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Trilogy of Terror
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by Jack Sommersby

"More Like 'Trilogy of Tedium'"
2 stars

If you're looking for a scary good time, might I recommend the ShockWave ride at Six Flags.

Unlike the brilliant comedy-chiller Creepshow, Trilogy of Terror is a failed horror anthology that fails to elicit much in the way of palpitations or goosebumps. It contains three vignettes with the game Karen Black starring in each, but the material just isn't there even though it's been co-scripted by well-regarded Richard Matheson who's written more than his share of TV shows ranging from The Twilight Zone and The Martian Chronicles. The first story, "Julie," centers on a meek and meager college professor blackmailed into having carnal relations with a bullying student who's taken some provocative photos of her after drugging her in a bar; after more than a month of this, the tables are turned in a reasonably unexpected and satisfying way. While not great, it's at least tolerable and the best of the three. Next, "Millicent and Therese" involves twin sisters with the sexy blonde of them on the brink of a major mental breakdown persistently harassing her doctor with phone calls and the uptight sibling trying to maintain order in their household. When the doc finally makes a house call, it leads up to a disappointing conclusion that's been carelessly telegraphed a couple of zip codes away. Finally, there's "Amelia," where a lonely woman who's just brushed off a regular visit with her mother winds up doing battle with a possessed, mean-looking Zuni doll in her apartment. Rather than a suspense-filled tale it's more an enervating array of unintentional laughs with the woman doing one stupid thing after another just to pad out the running time (instead of staying behind locked doors, she mind-bogglingly opens them when the coast is quite clearly not clear) and a vacuous villain about as scary as a Chia Pet. While Matheson is certainly to blame for the lackluster material, the director, Dan Curtis, who helmed one of the best haunted-house offerings with Burnt Offerings, hasn't done any favors with the stodgy staging and puerile pacing draining any semblances of genuine suspense. What's badly lacking is the kind of kinetic-velocity kick George Miller brought to the party in the Matheson-scripted "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" in Twilight Zone: The Movie; quite simply, the by-the-numbers approach on dubious display here can't rise above the triteness and incorporate some aesthetic life into the proceedings. Still, Black, who gave one of the best-ever supporting performances in Five Easy Pieces five years prior, possesses enough in the way of variety and wit to make yet another fine impression even against the numerous roadblocks the ineffectual team of Matheson and Curtis constantly throw in her way, and that's an accomplishment more than worthy of applause.

If you watch this on DVD, the interview and audio commentary with Black is worth the time.

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originally posted: 06/06/09 02:05:23
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User Comments

9/12/02 y2mckay Mediocre trilogy, saved by Karen Black being chased by vodoo doll. Creepy, but funny! 3 stars
6/27/00 Ulatekk The third part of the trilogy was the best! Where can I get a doll like that? 3 stars
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  04-Mar-1975 (NR)



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