The old mansion house of this family's deceased great uncle has been left to them in his will, and considering the paltry amounts that the rest of the relatives have received, dad John (Richard Benjamin) and mom Mary (Paula Prentiss) think themselves very lucky indeed: a house of their very own at last! However, there is interest in the property from elsewhere, specifically a strange couple dressed all in black, Waldemar (Jeffrey Tambor) and Yolanda (Nancy Lee Andrews), who are just about to seal a deal with the Real Estate Lady (Carole Androsky) when John, Mary and their two kids show up. But what the real bone of contention will be is a book...
Many people who saw Saturday the 14th as kids have fond memories of it, as it was one of those types of movies which they love: the horror spoof. Despite the title, it featured no Friday the 13th style slasher villain stalking the cast, as it preferred to have less recognisable creatures wandering about, although Waldemar and Yolanda appear to be vampires even if they do go out in the daylight. If you were under ten years old or thereabouts, director Howard R. Cohen had pitched this directly at your sense of humour, as sad to say those revisiting it would find little other than nostalgia to keep them watching - this had not weathered the passage of the decades well.
It was certainly lively, but the characters could be split into two categories, those who screamed and were generally alarmed, and those who were preoccupied with getting their hands on that book. Funnily enough, Saturday the 14th seems to be looking ahead to the horror hits of the following few years, as that book is strangely reminiscent of the Book of the Dead in Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead, the family moving into the haunted house looks to be a parody of Poltergeist before it had even been made, and there's even a menacing scene in a bathtub which resembles one in A Nightmare on Elm Street; not only that, but the mansion is actually on an Elm Street.
So if this was forward looking as far as its plot went, its sense of humour was far less advanced. Lame quips and obvious visual gags were the order of the day, which you could say was also predicting the majority of the horror spoofs that were so popular over the coming years. Though the concentration on the young boy of the family, Billy (Kevin Brando), indicated this was aimed at a younger audience than the older teens and twentysomethings who made up the audience for the higher rated chillers. It is Billy who accidentally opens the book and unleashes the evil within, which in effect means a bunch of guys in monster suits lumbering about for low rent fright sequences.
Not that many would find much to shock them here, unless it was the quality of what we were expected to find funny. But really, there's no use in criticising Saturday the 14th for failing to hit its targets as a riproaring laugh-a-thon, for there's nothing about it which is truly aggravating due to its relentless good nature. The actors give the script more effort than it truly needed, but with such setpeices which oddly stick in the mind such as the bathtub scene where daughter Debbie (Kari Michaelson) finds a Jaws-imitating Creature from the Black Lagoon under the bubbles they do get a little help. Van Helsing (Severn Darden) shows up, again searching for that book, Prentiss is vampirised for a few garlic jokes, and there's a twist at the end which prompts a battle between two sound effects-blaring antagonists, but while it's not boring, neither is it, you know, any good. Music by Parmer Fuller.