Entries from October 2023 ↓

Day 31 – "It’s Halloween. Everyone’s entitled to one good scare."

Here we are, at the end of all things SHOCKtober 2023! My, how time flies when you're having horror movies. It's been a terrific time for me, giving a few films a second chance, revisiting some old faves, and watching many more that were entirely new to me--a couple of which have become new faves. But what to choose for the last movie of the month? After much consideration and poring over the list of your favorites until my eyes fell out (it's 951 movies, after all), I said you know what, let me put on some Uggs™, take a sip of my pumpkin spice coffee (my supply is dwindling, by the way), and be a basic bitch: It's time for la raison de la saison. It's time for Halloween (1978).

I actually don't make it mandatory viewing every year, opting instead for anything that feels atmospherically-appropriate because I've seen Halloween so many goddamn times that I could probably do a 99% accurate one-woman show of the entire thing, music cues included. But something about this year, it just felt right. It felt...not fresh, exactly, because that's impossible. It's not as if it would hold any surprises for me, but I was excited all the same. It's like I was the third kid trailing behind Laurie in the pumpkin parade, going "ooooOOOOoooooo."

In the 2010 and 2017 lists of readers' favorite horror films, Halloween ranked #1. In 2020, it dropped to #4, with Suspiria (2018) taking the top spot. I'd be surprised if Suspiria held the top spot next time around--yes, I think that's a perfect film and it certainly ranks as one of my favorites, but it's possible there was some recency bias (or perhaps Gaylords of Darkness listener bias) happening. I could be wrong! We shall see. But I'd be equally surprised to see Halloween regain the top spot. Do the kids jive with it anymore? It feels like no.

Of course, I am generalizing, and there are always going to be those who like to put the stab-stab to horror's sacred cows, calling them "boring" or "not scary" or "not actually that good" or whatever. Scream, it seems, has taken over as the slasher top dog. It's got a healthy, vocal contingent that came of horror age with it, and the newer installations bring back legacy characters while still centering a young demographic. Essentially, Scream keeps on Screamin' in a way that brings together multiple generations of horror fans. It works in a way that Halloween does not and never has, with its offshoots, multiple reboots, explanations, and timelines. 

Even though I take a year off from it here and there, though, I'll always love this movie with my whole heart. It's too ingrained. It terrified me too much during the entirety of my youth: That shot of Michael sitting up and turning to look at Laurie was (and honestly, still sort of is) the stuff of nightmares. For a long time of my horror-loving life, I could not envision anything scarier than Michael Myers. Except maybe Pazuzu. 

As for Laurie Strode, I think I've been too hard on her in recent years and the fact that it's ultimately Dr Loomis who saves the day, even if the respite is only temporary. I can't help but be dazzled by more proactive gals like your Chris Higgins, or the gals who really fucking went through it like Sally Hardesty. But really, every Final Girl really fucking went through it, yeah? Why am I making this some kind of Final Girl Oppression and Going Through It Olympics? 

Girl Scout Laurie goes from watching a monster movies with the two kids in her charge to finding the dead bodies of literally all of her friends in the blink of an eye. She's relentlessly pursued by a maniac--a smooth-walking maniac, but a maniac nonetheless. She runs, she fends him off and fights back on more than one occasion, and she still has the wherewithal to take care of those kids. She's fucking great, and I take back every single moment I cared that Loomis SHOT HIM SIX TIMES.

Speaking of Loomis, I know--I KNOW!--that he's essential for making Michael Myers something more than a mere weirdo. Without Loomis, there is no Shape. But my gawd, Loomis. His diagnosis of Michael, which is that the man is an "it" who is "evil," is based on ~*~vibes~*~. Yes, Michael stabbed his sister to death. There's clearly something going on! But otherwise, we are told that he simply stares at walls. He doesn't hurt anyone in the hospital. He doesn't say a word or make a threatening gensture. But Doctor (DOCTOR!!!) Loomis looks in his eyes and knows he is evil. What fucking Sally Struthers correspondence course did he take to earn his degree certificate? 

