Friday the 13th: The Orphan (1979)
WRITER: John Ballard
DIRECTOR: John Ballard
STARRING: Peggy Feury as Aunt Martha
Mark Owens as David
QUICK CUT: When a young boy's parents die, his aunt comes to care for him. In order to cope, David starts a new religion of his strange monkey god, and his quest to find toast.
David - A kid whose father is a big game hunter that often goes away on long trips, but cares deeply for the family he's rarely around for. David does not take his loss, or the loss of his mother, well, and instead turns to religion to cope.
Aunt Martha - The sister of David's mother, and determined to make her nephew grow up right and proper, and with no friends, life, or social skills, so long as he stays home and does as he's told, and does not eat toast.
THE GUTS: Back once again for our third review kicking off 2014...or ending 2013, if you're still in Smarch. But you've likely gone insane and killed everyone you know and aren't reading this if you thought it was 13/13/13 a few weeks ago, so, 2014 it is! We are finishing off January with a special look back at the ORIGINAL Friday the 13th movie ...wait.
Didn't I do this already, at the beginning of Smarch? I'm pretty sure I did.
OH, I see now. This little gem is Friday the 13th: The Orphan, which snuck out into cinemas mere months before the familiar adventure at Camp Crystal Lake. And much like that movie not having Jason, this one is even further removed from the famous franchise, because it is literally an entirely separate thing.
I thought it would be fun to review this little oddity though, and it would wrap up an entire month of movies with the number 13 in the title. But I am not going to keep calling this Friday the 13th: The Orphan, especially since it isn't related to the dude with the hockey mask, not even maternally. Do we got a better title I can use for this??
Yeah, okay, that'll do.
I love when horror movies and their ilk have opening themes that are super jovial, and showing off stuff in the background from happier times. It's such a great juxtaposition from what you assume is coming later. And The Orphan delivers as the jaunty 1950s-ish music plays on.
But once that's wrapped up, we jump straight into the heart of dark photography, on a pathway at night, and we hear a voice from a young kid ranting about how he was shoved into a tiny room, and he hated it. Great, it's Harry Potter, the evil years.
After that, we see a kid being dragged into a room full of people all dressed in black, and I suppose we have met our Orphan of the title, David.
David is ushered onward through a pair of great doors, until he comes face to face with his father in a casket, and he continues to be shoved right into some flashbacks establishing their relationship.
After he is forced to kiss his father goodbye, we jump to his aunt Martha arriving to be his new guardian, and the adults again insist on him kissing his family. Which sure, that's normal, but after the weirdness of kissing his dead dad, and it being forced, and literally just a minute or two between, it feels a little obsessive! But I digress...
The aunt speaks to Mary the maid, and we briefly get told about another cast member who was hired to take care of David, and they briefly flash an image of him on the screen. Well, that's some poor storytelling and editing. Could we have a name? Maybe a little more footage than what amounts to a stock photo?
Maybe a little more than just seeing that, and him standing at the burial for David's mother? Anything? Movie?
David's aunt takes him to a parade in town to cheer him up, and we learn more about her with a simple refusal to let the kid take a carved wooden elephant from someone there. On the flipside, we see Akim plans to stay and keep an eye on David until he's better and won't be influenced by Martha.
We plod along as Martha throws a party for her friends, and David looks about as bored as any kid would at an adults' fancy dress party.
One of the guests, a friend of the family, points out a statue he brought from India of Ganesh, the elephant God. What is it with this movie and weirdly close repetitious ideas?
Bill tries to engage with David, and when Sulky O'Sullenpants doesn't want to talk, he dumps a glass of water over the kid's head. On the upside, it actually makes him laugh, and is a cute light moment. Martha's not happy about it, though. It does establish Bill as a friend of the family's, and David's, and looking out for the kid.
Martha's party moves on to dinner, and Bill keeps playing pranks to help David out, so at least he has one positive influence in his life. As opposed to his aunt, who won't let him eat toast because it will make him cough, choke, and die. A little death would be welcome at this point, though...
Afterwards, David's playing with tarot cards, and Bill comes to visit a little more, giving him some better moral lessons than his aunt, and that gifts are okay. To illustrate his point, he gives David an elephant gun.
Chekov would be proud.
We also learn that he's a hunter, like David's father, and much like a highlander, this triggers a flashback back to the flashback scene of David running and hugging his father from earlier. Seriously? Just because it is shot from a different angle, does not make it a different scene!
