"Halloween II" was funnier by accident than "Saturday the 14th" manages to be on purpose. Decidedly not a parody of all those very parodyable endangered teen-ager movies like "Friday the 13th" -- though that's what its misleading title implies -- "Saturday" merely resurrects a passel of haunted-house wheezes so antique that even the Bowery Boys would be driven to groans by them.
Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss -- two actors with pathological bad judgment in their choice of vehicles -- play suburban parents who inherit a haunted house in "Eerie," Pa., in the film, now at area theaters. They bring along their children, the borderline nymphish Kari Michaelsen and a spunky Kevin Brando, and set about mindlessly encountering a cross section of monsters who are eventually exorcised via "The Book of Evil," which the boy had found tucked amongst the cobwebs.
Writer-director Howard R. Cohen lowers expectations with the very first shot, a license plate reading "Transylvania." Oh boy, another funny Dracula. Please, please, make it go away. Most of Cohen's jokes are simply lame, or else overly explained (he doesn't seem to know where to put the punch line), with one little parody completely ill-advised and misplaced: a gory reprise of the scene from Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" in which the heroine goes into the attic to be pecked to bits. Prentiss, still a sunny countenance one hates to see reduced to groveling roles, is attacked by a roomful of bats. Stupid, or what?
Once or twice she brings the film to life, as when a stranger enters the house, witnesses her milk-curdling screams at the top of the stairs, and says to Benjamin, "This must be your charming wife." Kids may get some transient satisfaction from the film, since the monster suits are pretty cute (somewhere between the Cantina scene in "Star Wars" and "Creature From the Black Lagoon") and the kids in the family are the ones with the brains. They may even find a charitable laugh in their hearts when Benjamin calls an exterminator to report "bats in my belfry." Children can be so forgiving, but that's really not enough to base a movie on.
As for "Friday the 13th" and "Halloween" and all those other repetitious thrillers about homicidal maniacs on binges, one devastatingly good satirical romp might be able to put the kibosh on the whole genre. Those who agree should have a modicum of faith and fear not; a movie called "Thursday the 12th" is on the way.