That said, of course he was right, so thank goodness he didn't opt for Air Conditioner Repair or TV/VCR Repair, amirite?

I had such a great time revisiting this movie. The music still hits. Nick Castle's physicality is oddly underrated when we're talking about great horror performances. I still adore the girls (Annie is forever my sarcastic queen). It's still crazy how quick the sex is between Judith Myers and her boyfriend. I still wonder who was going to look at the Myers house? Like, who was the prospective buyer for whom Laurie Strode had to drop off keys?

So I don't know, if you're anything like me in that you've seen Halloween so many times that you love it but you also you've wrung every last possible drop of in-the-moment enjoyment from it...maybe you haven't. Maybe you'll find yourself wishing you had it all alone...just the two of you. What I'm really talking about here is FATE.

I guess that's a wrap on it! Thanks to everyone who's been reading and commenting and the such, it's been a hoot indeed. If you want to keep up with Final Girl updates (I'VE GOT PLANS), you can sign up over at Avenue X (it's free!) and get Final Girl posts and whatever other writing I do over there right in the ol' email inbox. Or you can keep checking here, that's your business. I've also been guesting a lot recently on the Evolution of Horror podcast--many of my episodes are on the Patreon, but there are free ones, too. I also still have my column in every issue of Rue Morgue magazine--I've usually got a few reviews in there as well, and the occasional feature. Just throwing that all out there.

So I'll be around a few places and back here soon. Until then, as always, make every tober a SHOCKtober

Day 30 – "Sometimes you can get very weird. And you’re getting worse lately."

The movie I'm writing about here today is not the movie I'd originally intended to write about her today. I had the other movie all picked out, the DVD in my hand. But as I was about to open the case, it was like something came over me. I entered a weird fugue state, or maybe I was momentarily possessed, I don't know. Whatever happened to me physically or metaphysically compelled me to watch Girls Nite Out (1982), a slasher movie that I absolutely hated the first (and only!) time I saw it, way back in 2005, during the very first SHOCKtober here at Final Girl.

At the time, I found it to be not only dull and plodding, but also insanely misogynist. It's strange to me that I would willingly revisit it at all, but I think that subconsciously the spirit of SHOCKtober (her name is SHOCKtobra, obviously) was speaking to me...or maybe through me?...and saying "It was called a favorite film by one reader in 2020. Why not revisit it? What's the harm?"

There was a part of me that was vehemently against the idea. Why waste time on garbage, especially on garbage I'd already seen, hated, and called misogynist?

But another part of me, the cool mom part, said "Lighten up, narc, you can burn your bras some other time! This is SHOCKtober, baby! Get it while you can"

Let me say it right up front: I guess all sides of me are now cool mom because I actually...loved it this time. What a world!

I look for and respond to most horror movies much differently than I did in 2005, and Girls Nite Out is a great example. I appreciate random elements that either breezed right by me or didn't fit within the parameters of what constituted "a good slasher" to me. Maybe I've just seen a lot of movies that are more extreme or more hateful since then--movies that both predate this one, and movies that were produced long after. Maybe I'm just tuckered out by outrage, as public discourse about every single thing has become an endless series of Two Minutes Hates. We had a pandemic! That I guess is over? I just kind of feel like...I got that worked up because the killer in Girls Nite Out calls the victims "whore" or "slut" before they're killed? I get it, I suppose, but nevertheless, I don't feel like persisting. This movie is pretty fucking harmless in the scheme of things and of all the words I'd use to describe it, at this point "misogynist" is pretty far down the list. I'm going to turn in the Susan B Anthony award (for baby feminism) I won in 6th grade the next time I pass by my elementary school.

Now then, if you're still here, what exactly do I like so much about a shitty slasher movie that I am willing to surrender prestigious (AND WELL-EARNED OKAY) awards over it? 

