Retro Reviews: Trilogy of Terror (1975)

As the name suggests,“Trilogy of Terror” (1975) is an anthology of three separate stories. This trilogy was an ABC made-for TV horror fest that became a cult classic while it showcased Karen Black’s incredible talent.

Retro Reviews: Trilogy of Terror (1975)

Trilogy of Terror (1975)

In her four separate roles throughout the trilogy, Karen Black more than proved that she was a master of the horror genre. The trilogy was also a superb vehicle to show of her acting range. Directed by Dan Curtis, The Trilogy of Terror and Karen Black have become inseparable over the years. All three stories are unrelated and are written by Richard Matheson. Apparently, at first, Karen Black was about to turn them down but changed her mind after her husband, Robert Burton, was also cast in one of the stories. He plays Chad Foster in “Julie”. each of these bizarre and compelling little tales,

Karen Black is the antagonist who is caught up in an unfortunate situation and is either tormented or attacked. The first of the three is called “Julie”, the second, “Therese and Millicent” and the last and most memorable one is “Amelia”. “Amelia” is the short film that people most remember and has the biggest cult following. It was the only one where Matheson also wrote the screenplay and in which Black herself offered some input. This and the non-stop tension, more than made the “one about the doll” stand out.

In describing the plot here, I will give only a part-spoiler because this specific story is popular enough to the horror genre that its reputation precedes it.

Amelia is an attractive woman who lives alone in a high-rise apartment to escape from her- overbearing, mother, and is obviously seeking some understandable freedom in her love life. It begins with Amelia returning home from making a rather unusual purchase for her college professor man-friend. Once she opens the box to check out her buy, we are introduced to the Zuni hunting fetish doll inside. Amelia, then calls her mother to tell her what she has bought. It is indeed ‘ugly’,as she describes it. She reads the scrolled note that came with the savage-looking doll. The note says this hunting doll is named “He Who Kills” and warns- but obviously not strongly enough- that if the golden chain around its neck is ever broken, the doll will come to life. “Spirit and doll will become one living…” and then her mother interrupts but we comprehend fully and can all guess what happens next.

The ensuing action turns out to be Karen Black’s one-man show as no other actors are present. It’s a classic that should not be missed by any vintage horror buff if they want to be worthy of the label. “Amelia” is vintage horror at its best. It plays out as scary, fun, and horrific all at once. But whatever you do- do not miss the ending- unforgettable!

“Amelia” was actually adapted to screenplay by the original writer, Richard Matheson. Although Black does a superb job in the other two stories, especially Millicent and Therese where she plays both rival sisters, this last short, “Amelia” is the one that uses both her unique look and her talent to the foremost. The success of the Trilogy of Terror (1975) unfortunately lead to Karen Black being type-cast in subsequent B-grade horror flicks. She reflects, “I think this little movie, took my life and put it on a path that it didn’t even belong in”.

The trilogy opened to positive reviews back in 1975 and it still rates as one of the better horror films. Wikipedia states that Jon Niccum from Journal-World wrote, “The third segment in this trilogy is arguably the scariest piece ever crafted under the made-for-TV label.”

I give the “Trilogy of Terror” (1975) 8/10, but this was definitely brought up a notch by “Amelia (the one about the doll).”

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