Review: Trilogy of Terror (1975)


Directed by: Dan Curtis | 72 minutes | horror, thriller | Actors: Karen Black, Robert Burton, John Karlen, George Gaynes, Jim Storm, Gregory Harrison, Kathryn Reynolds, Tracy Curtis, Orin Cannon

This 1975 ‘Trilogy of Terror’ features three horror stories written by director Dan Curtis. Stories in which the female lead roles in the various stories are all played by actress Karen Black.

1. Julie

The student Chad becomes quite impressed with his teacher Julie. He asks her out and puts drugs in her drink. Then Chad takes pictures of the unconscious Julie with which he is blackmailing her. Qualitatively, this is the second story in this movie. A story that has a successful oppressive atmosphere for a long time when teacher Julie becomes more and more the victim of Chad’s blackmail practices and his imperious behavior. Also a story that, when Chad himself gets a few things for himself, manages to make use of Julie’s dark appearance, but that also, given the course of the previous events, comes across as rather sudden and far-fetched. Apart from that, it is a story that certainly manages to hold the attention.

2. Millicent and Therese

Sisters Millicent and Therese are quite different from each other and have mutual hatred. The cold and distant Millicent prefers to stay aloof from everything and everyone, while the flirty and seductive Therese prefers to be on the run. Believed that her sister represents evil, Millicent decides to kill her using voodoo. However, she does not realize that she herself is more connected to her sister than she ever imagined. This is the least of the three. The partial background of and the relationship between the two sisters is, partly as an explanation to the viewer, too exaggerated when Millicent immediately gives her heart to Therese’s unknown appointment. There’s too much talk the starting points are not too original and it becomes a bit predictable for a slightly experienced viewer. Yet this story also manages to hold the attention due to the brooding atmosphere of inevitably approaching doom and the evoked curiosity about what exactly is going on between the two sisters.

3. Amelia

Amelia comes home with a new purchase, a doll that represents a hunter. On an attached sheet it is stated that the doll contains a ghost of a Zuni hunter and that the golden chain around the neck of the doll keeps the ghost trapped. Later the necklace falls off the doll and Amelia learns that the text on the sheet is more than empty words. ‘Amelia’ is the best, most exciting and most entertaining story. It may be a bit slow, but the damage is more than made up for. Succeeded by the chases and confrontations between Amelia and the evil bloodthirsty doll. Heavy-handed confrontations follow in which the necessary humor is clearly incorporated. Just as in the appearance of the scary noises emitting doll that emanates threat, but which in its maniacal and obsessed biting and stabbing behavior simultaneously also works on the laughing muscles. Good camera work also when a few things are shown from the doll’s angle of view during the collisions.

Solid acting performances of the various parties involved. Karen Black is in shape when she can each credibly portray the characters she has designed with all the associated different characters in the three stories. In ‘Millicent and Therese’ it is perhaps a bit too bold in terms of character differences, but given the denouement it makes sense. Also neat work by the other parties involved. Black’s then-husband Robert Burton as the treacherous and blackmailing Chad in ‘Julie’ is particularly striking, although this is also because he is allocated plenty of screen time. Furthermore, this is mainly Karen Black’s film, a film in which her capacities are clearly shown and which also enhances the quality of this production.

Despite the negatives present, this ‘Trilogy of Terror’ is a predominantly meritorious trilogy. Not so much by throwing the viewer to death with gory effects, with the exception of the third story to some extent, but more by successfully building up the tension in the stories and effectively retaining it. ‘Trilogy of Terror’ can serve as an example that special effects and excessive bloodshed are not necessarily necessary to keep the attention. Due to the approach used in the various stories, it is not so much a horror production, but rather a combination of a thriller and a horror film. The film will therefore captivate lovers of the less heavy work or non-horror fans.

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