AKA: The Orphan (1979) - New Title
AKA: David (1979) - Spain
AKA: Friday the 13th... The Orphan (1979) - Alternate Title
AKA: Foreldrel°s (1979) - Norway
AKA: Orphan - Freitag der 13. (1979) - West Germany
(Release Date: November 1979)
Maniac Shacks off the grid...
Are you SURE he's not a Voorhees?
Only one of those two questions is inappropriate! Yes, folks, there really is a horror flick called "Friday the 13th" that has about seventy different bowls of butt-nothing to do with the well-ass known Friday the 13th Slasher Flick series we all know and... tolerate! Its nadir of relation to those venerable-cum-tiresome Jason flicks comes in SPITE of the fact that this near terror-tale is about a psychotic young man, haunted by the death of his parents who ultimately decides to start killing everyone around him... and, in some cases, right after they finish having sex.
Sounds like one hell of a rip-off, doesn't it? Sounds like, maybe the assholes who made a movie called "The Orphan" might have followed in the shallow footsteps of Italian Gore Maestros everywhere and renamed their movie to cash in on the dubious but undeniable successes of the Hockey Mask Camp series to make a few extra bucks on VHS?
You'd think so, wouldn't you? And you'd be Dead-ass Wrong as the Gingrich campaign, too, wouldn't you? I guess you didn't look at that date up there, did you? If you had, then you'd've realized that it's the exact opposite, wouldn't you've? Bet you're feeling crunchy now, aren't you? The answer to all of these questions is "YEAH, DAMMIT!"
It is, in fact, the exact opposite, considering the fact that Jason and his Mommy didn't show up until 1980, while Friday the 13th: The Orphan was released in November of 1979. In fact, the makers of the Friday the 13th series had to reach a cash settlement with the makers of this film in order to use the name. And as for the whole "Cash In" aspect? Call it integrity, stupidity or a missed opportunity, but when that VHS did get released it was under the name "The Orphan", leaving the lucrative Red Letter Day the fuck out of the title.
And, in fact, for a couple of decades, that damned long-out-of-print VHS was the only way to see the film... until 2012, when the film was finally released on DVD under its original misleading after-the-fact title.
So... was it worth the wait? That would depend entirely on what you're expecting and what you're looking for on this luckiest of days. See, this flick was written, directed, produced and even edited by a man named John Ballard, of whose credits this was the very first... and is the very last. However, although this one didn't spawn a series like its namesake, this one was an adaptation of a much more venerable work... a story called "Sredni Vashtar", written by Hector Hugh Monro, better known by his pen name of Saki! And if that doesn't impress you enough, Ballard's screenplay was, in turn, adapted into a novel by Samantha Mellors. Yes, THE Samantha Mellors!
This means, of course, that Jason can SUCK IT!
What remains of Saki's original story is up to those who have actually read it (I know, it's been on my list since... earlier today). The tale that we get in this film centers around a (drumroll) Orphan named David (played by Mark Owens) who lost his dad and mom (Don Whyte and Joanna Miles) under mysterious circumstances and is forced to go live with his strict and sterile Aunt Martha (Peggy Feury) in the big-ass family mansion.
David is already haunted as hell by the recent death of his daddy, an iconic "Great White Hunter" who blessed the rains down in Africa, but his aunt's taking over everything quickly takes even more of a toll on the little tyke. This starts with her subjugation of David's dad's intended designated guardian, his buddy from Africa Akin (Afolabi Ajayi) and carries on to such draconian micro-management as denying him the sensual pleasures of toast.
Luckily home boy has the sympathetic maid Mary (Eleanor Stewart) to confide in (and peek in on while she's showering) and he's got the stuffed Chimp named Charlie that his father left him to turn into a bizarre-as-fuck pagan idol... I shit you not.
Yeah, it's about this point that young David starts to turn into a bit of a "Damien Thorn", man! But he's just getting started.
By the way, if the notion of "Great White Hunters" and endangered animals being used as stuffed idols casually isn't enough of a hint, this film does, indeed, enrich its weirdness quotient by becoming a Period Piece, set in the 1920s and 30s. Yeah, this is definitely not a film for people who don't love frequent musical interludes featuring rapidly-played roaring 20s style piano every five minutes or so. It's also not for those who are particular in their religious sensitivity or their love for animals. Though not quite hitting the realm of the Video Nasties, Friday the 13th: The Orphan does push a good number of buttons on the risquÚ scale. No nudity, though.
Where the film gets interesting is where David's mind starts to go. We're never quite sure how much of the second half of the film is real and how much is a figment of David's quickly warping mind and waning sanity. Is David's house HAUNTED or is he just angsty? Does he do and say all that we see him do or is it all part of his shock and crawl fantasy? Is his aunt REALLY that bad of a fuck, or is she just, maybe, a little bit strict and trying to be a good mother figure to the irascible scamp? The question many (or, even MOST) viewers might ask, however, is... do we care?
Yes, sadly, The Orphan does end up as the sum of its parts and ends up being a pretty boring movie. Ballard had a unique camera eye and was going for some interesting cinematic artistry here and not just making a standardized Splatter fest. In a lot of places he succeeded. In a lot more places, however, the film shows its very limited budget and a great deal of the film feels disjointed and stitched together. This could be, in part, due to the fact that it took Ballard a reported decade to finish the film (note its copyright is listed as two years before its release date)! The main issue here is that, period piece or not, this film looks, sounds and feels like a very low budget movie and never fully rises above that level to transcend to classic status. In short... it's a little bit more The Ghastly Ones than it is Don't Look in the Basement!
It's not hard to see why this one didn't spawn the long-running string of sequels its slasher namesake did... although it's not that terrible either (see Malachy McCourt's performance as Toyman and Stanley Church's performance as Thompson). It could've used some nudity, though. Then again, that can be said about just about every movie short of Follow That Bird! And, no, David's little cross-dressing stint doesn't count.
Yeah, this is a snoozer all right with just enough surreal and interesting moments to keep this one going. If only there was enough pay off after waiting through the whole film. Yes, it's safe to say that even though Ballard's sole film aims higher and tries to become more than it is, it will never be quite as exciting as the other Friday the 13th films. (David's dog Henry is pretty cool, though!)
Comparisons to the other series aren't really fair, considering the fact that only (part of) the title and the tiniest shred of history connects the film to the Voorhees saga This is a completely stand-alone (and occasionally successful) horror film. But for all of the potential and promise that flashes of the film shows us, Friday the 13th... The Orphan remains a convoluted, slow-paced, occasionally incomprehensible and often lackluster shocker worth somewhere in the spooky mansion of Two Stars out of Five! For those of you who look for the deepest of deep symbolism in TOAST (and I don't mean the kind that shows an image of the Virgin Mary, either) and those who find strange-ass musical dichotomies fascinating (Charleston-style Piano and Janis Ian folk songs accompanying a horror flick? Oh-ho-hokay), this might just be the film for you. The rest of you? Well, if the DVD and stream suddenly becomes unavailable, don't bother spending the sixty bucks on the stupid VHS. Ironically, the main remaining reason to watch this little film is its accidental connection to a more successful string of horror hits (which, to be frank and earnest, weren't all that much better either). So, until someone decides to ride the themes of this film to a hopeful great series of successes starting with Friday the 13th: The Orphan II... Henry's Revenge, I'll see you in the next reel! Possibly on Saturday the 14th! Good luck, folks!
Review another Friday the 13th flick
After running out of JASON movies!
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reviewed by J.C. Mašek III
Who is solely responsible for everything
on this stupid website
And for the fact that he can't blame any of it on his parents, Aunts or other relatives...
it's just the luck of the draw!
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