FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 19, 2023

Day 19 - "That face--even your mother wouldn't love you."

I'm really digging the vibe my SHOCKtober selections has had lately, which is le comfort. Diving into the list of your favorite horror films and revisiting movies that are perfect to watch--and maybe even best watched--on a Sunday afternoon. Or perhaps a Tuesday evening, as was the case way back in 1975 with...

In keeping with not only the comfort vibes but also the "going back to Final Girl's roots" ethos of this year's celebration, you will be treated (?) to photos of my TV throughout this post, because I have yet to upgrade from my VHS copy of Trilogy of Terror. And because the tape was born last century (though I'm honestly not sure when it fell into my hands), it has seen a lot of action over the years. Wink wink! 

I mean the picture is pretty cruddy, what did you think I meant?

Also, you know what, I'm going to give you the lowdown on this one from the back of the box of that very same VHS tape. Why? Not only because you've probably already seen this movie--heck, three of you called it a favorite in 2020--but because the copy sums it up perfectly. By transcribing it, I'm not working harder, I'm working smarter!
Take three eerie tales based on stories scripted by horror master Richard Matheson, add the many talents of Karen Black, incorporate the adept direction of Dan Curtis, and you have the truly riveting presentation...Trilogy of Terror.

Karen Black stars in each episode of the trilogy, showcasing her many talents. But the real star of the show, the "Zuni Fetish Doll" is one of the most unforgettable creatures in film history. In the third and climatic tale the African head-hunting doll stalks our innocent Ms Black in a frightening battle of survival. 

I mean, the box gets it. It's like "Yeah yeah there are three stories but WHO CARES WE JUST WANT THE ZUNI FETISH DOLL." With good reason! But first, I gotta give some shout outs to the first two stories.

In the first segment, Julie, we think that a mousy college professor is being repeatedly sexually assaulted by one of her students, only to find out that Julie psychically manipulated him into it. Uh...joke's on him and us, I guess? Then she kills him. She's done this to a lot of young men, and I would just like to give a shout out to her scrapbook of murder memories, which is one of my all-time favorite tropes.

Next up is Millicent and Therese, wherein Millicent is an uptight prude who enjoys a little Ruth Bader Ginsburg cosplay from time to time...

...and her sister Therese really GETS AROUND if you know what I mean. Not only does she GET AROUND, she smokes, breaks children's dollies, and reads books about satanism, witchcraft, pornography and the like. Millicent finally takes things in her own hands and uses knowledge she found in Therese's vast occult library to kill her. In a (not at all) shocking twist, it's a case of "dual personality" and Therese Millicent somehow killed herself. I know the Zuni doll gets all the attention, but I would like to give a shout out to the voodoo doll she used to kill herself, because look at it. 

Then, of course, we get to the goods in Trilogy in Terror, by which I mean Amelia. Listen, I'll just say it: I think it's the greatest killer doll "movie" there is. I love and love to hate others, your Chuckies and your Annabelles and the such, but the Zuni Fetish Doll is IT, baby.

I love the bit of backstory we get on why Amelia is living alone, as we hear the drama with her mama on a phone call. She also explains the lore "ugly" doll she bought for her boyfriend, how the Zuni warrior spirit is kept from animating the doll by the power of the gold chain wrapped around it. Then the chain falls off amd the doll goes completely, wonderfully HAM. It's nuts. I could watch (and listen to) that doll making rabblerabblerabble noises and running around all day. The swish swish swish of the knife as he's madly slashing at Amelia's ankles makes me glad I was born to witness it! It's so so so good.

Then after she toasts the doll in the oven, the spirit transfers to Amelia. The science on that part is solid, but I'm not so sure about how or why her teeth would change. 

But what an image to end the film on! It's just the best. It's so epic and iconic that you almost forget there are two other stories in Trilogy of Terror, even though the title tells you there will be three. I wonder how blown away people were when they settled down in front of their televisions on that Tuesday night almost 50 years ago (!!!) for a li'l movie and they got Karen Black fighting with that doll. I guess they must have been pretty damn blown away, because it's been a genre clissic ever since. Perfection!


Steve K said...

1) - SO back in the day when there were primarily just 3 networks + PBS (and, if you were lucky like me to live close enough to Canada to get a CBC station; shout out to CBET-9 Windsor), most major markets usually also had one independent channel. Detroit had WKBD-50, which my family, much closer to Flint, was lucky to get reception for. And in the late afternoon after school in the late 70s and early 80s, such independent channels would show movies while the networks were showing things like Match Game or Gilligan's Island reruns.

For whatever reason, tv 50 put in heavy rotation Trilogy of Terror, The Sentinel (heavily edited, it turns out - your commentary on Beverly D'Angelo's shenanigans were completely new to me), The Girl Most Likely To.... and What's up Doc; I probably saw each of those a dozen times. That's really a perfect quartet of 70s awesomeness, don't you think?