Things get a little weird when David skulks about the house and finds his aunt, who invites him to sit on her lap. Which somehow triggers another flashback, but at least it's stuff we haven't seen before!
We find ourselves back at David's birthday party from who knows when, with his parents still alive, and his dad just so happens to give him an elephant doll as a gift. Elephants everywhere in this movie, geeze.
It is nice to see David with his parents in happier times, since it helps establish what he's lost, and gives us some context for why he's so sullen. Sure, you can extrapolate from just knowing they're dead, but actually seeing them together gives a bit more weight to things.
Back in the present, David sneaks off with a hefty sized stuffed gorilla, ducks into a roost somewhere, and sets it up. The kid declares its name is Charlie, and kneels before it like he's praying to his new god.
A notion that is only reinforced by suddenly cutting to church where David's not being cooperative in taking communion. So, he has a monkey god. I guess we all deal with grief in our own ways.
Martha drags David home and they tend to the greenhouse, where David starts coughing. Martha says this happens every time they go to town. Well, what is it? Town or toast, lady?? She tries to say he'll be staying at home all summer long so nothing will upset him and make him cough (But you said the toast!!), and David is just SO thrilled about that, he breaks out the classic, "You are not my mother" line.
Despite her trying to lay down the law, the movie goes through a montage of David having fun with those few GOOD influences in his life, that encourage playing, dancing, and thinking for himself. So he's not hopeless, at least.
Martha and David talk about god, and while talking about two different things, she doesn't need to know that. Right? She's perfectly fine accepting he's being reverant, I'm sure. If only she knew he prayed to a monkey.
She keeps him busy so long that he misses the eclipse he wanted to see, and I'm sure that will make Charlie an angry ragemonkeygod. But David appeases his god by yanking a grey hair from her head as he zooms off.
Mary tucks David in, and reminds him to say his prayers, but the budding atheist doesn't see the point. Although he's told if he prays, god might hear him, so he tries anyways.
David introduces his god to Akim, Mary, and his aunt by way of totems, and says they all want him to be different. Oh, imagine if they actually got into how difficult it is for a kid to find their way, discover who they are, with all different voices tugging them every which way? Yeah, not gonna happen.
Martha returns home to try and get everyone to play some games, and Akim chases David with a hose to some fun, silly music...Hey. Movie. WHERE IS THE HORROR? This is so far all laughing happy fun times of a kid recovering from losing his parents.
Something finally decides to happen when Martha goes looking for David one day and finds him with Akim, smoking from a hookah. She loses it, tells Akim to go away, and tries to get David out of there, and her racism shines through when Akim grabs her to make her stop. Whoops. And yeah, it's even pretty racist for the 70s.
David runs off, upset and angry, and heads straight to his shrine to Charlie, which leads to him flashing back to better times of his parents yelling...er, wait. To make it weirder, it looks like David has travelled there physically. I guess that's what a little hookah smoke will do to ya.
They're yelling about David's father going away on another hunting trip to Africa, but since its his job, and he's invested a lot of time and his life into it, he has to go. She starts tearing through his suitcase, calling it junk, and pulls out a gun. Things seem to be getting better until she says they should work through this, she loves him...and shoots him.
While David cries out in pain for some reason at the altar of his monkeygod, seriously I dunno what happened there. It looked like he got bit, but anyways... While that's going on, Martha insists Akim leave, pays him off, and asks him to get rid of the animal in David's hideaway. I thought they meant the stuffed idol to Charlie, but then I remember this ONE shot they had of a chicken wandering around there?? More great storytelling.
Anyways, he does as she asks, but leaves David a note so he can know who is really to blame for what's going on in the Church of Charlie. This causes tensions to raise as David starts making noise at the dinner table until Martha offers him toast. Again with the toast! With what she's said about it earlier, it's like she's trying to kill him! But before he can have any, David yells at her and runs off.
The boy rushes to his shrine and sees Charlie is okay, but then sees the decapitated body of his chicken, and flashes back to Akim beheading it with an evil cackle. David tries to attack Charlie with the axe for letting it happen, but a bright light flashes, capturing David in place, and the monkey's eyes flicker and flash in Morse code.
Inside the monkey's eyes, David sees his father with two halves of a mirror that he slowly brings together, and tells his son to watch and see. Well, at least we're getting weirder, which is something. If you can't find a movie good, you can at least find it interesting.