I love the story we can infer by the casting of Hal Holbrook and his son David. By 1982, the elder Holbrook was already a revered actor, beloved for his Tony-winning one-man show about Mark Twain and his Emmy-nominated performance in ABC Movie of the Week That Certain Summer. His star was still on the rise, really, and he had no business being in a low-budget horror movie about a wackadoo who dons a mascot costume and goes around killing college girls during a midnight scavenger hunt. But when you see "Introducing David Holbrook" in the opening credits, you know what's up: Hal is here so his son would be cast in the movie. And every time Hal Holbrook appears on the screen in Girls Nite Out, you can see another little chunk of his soul leave his body and flutter away, never to return.

Was it worth it? Well, David Holbrook has maybe five minutes of screen time total. Girls Nite Out has a fairly large cast, and he's the worst actor of the bunch by an Antonio Bay mile. But my goodness, he acts so hard. He is doing a lot of acting. He gets to work with Lauren Marie-Taylor of Friday the 13th Part 2, and he gets to deliver the best speech in the film, which I did not acknowledge as such in 2005:
You little bitch! You just take what you can get. All of you--you're nothing but a bunch of whores! I won't forget this.

So again, I ask: was it worth it?

Fuck yeah it was! Thank you for your service and sacrifice, Pater Holbrook. 

I love all the characters in this movie. While there is one that is clearly designated "the nerd," every single character in Girls Nite Out is a nerd. The "cool" college radio station DJ who plays nothing but the Lovin' Spoonful? Nerd.

The two star jocks of the team and who share a nice bromance? Nerds.


They're all nerds. Many of them are charming as hell, and I was even a titch bummed when a few girls (who reminded me of the queens in Killer Party) got killed. 

What else do I love? Hmm. Well, I love that it emerged during the slasher heyday and plays with tropes juuuust enough to not have your typical "Final Girl vs the Killer" ending. I'm not even sure if the final girl would qualify as a "Final Girl" here. But she is played by Julia Montgomery, who looks like a 1982 Mena Suvari in this and would go on to star in all the Revenge of the Nerd movies, so who cares about narrowly-defined archetypes! 

I love Detective Nikola Tesla.

Once upon a time, I did not at all appreciate the killer's signature weapon, which was a "bear claw" fashioned out of steak knives. Now upon a time, I say "Freddy Krueger WHO?"

With visions of misogynistplums dancing in my head all these years, I was surprised to see on this revisit that the body count, while nearly all women, is shockingly low, and the violence is not at all brutal or sadistic or explicit. Though these are a bunch of ostensibly horny college students, there's no sex and no nudity. It's really tame as far as these things go, and much of the runtime is spent (deep breath) getting to know the characters. They are even afforded opportunities to react to and grieve for their friends' deaths. That's such a rare thing in slasher movies, where bodies are usually only there to add to the count.

Of course, it's not trying to be anything other than a slasher flick. The killer's costume is goofy as all hell. The ending is completely silly and bonkers and I was so into it. 

If rewatching Girls Nite Out at all was shocking to me, well, enjoying it as much as I did makes me question every opinion I've ever had about anything. What would happen if I, say, ate a circus peanut? Would I love that, too? Who even am I anymore? What other changed opinions about horror movies are waiting in the wings of my brain manor? Can I trust myself? Should I have ever trusted myself? Sigh. I feel untethered! There's only one thing I can still be sure of:

You're nothing but a bunch of whores! ?

Day 29 – "There’s nothing unnatural here! Or supernatural!"

If you've been hanging around these parts for more than...oh, let's say three minutes, then you know I've always got a hankerin' for some made-for-TV horror. It's great that it seems like no matter how many I've seen, there's another ol' new-to-me flick waiting in the wings, such as today's one vote wonder, A Cold Night's Death (1973). I tells ya, I hope I never run out of made-for-TV horror!

A Cold Night's Death originally aired on Tuesday, January 30, 1973 as ABC's Tuesday Movie of the Week. Movie of the Week ran from 1969 to 1975, each year comprising "seasons" that featured low budget films produced exclusively for ABC. All genres were dabbled in, and hot topic issues like feminism, racism, and homosexuality were often center focus. After a couple seasons, horror had proven to be one of the most popular genres; Some of ABC's titles would go on to become classics both mainstream and cult: Bad Ronald, Scream Pretty Peggy, Home for the Holidays, The Night StalkerDon't Be Afraid of the Dark, Trilogy of Terror, and Duel are but a few. Blumhouse fucking wishes.

