Of the numerous horror television series which ran in syndication throughout the 80’s, Friday the 13th: The Series (1987-1990) was always one of the more curious. Unlike Freddy’s Nightmares (1988-1990), the syndicated spin-off anthology series from the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, which actually featured franchise icon Robert Englund in the role of Freddy Krueger introducing segments of the show and at times as the focal point of certain episodes, Friday the 13th: The Series was completely absent of the hockey-masked face of the film series, Jason Voorhees, throughout its three seasons. The actual reasoning for the titling ultimately boiled down to classic entertainment industry cynicism motivated by profit and ironically Star Trek. More specifically the success Paramount was seeing from Star Trek airing in syndication, the studio eager to cash-in on the profitability of another successful genre property (1). As executive producer of the series Frank Mancuso, Jr. recalls in Alyse Wax’s Curious Goods: Behind the Scenes of Friday the 13th: The Series, Mel Harris, the head of Paramount’s television department at the time was adamant about greenlighting a series under the “Friday the 13th” banner based strictly on the brand name. “I don’t care what the show is; just call it Friday the 13th,”(1) Mancuso quoted Harris as saying. Uninterested at first, wanting to leave the franchise behind having produced the film series from the second installment until the seventh sequel, The New Blood (1988), the relative lack of interference syndication afforded made Mancuso reconsider. With creative control, Mancuso looked to The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) for guidance (1), taking influence from the anthology format by developing an idea based around a different story each week.

Rather than an anthology series in the classic format like The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-1965), based entirely around unrelated weekly stories, Mancuso opted for a series built around unrelated weekly stories yet featuring reoccurring central characters and a central theme. The theme being cursed antique objects, Mancuso even giving the series a central hub, an antique shop inherited by cousins Micki Foster (Louise Robey, billed only by her last name in the opening credits) Ryan Dallion (John D. LeMay). As revealed in the series’ first episode “The Inheritance” by Jack Marshak (Chris Wiggins), an expert in the occult and friend of Micki and Ryan’s late uncle Lewis Vendredi, the former owner of the shop, Vendredi made a pact with Satan to sell the cursed items. Vendredi however would later break the pact, paying with his life and soul. Uncovering a list, or manifest, of the cursed items, the two reconsider selling the shop, renaming it “Curious Goods”. The focus of each successive episode being Micky, Ryan and Jack’s hunting down the cursed item, typically in the hands of those willing to take advantage of the item’s supernatural abilities. Despite the lack of Jason and summer camps, the series and trio of Micky, Ryan and Jack nevertheless connected with viewers. The cursed antique gimmick proved successful as well, the show’s writers having both the freedom to bring all sorts potential objects to the table (1) but also, as show writer William Taub told Wax, a knack for more “obscure, interesting, out-of-the mainstream”(1) ideas.  

Though it was to become an American film and television industry standard to co-produce with Canadian production companies and lens productions in Canada, Friday the 13th: The Series was unique in being one of the first (2), filming in Toronto through the Triumph Entertainment Corporation (3). Unlike other horror shows of the time such as Tales from the Darkside (1984-1988) which was produced by George A. Romero or the revamped Twilight Zone (1985-1989) which featured numerous episodes directed by names with genre stock like William Friedkin, Wes Craven and Joe Dante, Friday the 13th: The Series tended to keep the directors “in house”, so-to-speak. William Fruet, director of series premier “The Inheritance” for instance, helmed ten episodes of the series throughout its three seasons while Timothy Bond who began his tenure with the series with the second episode, “The Poison Pen”, tallied nine episodes. Coming in just behind Bond with eight episodes was Armand Mastroianni who began directing for the series during the second season in 1989 with “Better off Dead”. Certainly, a name bound to stand out to cult aficionados among the list of reoccurring directors for the series, music video specialist Francis Delia, who began his career working with Abel Ferrara before receiving the directing credit (as “F.X. Pope”) for Nightdreams (1981), also the introductory feature of Stephen Sayadian (“Rinse Dream”) had a four-episode stint with the series. Though the Canadian production proved a hindrance (2) for a fairly low-budgeted US co-production, filming in Canada, where the show eventually aired as “Friday’s Curse”, provided the opportunity for the two most memorable guest director spots to benefit the series with Atom Egoyan and David Cronenberg each sitting in the director’s chair for a first season episode.