2) I used to read a lot. I don't know if it was the internet or Covid that broke my brain, but novels seem daunting nowadays and I've gravitated toward anthologies, and this year I got an anthology of Richard Matheson's short stories and THEY ARE BONKERS FANTASTIC. Many of those are stories I'm familiar with but never read, and some of the ones that were new to me were utterly horrifying and full of dread. I highly recommend that to anyone looking for some good written material.

Stacie Ponder said...

I pity the poor fool who had to edit The Sentinel down for television haha. It's wild, though, the things we all saw because there were limited options. It feels like there's too much choice nowadays and it's honestly paralyzing to me at times. Give me limitations!

And sad to say, I've actually never read any Matheson. I need to rectify that.

Marty said...

Holy crap, Trilogy of Terror and The Sentinel are fantastic! The all-star cast in the latter is stunning and I remember going on the Universal Studios tour as a kid where they had the culturally problematic puppet who menaced Karen Black on display. They were bragging how it cost $10,000 (!!!). That's like the cost of three frames of a Marvel movie effect.

The Beverly D'Angelo and the nose lopping scenes of The Sentinel are forever etched into my psyche. So it's no wonder that I have a spandex/nose hole fetish. It's such a great movie. Christina Raines is amazing as a stoic, unmoving nun, but she should never be cast in anything other role.

By the way, have you covered Burnt Offerings yet?

Stacie Ponder said...

I did cover Burnt Offerings ages ago, and it landed in the "it's okay" zone for me--I think because of my expectations vs what the movie actually is. Then we covered it on Gaylords of Darkness sometime in the last year or so and I loved it! I should really write about it again with my updated view haha.

There are SO many movies I should revisit because I first reviewed or discussed them in the blog's early days, which, as was pointed out in another comment recently, was like 18 years ago now. I'm sure I'd love a lot of things I was lukewarm on back then (and maybe vice versa)...

Steve K said...

The weird thing about going back and reading old Final Girl posts is how many jerky jerks were in the replies, like a bunch of whiny proto-gamergate/4chan incels. That cadre of douchey horror-gatekeepers, thankfully, seems to have moved on to other pastures.

Stacie Ponder said...

Ha! There's a reason I don't go back and read early FG stuff. I mean first of all it would be weird. But more so, I'm sure the posts are cringe-inducing, but I leave them up in the interests of cyber-history. The comments could get poppin haha. Not to make excuses for everyone back then, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of that can be chalked up to it simply being the style at the time, honestly. Though there was certainly plenty of plain ol' douchedom.

I actually turned off comments completely for a long time because there were some very persistent trolls, and while I obviously would never approve their comments to the blog, I got tired of having to read them anyway. By the time I turned comments back on, they had grown tired and left, but the internet had changed so much (social media, etc) that the comments fell off hard. But it usually picks up during SHOCKtober, and I love to see it! And I've got some truly wonderful commenters who have been coming here forever, which is the best.

Sorry that's a lot of 'inside baseball' about FG comments :D

raserned said...

One of my earliest memories is a TV Guide article about the making of ToT, describing how they created a special floor with tracks so they could puppeteer the doll running from below... and that's an unusual story for that rag, so I have to wonder if it's a real memory? Did I imagine this article from hearing someone describe how some shots were done? Is it all as good as I think it is, or am I nostalgic for shag carpet and beige?

Astroboymn said...

I was 13 when this movie debuted on television and let me tell you, the buzz in my (6th? 7th?) grade classroom the next day was off the charts. We were all absolutely JAZZED to witnessed this masterpiece of killer doll drama. (It also absolutely terrified me.)

Karen Black will always be QUEEN.

Stacie Ponder said...

@spazticus -- I bet that really is a TV Guide memory, or at least I'm choosing to believe it is. They could actually go hard on behind the scenes stuff. Man I used to read that shit every week like it was the Bible! Likely one of the few 8 year olds who knew, like, what Pernell Roberts was up to.

@astroboymn -- You had THEEEE perfect ToT experience, I'm so envious!

Kristina said...

Since you mention appreciating comments, I should really quit lurking (longtime reader/listener, first time caller!) and say I’m so glad you’re back blogging, loving these posts! Big Karen Black fan but somehow haven’t seen this one yet, will watch asap.

70s TV horror was something else, tons of wild schlocky experiments and pulpy thrillers with cool stars. Going through and marking up a fresh TV Guide was the best, plan your whole week...good times.

Stacie Ponder said...

Ayyy thanks for coming off lurk mode! And thanks for all the reading and the listening :)

You have SUCH a treat waiting for you with this one, especially as a Karen Black fan, oh my goodness. I'm genuinely so psyched for you, the Zuni segment is classIQUE!

Kristina said...

You were right, this was a blast. Even the meh stuff is a Karen Black showcase, just her phone conversations is a movie I'd watch. But the Zuni story rules: 10/10 execution, glorious and so funny. The way it peeks out of the tub!

Stacie Ponder said...

I've read that Karen Black was responsible for much of the phone conversation in Amelia, which makes it even better! I really love how it fleshes out her character some in what's otherwise a very straightforward (if bonkers) segment.