No star was too big for the small screen, either. Milton Berle, Barbara Stanwyck, Olivia de Havilland, Bing Crosby, Bette Davis, Charles Nelson Reilly...a whole Hollywood Boulevard's worth of names appeared in one or more productions over the years. A Cold Night's Death is no different, giving us Robert Culp and Eli Wallach as two scientists stuck at a remote research station where they battle the elements, each other, and maybe...something else! oooOOOOOOoooooooooooo

Robert Jones and Frank Enari (Culp and Wallach) are helicoptered to Tower Mountain Research Station after base camp loses contact with the station's lone resident, Vogel, whose last radio messages had been increasingly delusional and erratic. After some searching through the trashed station, they find Vogel sitting at the radio, frozen solid. A nearby window was open. The door was unlocked. The station's primate test subjects are freezing and starving. 

This is all ominous to be sure, but after Vogel's body is helicoptered back down the mountain, Jones and Enari stay on to continue the research. Enari is excited about this venture and doesn't mind the isolation, as he's looking forward to digging into the facts and the data. He also has a nice rapport with control chimp Geronimo, and with all these monkeys and chimps and the such in this movie--and this movie being from 1973--well, I can't be the only one who's braced for the possibilities of animal abuse, right? My Food of the Gods PTSD is still fresh!

Jones, on the other hand, is immediately bored and depressed. He loves the exploration and mystery aspects of research, and there's not much fun for him noting temperature readings or whatever in a remote mountaintop lab buried in snow. Space travel is cool, but recording the effects of altitude in primates to aid space travel is uncool. Jones is bummed because he clearly subscribes to the ethos of Countess Luann de Lesseps of The Real Housewives of New York.

It's interesting to me that the men divide up the tasks at the station in a way that's...mmm, let's say it's along the lines of 1970s traditional gender roles: While Jones is to take care of all the mechanics and maintenance of the station, including shoveling vast amounts of snow to melt for water, Enari takes on the domestic chores. He ties on aprons, makes the beds, cooks, cleans, and at one point, he even worries about his figure. Now I'm not saying there's any notes of romance happening between these two men, because I don't think there is. I'm just saying that the coding is a thing that makes me go hmmm (CCMusicFactoryVEVO™).

It doesn't take long for things to start getting weird around the station. The monkeys start flipping the fuck out at night. Noises are heard. The window in the radio room is found open. The generator is turned off. Food is ruined. What's going on here?

Mystery-loving Jones thinks that Vogel's strange death is tied into it somehow. The men begin to accuse and distrust each other, turning into to The Thing Blairs in a pod. 

The big reveal is maybe some silly kind of EC Comics stuff, but it really doesn't matter. The real fun is in the getting there, the span of time where we know something is up with this place. The men know something is up with this place, even if they're sometimes reluctant to admit it. Heck, even the monkeys know. A Cold Night's Death is a suspenseful little yarn indeed. It all hinges on Culp and Wallach, who bicker their way through growing paranoia and mistrust whilst trapped in horrendous conditions. The scenes outside of the station look convincingly freezing: the snow is piled high, the wind and storms are relentless, and even in the heat of summer it'll likely have you reaching for your Snuggie. An effectively eerie, sci-fi tinged score from Gil Mellé keeps things moody and the atmosphere creepy. 

Yes, I was genuinely creeped out at times, despite the fact that I watched this on YouTube, where you can tell by the screencaps that the resolution is approximately 50p. It's well worth "suffering" through, though, as A Cold Night's Death is a terrific way to spend 75 or so minutes. I'm thankful that good folks have uploaded some titles already, but that shitty picture quality (and slightly out-of-sync sound) has me hoping that someone like Kino Lorber, who's done a wonderful job cleaning up several other ABC Movies of the Week (The VictimThe Screaming Woman, etc), will give it a proper release at some point. We deserve this. The legacies of Culp and Wallach deserve this. The legacy of my man Bert Remsen, who starred in Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo and acted as casting supervisor on this film, deserves this. Film history deserves this. Most of all, Geronimo and all the other monkeys and chimps deserve this. Can I get a (monkey voice) ooh ooh ooh AHH AHH (GeronimoVEVO™)?