Years before becoming an independent film name-to-be-known on the international festival circuit with Exotica (1994) and breaking out even further with The Sweet Hereafter (1997), Egoyan was establishing himself as one of Canada’s leading and most original independent filmmakers when landing the job for Friday the 13th: The Series. Egoyan’s debut feature Next of Kin (1984) and follow-up Family Viewing (1987) showcased a remarkably developed sense of style and handle on thematic obsessions, Egoyan especially focused on fractured families, alienation and identity, Egoyan’s own Armenian identity often a personal inspiration in the narratives. Also central to Egoyan’s early narratives is a fixation on video technology, the medium even acting as a means of therapy in Next of Kin. While certainly not a genre filmmaker like Cronenberg, Egoyan’s interest in characters’ interactions and relationships with the screen and even preference for a “screen reality” in early features, especially in a film like Speaking Parts (1989) which was to follow the Friday the 13th: The Series directing gig, certainly echo some of the ideas Cronenberg introduced in Videodrome (1983). Yet none of those particular signature characteristics were to feature in “Cupid’s Quiver”, Egoyan’s contribution to the first season of Friday the 13th: The Series, making it one of the more peculiar credits on Egoyan’s body of work. Even more peculiar was the timing of the episode with Egoyan’s second feature, the aforementioned Family Viewing, receiving its domestic Canadian release on October 2, just fifteen days prior to to the airing of “Cupid’s Quiver” on October 17, 1987.

Written by Mancuso along with series co-creator Larry B. Williams and Stephen Katz, there are nevertheless some characteristics of “Cupid’s Quiver” which make Egoyan’s attachment somewhat less peculiar. Though the few parallels that can be drawn to Egoyan’s features are undoubtedly entirely coincidental. After being shot down in no uncertain terms by a woman at a bar, a man unveils the cursed antique at the heart of the episode, an unusual looking Cupid statue known as “The Cupid of Malek”. As revealed by Jack who originally bought the statue in Cairo, the statue was commissioned by an Italian perpetually unlucky with women due to his supposed ugliness, created in his own image with the power to seduce any woman he chooses. However, the statues powers come with a deadly caveat with whoever possessing the statue murdering their lover. While the “Honeymoon Suite Killer” in possession of the statue at the beginning of the episode is caught in the act by police, Micki, Ryan and Jack soon find themselves infiltrating a college campus close to the shop when the statue falls in the hands of Eddie, the campus outcast who cleans up the frat house and also harbors a dangerous obsession with fellow student Laurie.

This obsessiveness of Eddie’s along with his alienated status are some of the few aforementioned coincidental parallels between “Cupid’s Quiver” and Egoyan’s surrounding works. “Coincidental” again being the key word with the obsessions of Egoyan’s film characters far less sinister and murderous, typically motivated by a need to put some sort of family matter in order by “righting” a perceived “wrong”. An even greater stretch would be to suggest Eddie being a straight horror precursor to Lisa, Arsinée Khanjian’s character in Speaking Parts, similarly obsessed and in unrequited love with her actor co-worker to a delusional and potentially dangerous degree. Though Egoyan would go onto to (very effectively) traffic in unsettling, horror-esque moods and even imagery in The Adjuster (1991), “Cupid’s Quiver” does nonetheless pose many a “What if?” scenario in regard to Egoyan trying his hand at a pure horror feature. Even within the confines of a 45-minute piece of television Egoyan proves more than adept at the genre, Egoyan taking the unusual material, the story as strange as the appearance of the Cupid statue, seriously enough giving the episode a consistently weird tone while still hitting the requisite beats of humorous banter between the main characters. While Egoyan’s own video obsession is absent from “Cupid’s Quiver”, cameras still play an important role in the episode, Eddie even introduced from behind a camera obsessively snapping photos of Laurie. Portions of the look of the episode are derived from Eddie’s photographic pastime, Egoyan shooting bits in a lurid, leering, almost erotic thriller style focusing on close-ups of eyes and lips, Eddie also symbolically “slashing” Laurie by cutting up his photos. The bizarre Cupid statue itself also gets plenty of coverage, animating and even smiling unnervingly when working its magic. 