Granted, we don't get to see WHAT David is seeing, just his twitching and drooling in a trance because of it. And when he goes to hug Charlie, we hear his father's voice and see his hand come out of nowhere and grasp his son's shoulder. Are we even gonna try and make sense anymore?
David finds Akim as he's about to drive out of the plot, and the man passes along a ring from the boy's father, saying it protects the wearer from harm. Well, that's not gonna do Akim any good, is it? The already fragile child naturally yells hurtful things as one of the few good things in his life drives off. And let's just pause right here to respect a movie that has a black man featured prominently, and NOT kill him off. Seriously, we never see Akim again.
The kid wanders around the house gathering up artefacts from happier times and takes them to his shrine, where he sets them out and thinks back to his parents not being dead, all under the approving gaze of the monkeygod.
We also learn why Martha has such animosity towards David's father, and probably the kid as well, when she has a dream/flashback to him telling her that he's in love with her sister, and they're going to be married. Instead of he and Martha getting together. Somehow, this does not seem to be the best thing to tell a person while making out. "Yes, yes, I love it when you kiss me there...but I love it when your sister does it even more. Seeya!"
Martha goes looking for the one picture she has of the father, assuming David must have taken it. In her haste to tear through the house looking for it, she slams a door shut on David's dog, mortally injuring it. That's not gonna help their relationship.
One day, Martha is called to the kitchen, and finds every loaf of bread broken up and stabbed to the point of unusability. See, this is what happens when you teach a kid to hate bread. As a punishment, she insists that David be locked in his room until she decides otherwise.
Which leads to David in his room, where he's wandering around in a corset and makeup, immitating his aunt, in a pretty spot on impression. He starts playing with a straight razor, which turns out to be a big mistake when the radio drama he's listening to makes a loud noise and he cuts himself.
He rushes to the bathroom where his anger issues don't get any better, and he tears off all the clothes and tries flushing them down the toilet until it backs up. Am I watching The Orphan, or Home Alone??
Anyways, the toilet flooding just makes the punishments worse, and while David calls out for his dad to come and take him away to safety, Martha ties him down to his bed.
We dive back into flashback territory, and see that after she accidentally shot her husband, David's mother takes her own life. So far, everyone's died before the movie started...
Mary comes along and finds David tied up, and undoes his bonds. She tells the kid that Martha is wrong, he's not sick inside, neither was his father, and hopes that David will think of her as his mother, since he sorely needs one. And tells him they just won't think about his aunt. This sounds like a good plan all around, to me. And they SO seemed to be leaning into a revelation that maybe Mary WAS his real mother, but never quite go there.
They exchange mock wedding vows, and David gives Mary the ring of protection, just adding more weird to the pile this movie already has, as well as more questionable familial relationship. But I guess it's okay in the eyes of Charlie.
Unfortunately, Martha somehow hears about the two spending the night together (Because the kid was scared, nothing icky, but knowing this movie...), and she says David told her, but I don't see why he'd do that... Anyways, plot hole be damed, Martha quickly fires Mary for daring to give her nephew hope, love, and attention.
David sneaks into Martha's room to steal some stuff, when Mary and Bill rush in, causing him to hide under the bed. Nicely convenient that Mary somehow has some things of hers in that room she needs to grab before leaving for good, huh?
Mary tries to get Bill to talk to Martha on her behalf, but it looks like all he's interested in, is having sex with the maid. Which they actually end up doing, while the kid watches from under the bed.
Mary also made the mistake of telling Bill she doesn't really care about David, and after their solemn vows the night before, and the fact he's watching his beloved mother-wife having sex with another man on the bed above him, I'm sure that won't come back to bite her in the ass whatsoever. And I can't believe I am in a situation to have written that scenario down.
Later, we see Mary hanging up laundry, so either Bill had a successful talk with Martha, or this movie just doesn't give a damn about storytelling and structure. I'm a little inclined to go with the latter.
She sees a shadow behind the sheets, but it turns out to just be some laundry that looked vaguely person-like being backlit. Whew! I thought she was a goner...whoop, someone attacks her from behind and wraps her up in sheets, tying her up anyways.
We next see David running towards the plotline of some people who've barely been in the movie so far. David runs straight into their lives, and window, and tries to tell them that he thinks Mary has been killed since he heard her scream. But no one will believe him.
No one will believe him or even look to see if maybe he's telling the truth when someone could be dead. Great. If they had maybe established a 'boy who cried wolf' personality, maybe. But no!