Day 28 – "I do not like that thing, and I do not like your attitude in completely ignoring that fact."

Reader, I suggest you strap yourself in with like five seatbelts because I am about to tell you the very exciting saga of how I chose today's chosen.

So there I was, perusing the list of your favorite horror movies when my eyes fell upon something called Tales That Witness Madness, which earned a single vote in 2020. "That sounds like some Lovecraft something or other, I will pass," I thought. Then my eyes literally screeched to a halt (and I do mean literally--there was the noise and the blue smoke and everything) when I saw that it was directed by Freddie Francis. You mean Freddie Francis, director of Dr Terror's House of Horrors, Tales from the Crypt, and Torture Garden Freddie Francis? Freddie Francis, Amicus anthology king Freddie Francis? 

"That sounds like it's probably not some Lovecraft something or other, I shall not pass," I thought. That last bit was thought in a Gandalf voice, obviously.

So then I watched it!

See, aren't you glad you had all those seatbelts on?

This is indeed an anthology film, and given the Freddie Francis of it all and the 1973 of it all, you would not be remiss to think that this is an Amicus production. But trust me, you will be availed of that idea fairly quickly. You'll see some blood splatter and think "That's surprising!" Then you'll see some bare breasts and you'll think "WOWZEE WOW! HONK HONK AWOOOGA! WHOA MAMA HUMINA HUMINA BOIYOIYOING!" Finally, you put your eyes back in your head and you remember that you didn't see the word "Amicus" over the delightfully groovy opening credits. You put all three things together and at last get it through your thick skull that this is not an Amicus anthology film!

I always have a good time with anthology horror flicks, and this was no exception, although it's decidedly on the "Huh?" end of the spectrum as far as these things go. But that's something I admire in bite-sized storytelling: the ability to answer "But...how does this make sense...?" with "It doesn't, who cares?"

Even the framing narrative had me scratching my chin: Donald Pleasence is a doctor at a futuristic insane asylum (I say "futuristic" because doors open with buttons, Pleasence uses a chemistry set to make drinks, and the whole place looks like Upson Pratt's apartment in Creepshow) that houses four very special cases. Why they are famous or what the point is, I'm not really sure. He says he's "solved" the cases but they're all still patients...? Eh, who cares! The cases provide the stories, what else do you need to know?

In the first, "Mr Tiger," a young boy has a tiger for an imaginary friend. Only it's not really imaginary, I guess, because it shows up and kills the boy's asshole parents who do nothing but scream at each other. Then the tiger leaves. That's it!

I liked the close-ups of the tiger attack, because you could see that its "paws" were clearly just big gloves on a human.

The second story, "Penny Farthing," is about a young man who inherits some stuff from his dead aunt, including a penny farthing and a photo portrait of a man that's labeled "Uncle Albert." The portrait changes expression and can do some light telekinesis. It compels the young man to start pedaling the penny farthing, which takes him back in time. The young man is then a young Uncle Albert, but a gross zombie-looking old Uncle Albert is also there. The young man's girlfriend, who looks just like Uncle Albert's girlfriend in the past, ends up dead. That's it! 

The third story, "Mel," was the best, and I'm not just saying that because it's the one that starred Joan Collins (who famously worked with Francis in the Tales from the Crypt story "And All Through the House", though that's certainly a big part it. A man brings home a giant chunk of tree and plops it in his living room, perhaps as some sort of art. His wife doesn't like it. The tree, which is vaguely woman-shaped and has the initials MEL carved in it, doesn't like the wife. Things escalate!