Egoyan was asked to direct more episodes after initially fearing being fired for shooting overtime (1). Had Egoyan accepted the series would have another possible odd parallel with future features, with one of the stars of “The Inheritance” being a young Sarah Polley who would go onto important roles for Egoyan in Exotica and The Sweet Hereafter. “Cupid’s Quiver” was actually the first episode of the series to be shot, however due to syndication was the third to air (1). Being what Egoyan refers to as the “production pilot” led to “a lot of freedom”(1) particularly with the cast and the visuals of the episode. “I felt that, while I tried to set a visual look, this became much more refined as the series progressed”(1) Egoyan told Wax. One of the episodes more memorable moments involving a bees nest was also one of the more memorable, albeit for the wrong reasons in Egoyan’s memory, nights of the shoot, Egoyan referring to it as “the single most traumatic night of the my shooting life”(4). Explaining to popular Canadian host George Stroumboulopoulos in 2014, Egoyan claimed experiencing “some sort of a nervous breakdown” stating “I remember turning around after I got this shot and seeing the crew in all silhouette with these big arc lights, and the next thing I remember somebody was pulling me out of the car and I actually had some sort of meltdown…”(4). Even more memorable is Egoyan’s memory of the process of finding the bees, having to “interview various beekeepers”(4) before meeting with a beekeeper concerned about bee representation. Upon being met with laughter when unironically inquiring about how his bees would be represented on screen, Egoyan reassured the beekeeper that his bees would essentially be method acting by hilariously explaining:

I had to look at this guy seriously and say “Look. Your bees are being provoked. They’re not doing this because they’re angry, viscous animals, they’re being provoked. A psychopath is actually throwing a nest of them into a car. They’re scared. Your bees, you know, they wouldn’t want to sting a human being.” And by the end of this he was like, in tears, you know, because I was vindicating his bees.”(4)

While Egoyan was just beginning to gain traction as a director around the time of “Cupid’s Quiver”, by 1988 David Cronenberg was fresh off his biggest mainstream success with The Fly (1986), long established as an undisputed master in his own field of “body horror”. Directing the episode “Faith Healer”, born out a friendship with Mancuso (1), the episode was far from Cronenberg’s first television credit with several of Cronenberg’s pre-Shivers (1975) directorial credits being documentary shorts made for Canadian public television. Cronenberg had also contributed to the CBC’s anthology series’ Program X (1970-1973) with the episode “Secret Weapons” in 1972” as well as Peep Show (1976-1977) with “The Victim” and “The Lie Chair” and Teleplay (1976-1977), yet another Canadian anthology series, with “The Italian Machine”. Airing on February 13, 1988, “Faith Healer” is notable for featuring character actor Robert A. Silverman, a familiar presence in Cronenberg films since Rabid (1977), in a starring role as Jerry Scott, an expert in exposing fraud “healing” evangelists, the episode opening with Jerry interrupting one such healing by Stewart Fishoff, exposing the grift to a live audience. However, Fishoff soon comes into possession of the “Sforza glove”. Immediately recognized by Jack when Fishoff reemerges on TV, the glove was made in Italy in the 1400’s for an alchemist by his court doctor for the purposes of good health. Though Fishoff has the power to actually heal with the glove, the glove also forces Fishoff to kill, fusing to his skin after performing a healing. Needing to get close to Fishoff, Jack enlists the aid of a “decidedly peculiar” friend, Jerry. Though agreeing to take on Fishoff again, Jerry is soon revealed to have ulterior motives with himself suffering from a fatal illness, the prospective powers of the glove putting Jack in a very dangerous position.      