Martha decides that he needs to be sent away to boarding school, but he ends up somewhere that is very clearly a hospital, and David fears he's going to an orphanage. None of those things are very much at all like any of the others. I'm gonna go with how it looks, since it's full of sick kids in beds, crutches, and Bill is wheeling him around dressed like a doctor.
But hey, this may be some weird British boarding school I'm unaware of.
Mister Bill wheels the kid up to the head doctor, who insists he stand up, and David tries to get up onto a pair of crutches, but falls over. Uh? When did David forget to learn how to walk? Was his fall through the window that bad?
The doctor comes over and takes off his glasses...AND mustache. Revealing that he is really...AUNT MARTHA! I do not think she has a real medical degree at ALL.
While the doctors cut out David's tongue, he flashes through the other moments of violence in the film, and all the way back to his father's funeral, making me dread this movie was all a dream.
But no, we learn, I think, that just the orphanarium was a dream, as David wakes up, safe and sound at home, and hiding from Martha. Well, kinda safe.
Since Martha can't find him, she goes down to the Church of Charlie to try and find the kid. David is sure she'll get rid of all his African crap, just like his mom wanted to do, and rushes down there. Chekov would indeed be proud to see the gun Bill gave David earlier making a return appearance.
But its not the gun that does the dirty deed, instead, Charlie comes to life and pounces on the intruder. RAGE MONKEY GO!!
The gun finally does go off, and because stuffed monkeys can't actually come to life in most movies, David instead kills his aunt. So really, his subconcious just jumped through the hoops to get him to do what he always wanted to do.
David goes back to the house, and makes a piece of toast, finally having a slice after so much time! The movie fulfilled its promise of the toast storyline!! BEST STORYTELLING EVER!! And wait...who killed Mary??
And so the movie ends with one last flashback to David running into his father's arms, AGAIN. Most overused scene, ever.
Now you now how X-Statix member, Guy Smith came to be.
WHAT DID THIS MOVIE HAVE TO DO WITH FRIDAY THE 13TH??? ANd I mean just the plain ol' date!!
Video: Aaargh this is pretty bad, but not the worst. The colours are washed out, and either too bright or too dark, but at least I can tell what's going on. This is, quite plainly, from an old VHS transfer or something, which is about the best you can expect from an Amazon movie on demand service.
Audio: A little wobbly, but audible. Things get a bit muffled at times, but I can at least live with it.
Sound Bite: "Rub his trunk, Martha. Let's see what happens." Context be damned!
1 - At the 37 minute line, David's father dies in flashback when his mother accidentally shoots him.
2 - 20 minutes later, David's mom takes her own life for what she did.
3 - Mary gets wrapped up and stabbed by an unseen assailant.
4 - Attacked by Charlie the monkey god, Martha is shot by David.
Best Corpse: Mary gets the award for being one of the few people to die in the present, and being a decent attack. The monkey attack is a bit too frenzied and jumbled to care. Although Martha's death is the most deserved.
Blood Type - F: I don't recall seeing any blood except for some stains on Mary's sheets.
Sex Appeal: Wanna see my monkey?
Movie Review: Ugh, this one is rough. The plot is slow as slow can be, although I do like some of the choices they make in going that slow, and building up character. Including David's dead parents. It could have been done better, but the did okay, really. But the movie still remains a jumbled mess that barely struggles across the line of coherency at times. Someone needed to put the hookah down. But the story is okay, and there are moments, so I honestly can't hate it entirely. It's biggest faults are pacing, and just being bland. Two out of five monkey's paws.
Entertainment Value: Well, the first half of the movie is a wash there, although Bill's visits are fun, and the rapport he has with David is good. I would've liked to have seen more of him and Akim interacting with the kid, but alas. The movie is ALMOST worth seeing for its weirder moments in the later half of the film, but only almost. You sit there wondering, 'how did we get HERE?' once the kid starts praying to his monkeygod. And we got there, because this is based off a short story about a kid who loses his parents, and to defy his guardian begins worshipping a polecat. They kinda butchered things and made a hatchet job of the story they *wanted* to tell besides that. Still, if you can see it for free, I'd almost dare you to do it. Two out of five pieces of toast.
Drinking Time! Every time someone mentions toast or you see bread, drink up!
AND I KNOW THAT GORILLAS AND MONKEYS ARE DIFFERENT.
Such things matter not to Charlie.