"Mel" was so fucking weird and funny--how could anyone not love a story that has Joan Collins and a sequence wherein we get to watch a tree's murder fantasy? If Tales That Witness Madness was only this fifteen minutes, I would have been fine with it. "Mel" rules, and the rest of the movie is just an enjoyable bonus.

The last segment, "Luau," features a young man whose mother's dying wish is for her son to complete an elaborate ritual sacrifice so that she will go to Heaven (or some other nice afterlife place) and he will be granted supernatural powers. The young man stays at his agent's house and has designs--sacrificial designs--on the agent's daughter. It all comes to a head at a luau. It ends abruptly an it's never made clear if the man gains his supernatural powers...? Oh well. 

I'm sure the whole ceremony and all that is rather yikes, but it's 1973, so some yikes is not entirely unexpected in a story centered around a luau. What's more surprising is that Kim Novak came out of retirement for this shit! What's even more MORE surprising is that she replaced Rita Hayworth! Madness, indeed.

Tales That Witness Madness was written by actress Jennifer Jayne (under the pseudonym "Jay Fairbank"), who previously worked with Francis in Dr Terror's House of Horrors. In my mind, when she wrapped up her segment in that film ("Vampire"), she said to herself "Ooh, you know what, lemme write one of those" and then she did. She also penned another Freddie Francis film, the reportedly nutso (I have not seen it to attest!) Son of Dracula, a musical starring the likes of Harry Nilsson, Ringo Starr, and Peter Frampton. Clearly she just wrote whatever she wanted without a care in the world, and to this I say thank you, Jennifer Jayne. Does any of her work make sense? It doesn't, who cares?

Day 27 – "Death does not have the power to separate us."

Having emerged from The New York Ripper earlier this month with my faculties intact, I decided to play with fire and watch another movie from my "do not watch this, it will ruin you" list. That's right, I took Marbles Harsgrove's "Don't live your life by fear. Don't do that" advice to heart and planted myself in front of the one vote wonder that is...

Yes, I have now seen Joe D'Amato's infamous spaghetti splatter flick Beyond the Darkness (1979), aka Buio Omega despite my worries that it would have me puking up my innards like that lady in Fulci's City of the Living Dead.

Hmm. Well, maybe I puked up my innards a long time ago and never noticed. Or perhaps I never had any innards to begin with? Whatever the reason is, I came out the other side of this one with my gorge decidedly unrisen, which is perhaps the most shocking thing about this shocker.

Don't get me wrong, Beyond the Darkness is truly, truly, truly gross. TRULY. But with the exception of one gnarly scene (that did have me looking away, I admit), the grossness isn't tied to the violence, which made all the difference for me. I think I was expecting, I don't know, tongues ripped out and eyeballs stabbed and the like, so when it wasn't that--when it's just "oh, you're hacking up a dead body?"--it was more palatable...though not at all palatable, if you know what I mean. It definitely deserves to have caution tape wrapped around it to ward off the innocent, but I think that for me, the context of the gore put it in the "really gross" category when I thought it'd be in the "really gross and hateful" category. Never thought I'd be here all "oh it's not that bad, I think I might have even enjoyed it" about a movie chock full of splatter, cannibalism, and necrophilia. But then I also never thought I'd live in a world where I stopped buying Sleater-Kinney albums, but here I am! (#Justice4Janet)

Frank (Kieran Canter) is a very pretty (he really is) young taxidermist whose girlfriend Anna (Cinzia Monreale) is in the hospital for some reason. Frank's housekeeper Iris (Franca Stoppi) is jealous of Anna, and so she enlists the help of a Strega Nona-type to do some voodoo on Anna. The voodoo do work, and Anna dies. Frank is sad. Back home, Iris offers him some titty. I mean that literally. She breastfeeds Frank, and you say to yourself, "Oh, what have I done to myself by watching this movie?"

Anyway, Frank ain't a taxidermist for no reason! He absconds with Anna's body, then proceeds to preserve her--you know, taking out all of her insides, giving her glass eyes, taking a bite out of her heart, etc. As you do. It's gross!

