Trilogy of Terror (1975)
What’s It About: A well-made TV Horror anthology movie broadcasted in 1975. Three stories of mystery and horror all short stories written by Richard Matheson and all three starring Karen Black. The first two are more mystery and drama with the last one really considered a horror segment.
Segment 1: “Julie” Karen Black is a college literature professor who seems sullen and lonely. Out of the blue a handsome student of hers named Chad takes a liken to her and decides to purse dating her. He casually starts wooing her with being an attentive student in class and chatting a bit after class with her. He then decides to stalk her a bit and becomes a Peeping Tom seeing her disrobe outside her house. He then asks her out to see a foreign movie at the drive-in (sophisticated and sleazy!). At first she objects to a teacher-student relationship but he persists and she agrees. While at the show he goes to the concession stand to get some root beers for them both. He then drugs hers and she passes out. This Chad is one smooth operator. He then takes her to his apartment and takes racy and lewd photographs of her while she’s passed out. When she awakes he has already driven her home explaining she fell fast asleep during the movie. What a guy! The next time he asks her to see him she refuses and Chad uses the photos as blackmail. For a few weeks this relationship goes on until one afternoon Julie says that the “game is over” and explains to Chad that him being sexually attracted to her was all her idea (and perhaps spell…its never really explained) and she manipulated Chad into this charade and relationship. Chad then realizes she’s not only right but that she poisoned his drink, killing him. She then sets his apartment on fire using the photography chemicals. It is later revealed that Julie has done this to many students and keeps a scrapbook of all the newspaper articles detailing their ultimate deaths. Just then, a new boy knocks at her door in need of literature tutoring.
Segment 2: “Millicent and Therese” Karen Black plays Millicent a very withdrawn and homely older woman that keeps a diary that mostly is used to complain about her sister, Therese. Millie tries to warn a suitor that Therese is evil and shows him a few books of Therese’s that deal with the occult, satan worship and black magic/voodoo. She also explains that their father was seduced by Therese, who then plotted and carried out their mother’s death. Later on, the family doctor (played by George Gaynes; Punky Brewster’s dad!) pays a visit to Millicent since he worries for her since her father had just passed away. Instead of Millie greeting the doctor, Therese tries to seduce him and makes him feel really uncomfortable until he leaves. Therese is the exact polar opposite compared to Millie, very out-going and free-spirited. When Millie consoles a little girl neighbor outside, the girl explains that Therese broke her doll. Millie has had enough of Therese and with some of Therese’s personal things and a look in the ‘ol Voodoo book she constructs a quick voodoo doll for Therese. She then calls Commandant Lessard to tell him that she has found a way to deal with Therese and that his services as doctor are no longer required. George Gaynes arrives to the house to find Therese dead in her bedroom with the voodoo doll on the floor with a pin in the center of it. When the paramedics arrive he then explains that Therese is Millicent who suffers from a multiple personality disorder.
Segment 3: “Amelia” Begins with Black coming home with a old wooden box. Inside the box is a small aboriginal Zuni warrior fetish doll with spear and large sharp teeth. Amelia then calls her mother, the most overbearing and manipulative mother ever on screen. The funny thing is, we only hear Amelia’s side of the conversation and I still felt terrible hearing how bad her mother was. Amelia usually spends Friday nights with her mom but called her to cancel because it was her new boyfriend’s birthday. She ultimately decides to break the date because of her mother but her mom also wants to hear about this new boyfriend. Amelia explains that he is a college professor of Anthropology and that the Zuni fetish doll is a gift for him and that supposedly the soul of an ancient Zuni is contained within the doll and held in by a gold chain around the doll’s waist. Before long after Amelia hangs up the phone and leaves for a bath, the gold chain somehow falls off. What happens next is one of the most entertaining attack scenes in movie history! This 12″ living Zuni doll is like the Tasmanian devil from Warner Brothers Looney Tunes. Screaming in this funny growl constantly he grabs a carving knife from the kitchen and continually is stabbing her ankles and feet. Amelia, quite in shock, runs all over her apartment trying to get away from this diminutive savage. She manages to trap him in a suitcase but he cleverly cuts his way out with the knife. When his head is exposed she grabs the knife and tries to chop him up. When she checks if the deranged Muppet is dead and opens the case he attacks again! While fighting in the kitchen the doll grabs hold of her neck with his sharp teeth. Amelia manages to get him loose while throwing him in the oven that is set on broil for a steak she was cooking. She holds the door closed tight while the doll burns to a crisp. Again, when she foolishly opens the oven door a vicious black cloud of smoke overtakes her. Finally, Amelia calls her mother to invite her over. In the final shot we see Amelia crouched down in front of the door in a hunter-like pose, stabbing the floor with a huge carving knife. When she smiles at the camera she has the same large sharp teeth as the Zuni fetish doll.
Is It Actually Scary: The first two segments are more mystery and thriller than horror so they aren’t supposed to be scary unless you find voodoo dolls scary. But the last segment is awesomely scary in a fun way. While we know that the doll is now alive when the chain falls off, it takes a good few minutes for Amelia to seek it out before she knows it’s alive. The first attack happens off camera so when she screams in pain it happens very suddenly. The doll is fast (AND furious) and will not stop until she is dead.
Scariest Moment: While the whole Zuni fetish doll attack scene is a bit scary, the scene that gave me the most creeps was the final shot of Karen Black grimacing to the camera with those huge teeth stabbing the floor with the knife.
How Much Gore: The first two segments are totally devoid of blood. Amelia’s segment has some when the Zuni doll actually stabs her a few times. But since this was a TV-made movie I see the point of leaving out the gore.
Dumbest Moments: The only times I found myself groaning at the screen was during “Amelia.” Mind you I loved this segment so these groans weren’t necessarily detrimental to the enjoyment of the segment—in fact, these dumb moments are actually more like me, as the viewer, screaming at the screen for the heroine to do something that would help her. Like when the doll is cutting his way out of the suitcase she could’ve stalled him further by either putting him in another box or suitcase or simply turning the suitcase around to the other side to save time. When he was cutting his way out she tried to actually grab the blade to stop him from cutting with her bare fingers and cut herself. she could’ve attempted to bang the knife with a hard solid object, like a book to either break or bend the blade. Just sayin’.
Any Nudity: Not for a ABC Movie of the Week buster!
Overall: Highly recommended! I had fun watching these tales of shock and suspense, especially the Zuni fetish doll one. My mom actually told me about that segment years and years ago how it creeped her out and I never forgot about her telling me. Why it took me this long to finally check it out was a huge error on my part. It truly lived up to the hype. I was laughing at the whole attack because it was actually funny seeing this very small warrior in berzerker rage trying to kill a lonely woman in a bathrobe. However, it was highly creative, suspenseful and totally re-watchable.
Score: 8 Zuni Fetish Dolls (out of 10)