Where the similarities between “Cupid’s Quiver” and Egoyan’s feature films could be considered coincidental at best, “Faith Healer” plays out very much like a condensed Cronenbergian body horror narrative with the most obvious parallels being the visual effects. While the illness is never specified by name, Jerry’s affliction resembles the physical effects of psychoplasmic therapy in The Brood (1979), his abdomen covered in large, grotesque boil-like bumps. The effects of the glove itself also resemble the oozing and pulsating rubbers and prosthetics seen in Videodrome and The Fly, the glove absorbing whichever disease it cures, again becoming one with the skin of the hand wearing it similar to James Woods’ literal hand gun in Videodrome. While not quite as visceral as some of Cronenberg’s features, “Faith Healer” is nonetheless a rather full-on affair, especially for 80’s television, cinematographer Rodney Charters telling Wax Cronenberg “wanted to put all his blood in”(1). The Fly is again recalled when the glove is working in reverse, resulting in the final form of whomever the glove touches resembling Jeff Goldblum’s “Brundlefly” near the end stages of transformation. “Faith Healer” is also unique in the Cronenberg canon in that Fishoff joins the handful of fully defined, outright villains along with the likes of Convex and Greg Stillson of The Dead Zone (1983), Cronenberg’s many comments on his own atheism springing to mind during the episode [i]. Cronenberg’s typical objective, non-moralizing stance however remains regarding Jerry’s motivations while also retaining the drama and suspense in regard to Jack’s predicament. This despite Louise Robey remembering Cronenberg admitting to not being interested in the main characters (1), Cronenberg even concluding the episode with a tense, heated moment between Jack and Micki turned warm and humorous by an intervening Ryan.    

Neither Egoyan or Cronenberg were through with television despite both going onto even further success and acclaim in their directorial careers following their respective Friday the 13th: The Series episodes. Egoyan even returned to genre TV the same year as Speaking Parts with an episode of the previously mentioned 80’s revamp of The Twilight Zone with “The Wall” airing in February of 1989 [ii]. Cronenberg’s return to episodic television following “Faith Healer” was rather left field, Cronenberg handling two episodes, “Regina vs Horvath” and “Regina vs Logan”[iii] of The Scales of Justice (1991-1995), a legal docudrama series which dramatizes controversial cases from the Canadian legal system. Around the same time Egoyan would helm a similarly reality-based TV-film, Gross Misconduct (1993), based on the scandalous life of Canadian hockey player Brian Spencer. Friday the 13th: The Series continued for another two seasons, however the series had the rug pulled out from under it with its cancellation during the production of the third season, the impromptu series finale airing on May 26, 1990. The series did find somewhat of a second life through various overseas airings following its cancellation and domestic reruns on networks such as Scream, the Sci-Fi Channel (before the “SyFy” rebrand) and Chiller. Though the series, made available by Paramount on one DVD set in 2016, was never given a proper send-off, it nevertheless remains a source of nostalgia, particularly for those of a certain age group who spent many hours with syndicated television during their younger teenage years. Highlights for the series in any season, “Cupid’s Quiver” and “Faith Healer” are also certainly “curious goods” in the directorial vaults of both Egoyan and Cronenberg.

[i]. “For me the body is the essential fact of the human condition. I’m an atheist, I don’t believe in an afterlife, when we die, we disappear. Our bodies are what we are.” Cronenberg stated while discussing his 2022 feature Crimes of the Future on CBC Radio. Fishoff performing his healings on TV and for live crowds also features a slight element of conceptual performance or “body art”, a central idea in Crimes of the Future.     

[ii]. Egoyan had also directed two episodes of the resurrected Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1985-1989), “The Final Twist” which aired prior to “Cupids Quiver” in March of 1987 and “There Was a Little Girl” which aired in July of 1988.             

[iii]. “Regina” in Canadian legal jargon meaning “the crown” or the government.

1. “Curious Goods: Behind the Scenes of Friday the 13th: The Series”. BearManor Media. October 11, 2015.

2. “30 Fun Facts to Celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Friday the 13th: The Series”. https://web.archive.org/web/20200127175930/https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/30-fun-facts-to-celebrate-the-30th-anniversary-of-friday-the-13th-the-series. September 28, 2017.

3. “Friday the 13th: The Series”. https://broadcasting-history.com/programming/television/friday-13th-series. May, 2002.

4. “Atom Egoyan On The Single Most Traumatic Day Of His Shooting Life”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqGBhIqs_R8. January 24, 2014.