Unfortunately for...well, all of us, in a way...a hitchhiker forced herself into Frank's van when he was on his way home with Anna's body. When she catches wind of what's going on, Frank kills her, but not before ripping out all of her fingernails with pliers. Please note, that was the scene where I had to look away. It's gross!

The ever-helpful Iris is right there to assist Frank with disposing of the hitchhiker's body. By "assist" I mean "do most of the work" as Iris chops up the dead young lass with a cleaver while Frank fills the tub with acid. I love that the acid was in green glass wrapped in a basket, like a giant bottle of the finest Ernest & Julio Gallo.

Several nauseating hacks later, the hitchhiker's body parts are chucked into the tub where they dissolve into a curdled froth. Iris scoops up wayward guts with a dustpan. It's gross!

In the next scene, D'Amato intercuts Iris really disgustingly eating stew (seriously, who eats like that?) with shots of hitchhiker stew, and Frank barfs. It's gross!

Frank meets a couple of other lovely young women--a jogger, a disco dancer--and they may or may not end up dead if they find out about the dead body in his bed. Frank almost maybe could be into these lovely young women, but he really only loves Anna still and he's sad. Iris offers him a handjob. Aww (?)

Iris grows increasingly jealous of Anna and insists that Frank dispose of her. To placate her, Frank agrees to marry her on the condition that Anna stays. But when Iris invites her family over to celebrate the engagement, Frank gets a gander at them and bolts. Yeah, they're kind of weird, but they seem nice, and Iris is heartbroken. I was surprised to find myself feeling bad for the psychotic housekeeper! (#Justice4Iris)

Eventually Anna's twin sister Elena (also Monreale) shows up, throwing several wrenches into all the works. Frank is like "Oh dip! She's just like Anna but she moves and blinks, what do I do?" Iris is like "Oh dip! She's just like Anna but she moves and blinks and Frank is going to love her, what do I do?"

Frank flees to dispose of Anna, and Iris cuts the lights in the house. As Elena wanders around wondering what the fuck is going on (much like we, the viewers), a ghostly voice calls to her, warning her to leave the house because it's cursed. Now look, I couldn't really tell if it was supposed to really be Anna speaking from beyond the grave or whether it was Iris pulling some Scooby-Doo kind of shit, but obviously I choose to believe the latter. That's too good! And it's a great way to get rid of unwanted company, so I'm filing it away for reference.

Elena wandering in the dark and Iris coming after her with a knife is the closest thing Beyond the Darkness has to an effectively tense scene, and thus it was my favorite. 

Iris and Frank end up duking it out. Cheeks are eaten, eyeballs are ripped out, groins are stabbed. It's gross! But honestly, it's far far from the grossest thing in the movie and at this point you're just like "okay, Buio Omega, what else you got for me?"

In a case of mixed-up corpses, Elena almost ends up buried alive. But then she doesn't! And actually, that might be the most shocking thing about this film. After all of the nastiness and nihilism, Beyond the Darkness ends on a silly, light note. 

I really do think I enjoyed this dumb movie. I say I "think" I enjoyed it because its only goal is to gross you out, and that's not usually my bag. The story is a simple one, and yet so many questions remain.

Has Frank always been a wackadoo, or did Anna's death break his brain and drive him insane? We know nothing of his personality before her death, so it's impossible to say. And as his one facial expression throughout the film is "being pretty" (he really is), we never really understand what his torment is all about. Is it just frustration that he and Anna never consummated their relationship? 

What's Iris's deal? Is she really in love with Frank, or does she just want his money? Has she always offered up some titty here, a handjob there? She is curious! She is a real weirdo and I am intrigued by her prison matron charms.

I suppose you could make some case for Beyond the Darkness as a film about grief and learning to let go of our loved ones when they're gone. But again, D'Amato's only aim is to induce nausea, so any greater meaning is likely happenstance. However, much as I choose to believe in Iris's Scooby-Doo antics, I also choose to believe that D'Amato was making a larger point. I'm putting that thesis out in the world if only to see Beyond the Darkness listed alongside Hereditary and The Babadook and Don't Look Now in listicles about horror movies that deal with grief.

