It’s the Karen Black show! This triple-threat horror anthology is obviously modeled after the ghoulish EC Horror Comics morality tales, where freakishly supernatural things happen to ordinary people, but what makes them endure in the audience’s memory is the striking lead performance. Black plays the female protagonist in each story, and she’s the kind of extreme actress who not only acts with her eyes and face, but with her neck, her fingertips, her elbows, wrists, and torso. Gusto is not the word. Of the three tales, the third is the one everyone remembers, where she plays an ordinary gal who has moved into a sublet after finally escaping the clutches of her domineering mother, only to be terrorized by a possessed Zuni fetish doll. The creepy-looking doll is a wiry little thing with a tuft of shocking black hair and its predominant feature is razor sharp teeth, and when it comes after Black with its spear and a miniature steak knife, it shrieks, “Ayayayayaya!” Bordering on the comical, and way behind the times in the special effects department, it’s still an effective adversary for Karen Black, with both of them topping one another in physical acrobatics (it sprints across the room waving its tiny knife as she trips over the couch, the chairs, and the bumps in the rug). The script by Richard Matheson is a mini-masterpiece of slow-building tension escalating into full throttle maniacal action (he handled this on a larger scale in his script for Steven Spielberg’s similarly minimalist suspense classic Duel), and the visuals by director Dan Curtis are appropriately whirlwind. Most of the time, these battles with mini-monsters are laughable, but Black is such a volcano of emotion she keeps you with her character at every moment, her face charged with victory when she locks the little bastard in a suitcase only to fall into defeat when it starts slicing through the fabric with its razor sharp knife. The other two episodes are fun also, with Black in the first playing a schoolteacher who turns the tables on a horny college student eager to get in her pants, and in the other embodying two sisters, the sexy blonde one and the frumpy spinster, who utterly despise one another. But those who saw the original Trilogy of Terror on TV, and those like myself who caught it on video years later, usually discuss this third episode exclusively, as well as the shock ending with Black’s nefarious ear-to-ear grin. Who loves you, baby?
- 72 min
- Dan Curtis
- Richard Matheson, William F. Nolan
- Karen Black, Robert Burton, George Gaynes, John Karlen, Jim Storm, Gregory Harrison
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