Saturday, October 15, 2016

Four Women in Search of a Killer Zuni Fetish Doll, or Thoughts on Karen Black in Trilogy of Terror

Directed by Dan Stevens of the original Dark Shadows TV series and The Night Stalker (1972, the TV movie that inspired Kolchak: The Night Stalker), Trilogy of Terror (1974) was a revolutionary ABC movie of the week full of bell-bottoms and oversized collars that has held up remarkably well.  Based on three short stories by Richard Matheson of The Legend of Hell House (1973) and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1958), Trilogy of Terror was an edgier, more adult Twilight Zone for the ‘70s.
All three stories featured Karen Black from Easy Rider (1969), Five Easy Pieces (1970), The Great Gatsby (1974, Alfred Hitchcock’s final film Family Plot (1976), before ending up as Mama Firefly in House of 1000 Corpses (2003) as four different characters.  The first is Julie, the sexual assault of a repressed English lit teacher who turns the tables on her assailant, followed by Millicent and Therese, in a dual role where Karen Black plays the repressed, religious fanatic Millicent (I’m sensing a theme here) and her free-loving, miniskirt-wearing twin sister.  It’s a twisted southern gothic set in a Hollywood mansion.
The longest and scariest of the three is Amelia, a one-woman act featuring the infamous Zuni fetish doll.  Karen Black’s Amelia is not repressed this time but she does have a domineering mother, and most of the dialogue is supplied by one-sided telephone calls.  Arguably the greatest killer doll ever on TV, Amelia is trapped in her high-rise apartment in a fight to the death, with the analog special effects accomplished through stop motion, animatronics and tight editing.
It’s surprising that Guillermo Del Toro hasn’t remade it, given his love for the time period and his history with Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010, based on another ABC Movie of the Week). There was a sequel in 1996, Trilogy of Terror II that followed the same format but with English actor Lysette Anthony.  The Zuni fetish doll returned too.



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).