St John Karp

Ramblings of an Ornamental Hermit

Trilogy of Terror (1975)

It’s October and that means it’s time to bust out all the horror classics! I might not be blogging about everything we do for movie nights this month because it’s normal for us to tread some well-trodden ground like The Witches or Hocus Pocus, but I’m determined to annoy my friends with some objectionable crap too. As soon as my boyfriend goes to sleep I’ll try to sneak on Carry On Screaming! (1966) because he point-blank refuses to watch a Carry On movie with me (clever boy), but in the meantime we have Trilogy of Terror (1975), a made-for-TV anthology horror movie.

Trilogy of Terror title card.
“God, have you ever seen so many dogs in one place?”

What a prick. His name’s actually Chad too. I’m not going to be sorry when he gets eaten or stabbed or whatever.

Why do they call these horror movies anyway? I welcome whatever’s going to happen to this wanker. I can see people being genuinely scared by something like Nosferatu or The Shining, but was anyone really scared by these goofy drive-in B-movies? It seems like horror movies for decades were intentionally camp and there was no real expectation of frightening anyone. Maybe it was one of those things where cinema-goers were easy marks like how everyone screamed the first time they saw a film in 1896 because they thought the train was going to come out of the screen and run them over. Or maybe the real horror was these forty-year-old fratboys and their fascinating conversation. “Bro, check out this sick collar. Don’t walk so fast, the corduroy on my thighs is gonna catch fire.”

Karen Black as a matronly teacher.

Oh lord, they’re doing this thing where they stick a pair of glasses on a beautiful woman and call her ugly. The same thing pissed me off for years about Ugly Betty. A friend of mine told me, “Now is a horrible time to be a straight white man,” and I thought, “Good, it’s about time. You had your run, let someone else have a whack at it.” You like that hot take? Better drop it before you scorch your hands.

From a writer’s perspective I really don’t think anyone is out to get straight white men. Just maybe include a gay character or a person of colour, you know? But no, that’s a bridge too far. Anyhow, what were we talking about? Some kind of movie, I’m almost sure.

Chad choking on his poisoned whiskey.

In the first segment of this anthology, Chad takes Julie Eldridge, his uni English professor, out on a date, then drugs her and has his sordid way with her. The twist in this story is that Eldridge is telepathic and has been controlling him the whole time. There’s a quaint little moment where she poisons him at the end that’s reminiscent of the wonderful scene in The Lair of the White Worm where Lady Sylvia bites a boy scout on the dick, paralyses him, and then sticks his head underwater with her big fetish boot. Only Eldridge doesn’t have half of Lady Sylvia’s panache. On the surface this looks like a good feminist revenge story where the woman gets back at toxic men, but I don’t like it. What’s the message, that Eldridge got raped because she was, literally, asking for it? What even is that?

Karen Black made up to look old.

The second segment deals with another matronly-looking character, and it’s at this point we’re starting to realise Karen Black is the only actor in this movie. She’s in every segment. No-one’s complaining because she is a champ and we could watch her all day, but this old-person makeup is a bit ropey. Just painting her lips white makes her look like the grandmother from Valerie and Her Week of Wonders:

The grandmother from 'Valerie and Her Week of Wonders'.

Or that wonderful lady from Troll 2:

The wild-eyed woman from 'Troll 2'.
“Shut up and drink your broth!”

Separated at birth, right?

A trampy woman trying to seduce a man in a suit.

Anyhow, the old lady has a trampy sister who tries to sleep with everyone within dick-sucking range. I’m going to complain about straight men again because the trampy-looking getup just looks ghastly to me. Why is all that lipstick such a turn-on for some people? It’s all chemicals. It’d be like kissing a candle.

It didn’t take us long to rumble the twist in this segment and, honestly, you can probably guess it already. I’ll leave it up to your imagination.

A wooden doll supposedly depicting an African warrior.

If this film is known for anything, it’s the final segment which features this… erm… thing. I’m not sure how to describe it other than racist, but in the movie it’s a fetish doll depicting an African warrior. In a Mannequin-like twist when the doll’s gold chain falls off it comes to life, leading to a solid half-hour of this thing running around trying to stab Karen Black. She manages to toss the thing into the oven where it shrieks and dances like a snag on a barbecue, but I think we all know you can’t dispense of evil spirits in a Smeg appliance.

The Skinny

A woman with sharpened teeth.

“You’ve drugged me.”

“No, dear. I’ve killed you.”

While Karen Black is a great actor and really carries this movie, there’s not much else to recommend it. It’s not camp enough to be fun and it’s not clever enough to be genuinely engaging. I can’t say it’s not up our alley — seventies anthology horror flicks are always good movie night fodder. There are just way better options than this one.