Directed By Dan Curtis
Starring Karen Black
Dark Sky Films is one of those small companies that has really started to break out with some good releases. If you haven’t ever seen Trilogy of Terror, now is the time.
So I guess that you get that I like this film. Trilogy of Terror is one of those cult classics that really deserves the attention. What’s really surprising is that the film was originally made for TV. There was a time though that made for TV films actually could be a little scary. The film is an anthology of three stories all featuring female leads that are all played by actress Karen Black. All three stories are good, but the film is mostly known for its final story in which Black is attacked by a little Zuni doll.
The first story features Black as an uptight English professor who garners the infatuation of one of her students. Eventually the student persuades Black to go out on a date. On the date the student slips her a drug knocking her out. While she’s unconscious he rapes her and takes pictures. Even though she has no memory of the incident she decides that they can’t see each other any more. He uses the pictures to force her to continue the relationship until the eventual twist ending. The story is fairly straight forward compared to the others but it’s still interesting and an entertaining watch.
The second film tells a somewhat more complex story with Black playing twin sisters. The sisters are exact opposites with one being a sexy trouble maker and the other being the demure responsible one. At the time of their father’s death, the demure one, named Millicent, realizes that she must do something about her sister. She tries to get help from her sister’s boyfriend and even her family doctor showing them her sister’s books on witchcraft and Satanism and telling them of her sisters seduction and murder of their father. With no other options left Millicent decides to use her sister’s books and magic to cast her own spell against her sister. I enjoyed this story as much as the more popular third one because Black was a real pleasure to watch as she played the polar opposite sisters, even if she did chew the scenery a few times.
Lastly, Black plays Amelia, a woman who has just moved away from her overbearing and controlling mother. Amelia buys her boyfriend, an anthropologist, a hideous looking warrior doll for a birthday present. The doll is grotesque and features sharp teeth and a razor sharp little weapon. The doll even comes with a Gremlins style warning that says not to remove the chain around the doll’s waist or else the spirit trapped within the doll will be set free. As you might expect the chain does break off the doll and the mayhem ensues. The rest of the movie, up to the climax, features Black running around her home getting her ass kicked by this little monster. Black is the only person on screen for a great deal of this story and she kept me hooked. Her physicality is surprising for a TV film and it really adds to the suspense of this story.
Black makes this movie, period. The stories are all finely penned and solidly directed but it’s Black who really gives each character a unique personality going so far as to rewrite her character a bit and giving the character a story arc that makes that final story the best of the three. With that said the cinematography and editing of the third film are much more stylized and interesting than that of the first two stories. Even 30 years later, Trilogy of Terror is one of the best horror anthologies ever made. There have been few made for TV movies that were good when they came out let alone 30 years later.
The film is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio and it looks better here than I can remember seeing it before. The film shows its age of course but considering it’s a 30 year old made for TV film it looks great. Colors are balanced if a little washed out and there is a significant amount of grain but we get that often in current TV to DVD releases.
The Dolby Digital mono audio presentation is pretty basic but it’s clean and well balanced with dialogue coming through loud and clear throughout the film.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The single disc release comes in a standard amaray case with fun artwork that’s just a riff on posters and past releases of the film. So nothing new cover art wise for this release but what we get is good.
There are a few really nice bonus features on this disc. The first and best of them is the feature length commentary with Karen Black and the screenwriter. The two work well together as the screenwriter shares a lot of background on the writing of the film and the production with Black discussing more “actressy” kinds of things. The screenwriter disappears for the third story leaving Black alone on the commentary. She’s a fun listen on this third story as she reminisces about this, the most popular of the stories.
I was really looking forward to the featurette “Three Colors of Black” which is an extended interview with Karen Black. I actually interviewed Black myself for my documentary film Fans and Freaks: The Culture of Comics and Conventions (click here to see trailers and buy a copy of this fantastic film) and I was interested to hear her comments on this film more specifically. She discusses her career all the way up to the making of Trilogy of Terror. There’s also another featurette called “Richard Matheson: Terror Scribe” the writer of the short stories upon which the movie was based.
The extras aren’t heavy in quantity but they are high quality. It’s great to finally have a little background on this classic film.
There aren’t many made for TV films that can be called “classic” but this film definitely deserves the title.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Movie 8/10
The Video 7/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8.5/10
Overall ( Not an Average) 8/10