TV movies are rarely remembered unless they garner cult fame. In 1975, TRILOGY OF TERROR directed by Dan Curtis aired as ABC Movie of the Week. Each story was written by Richard Matheson and starred Karen Black as the female lead in every segment. Each story offered a creepy tale but it is the final story of the Zunni fetish doll that sticks in the memories of most. 21 years later Curtis came back to TV with a semi-direct sequel titled TRILOGY OF TERROR II.
This TV sequel holds its own as a horror flick with plenty of frights and manages to be yet another really good made-for-tv movie. In this writer’s opinion, the sequel actually holds up better than the first. Here are just a few reasons the TRILOGY OF TERROR series needs to be revived in gorgeous HD.
From writing screenplays for Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe series to 16 episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. Richard Matheson has been a part of every horror fan’s life at some point. Matheson gets to stretch his horror legs within these two films, and he does so wildly. Richard Matheson is a foundation in the horror writer legacy, overreaching even King and Barker. All of his creations committed to film should merit a restoration and release.
Good Ol’ Fashioned Monsters
It’s a well-known thing in the industry that there just aren’t monster movies like there used to be. Practical effects and puppeteering is a cherished, but rare, art form these days. The indie world seems to try to breathe life in the monster world every once in awhile with things like TROLL HUNTER or LATE PHASES but they remain small pictures. Which is why it’s a crime to keep the TRILOGY OF TERROR series out of remastered releases. The first does tend to lean more supernatural than the second but this is the first we are introduced to “He Who Kills” the sharp-toothed, shrieking, nightmare doll. I’ve heard countless stories on how this short was the first scary thing they saw that’s stayed with them
In TRILOGY OF TERROR II the first story aptly titled “The Graveyard Rats” feature effects from Frank C. Carere who also did effects work on VIDEODROME and THE GATE. With larger than life rodents, this story feels like an homage to creature features from the 50s but with a genuinely creepy and cringe-worthy vibe. And of course we later are matched again with “He Who Kills” and he’s out for blood.
Striking Female Leads
As female lead roles in horror movies go, I think these two films hold the record for every story having a female lead. Even if that female happens to be the same actress in each segment. Karen Black brings us our first leading lady and churns out four performances that run wide in their variety. Black not only contributed her acting chops to this little horror movie, she ended up rewriting part of “Amelia”. She felt that the conversation her character has with her mother needed to depict a more controlling mother figure for the audience to feel for Amelia.
Lysette Anthony, of KRULL fame (three words I never thought I would type), is our constant lead in TRILOGY OF TERROR II. She adds a different flare than Karen Black and livens up the sequel for a different kind of audience. We are lucky to have these two films that showcase female talent in horror that is often overlooked.
*All Photos: TRILOGY OF TERROR (1975) Dan Curtis Productions