlike anything else that came out in 1988, or pretty much ever (albeit, it does tip its hat to several classic horror movies and notable monsters, but that’s about where any similarities end). And for those who like their horror with a hint of the madcap tendencies of Pee Wee’s Playhouse to it, then you’re probably the intended audience for Saturday the 14th Strikes Back.
And because I realize that next weekend is when we actually get a Saturday the 14th to celebrate, I figured I would spread the word a little bit early on Saturday the 14th Strikes Back, in case you were in the market for a new post-Friday the 13th tradition. It’s not streaming anywhere unfortunately, but there are limited copies of ST14SB available on Amazon (you can find more details HERE).
Be sure to check here all month long for more special features celebrating the Class of 1988!