Sunday, February 20, 2011

Back In Black, In More Ways Than One

As a wise man once said (he being Miles of the incredible why-aren't-you-listensing ShowShow podcast), every horror anthology should have a story involving a killer doll. You probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that I heartily agree with such a statement.
Yet somehow, it has taken a Month of the Vertically Challenged Villains! to finally make me queue up 1975’s infamous Karen Black Karen Black Karen Black Karen Black & a Killer Warrior Doll headlined Trilogy of Terror. 

I know. Sometimes I truly am a disgust to the human race.
Quick Plot: Without the guidance of any narration or frame, we jump right into story one, “Julie.” The titular character is a mousy literature professor played by Karen Black. An arrogant student inexplicably develops an intense crush/obsession with her, going so far as to take Julie on a drive-in date, drug her root beer, and shoot a few suggestive photos of her naked (and possibly raped) body. Like any enterprising university kid, he then blackmails her into sexual slavery until--

Oh right. It’s an anthology, so there has to be a twist. And the rules of anthology-loving movie writers dictates we’re not allowed to reveal it, even if--like the next two tales--you can pretty much guess it two minutes in. Still, the story is sufficiently sleazy and neat enough for 20 minutes of your time. 

Onto #2, “Millicent & Therese,” a slightly more gothic tale in which Black comes back to play both main ladies. Millicent is a pale-faced spinster whose lack of lipstick is alarming. Her hated sister, Therese (not surprisingly, Black again) sports an awful blond wig that makes Janice the Muppet look natural. After their father’s death, the ladies compete for the attention of a friendly doctor, notable mostly because he’s played by Punky Brewster’s guardian.

Well, the plot’s a little more complicated than that It’s still 20 minutes of buildup to the main attraction, so let’s just move on.
Part 3. “Amelia.” A mama’s girl of a grown woman (Karen Black with reddish hair) buys a Zuni fetish doll for her fellow’s birthday. That always works out well. 

Yup, the little ugly dude wakes up in a royally pissed mood and spends the next 10 minutes adorably hunting her with a kitchen knife and crooked set of teeth. It’s hilarious. And kind of cute.

And fine, had I seen this as a child, I can almost guarantee that Mr. Tiny would’ve found a comfortable place in my nightmares, trading stabbing techniques with Chucky, putting the moves on Dolly Dearest, and spending the rest of his free time trying to kill me.
I was a pretty huge fan of director Dan Curtis’ Burnt Offerings, an offbeat haunted house (of sorts) story that also starred Karen Black. Trilogy of Terror doesn’t come close to creating that unique eeriness, but it does feature one of the most memorable killer doll sequences ever put to grainy ‘70s film. So there’s that.
High Points
Karen Black doesn’t reach Miranda Richardson in Spider levels of diversity, but she does have plenty of fun playing four very different women. In particular, she holds the third tale together quite well, creating a fully fleshed out woman without the aid of a single other actor

Low Points
Though the acting is fine and pacing fairly brisk, the first two stories are so rather meh, especially once you get to the all-out camp/horror that is Amelia
Lesson Learned
Every creep has access to a darkroom

Zuni fetish dolls are not known for waking up on the right side of the bed. Or coffee table
Slutty sisters let their toenails grow insanely long
Stray Observation
I despise the word ‘cougar,’ both for its double gender standard and far too trendy place in pop culture, but allow me to smile at the irony of Chad, Julie’s stalker, driving her home in his--you guessed it--Cougar
Holy ‘70s wallpaper Batman!
At just 72 minutes (and that’s with elongated end credits), Trilogy of Terror is a quick little pleasure that feels worthy of its mini-cult status. The stories, based on the work of (and finally, actually penned by) genre heavyweight Richard Matheson, aren’t that unique or surprising, but they work well enough with the quick treatment here to keep your interest up. Ultimately, the movie is mostly worth seeing for the incredible doll-itude of its third segment, which should succeed in warming even the coldest of hearts.

Seriously, look at this guy! Don’t you want to dress him up, pose him in wacky locations for photo shoots, and make the best pictures your Christmas card? I can't really be alone on this...can I?


  1. I think its fair to say that when a Dangerouw Worry doll grows up it wants to be a Zuni fetish doll.. and who wouldn't?

  2. I don’t think my story is unique but… I first saw Trilogy Of Terror on TV in the 70’s when I was a wee lad. I remember the voodoo doll segment scaring the crap out of me, but I have no recollection of the other two segments whatsoever.

  3. Oooh good point Tangerine!

    BiQ: That makes such perfect sense. The first two stories aren't bad, but they're incredibly blah and pretty predictable. The third has Karen Black ducking the killer stabbings a Zuni warrior doll! There's no contest!