Or maybe D'Amato is just saying "Hey, if your girlfriend looked like Cinzia Monreale and she died, you, too would consider keeping her around regardless," amirite? It's not like these kinds of things don't happen in real life.

As Anna, Monreale doesn't have much to do beyond, you know, playing dead, sometimes fully nude, sometimes clothed. She's great! When I was in college I had to play a dead body in a stage production; I was under a sheet and it was a struggle not to breathe in an obvious way. Meanwhile Monreale's out here not breathing, not moving, and not blinking, amazing. Between this and those chunky-ass contacts she wore in The Beyond, she has certainly suffered enough onscreen in some of horror's more insane outings.

While it took me forever to get to Beyond the Darkness--and I wasn't sure I'd ever get to it--I've had the Goblin (billed as "The Goblins" in the film) soundtrack forever because it's fuckin' wicked. While it could simply be a side effect of listening to an unmoored soundtrack for years, I was a bit surprised to come out of hearing it in situ feeling like it didn't really work. It doesn't organically mesh with what's happening onscreen. It's more sort of plonked in there with no real function. But hey, it's still fuckin' wicked, and I'm not entirely sure what an effective, integrated score would be for a gross out flick anyway. I am just saying.

It's a wonder I never saw Beyond the Darkness back in The Day™when my best friend and I would come home from the video store loaded down with every movie that promised to be the scariest and/or the grossest. Many horror-loving yoots go through that phase, yeah? Where mainlining Faces of Death I, II, and III seems like a great way to spend an evening. This film would have fit right in. Maybe that's why I find myself coming away from it bewildered by the fact that I may have enjoyed it: it took me right back to those kind of horror movie parties, where you (gasp) have fun and, when you're not gagging from the grue, you squeal and squirm with delight. I also spent much of the film marveling at D'Amato's cleverness with editing and camera angles; He makes such effective use of animal parts that audiences have often wondered if real human corpses were used. 

Beyond the Darkness is definitely not for the fait of heart, nor is it for the queasy of stomach. It's vile and repellant, I suppose, but ultimately it's a sad and silly film, not a mean one. So if, like me, you've been curious about it but hesitant to indulge, I say let go, let gore.

Tales Of Horror-HellPart2

Tales Of Horror-HellPart2

Day 26 – "They’re waiting at the edge of the city."

Reader, I will not lie! Time and the such caught up with me yesterday, and as such I did not watch a horror movie last night. For shame, I know. "But," thought I, "I will just watch something suitable in the morning." Then the morning came and with it, news of a mass shooting that happened in a nearby town. Let's face it, it's a daily occurrence in this country, isn't it? This one was close enough that my city is a ghost town today. We're not on shelter-in-place or anything like that, but the airport, schools, and most stores are closed as at the time of writing this, there's an active shooter on the loose. I'm not scared, just more sad than anything. (Though my mom did text me to tell me to keep my doors locked, which is...a very sweet mom thing to do.)

So to be honest, I don't much feel like watching something new or reassessing something I've already seen and trying to come up with, you know, ~*~*~opinions~*~*~ and the such.

I think what I'll do instead is zone out with a movie I love so much, one I check out every couple of months or so because it rules so hard. I'm talking about the one and only Messiah of Evil.

The new fancy pants edition from Radiance Films arrived just the other day, and I'd been holding off on checking it out, saving it for Halloween night. But I think it's perfect for today, some weird, moody comfort food. And technically it still fits with this SHOCKtober's ethos, as it appeared on the 2020 list of reader faves at #135, having garnered seven votes. 

I've written about Messiah of Evil time and time and time again, but today I'm going to bask in the pleasure of watching it with no motivation beyond pure enjoyment. I always hoped but daren't have dreamed about this movie getting the royal restored treatment (beyond what Code Red had already done), so it's very exciting that it's here waiting...waiting for you! 

Watch something you love today! And if that something is Messiah of Evil, I understand. This movie is just the best.

Day 25 – "It’s you! But…you’re dead!"

While you are certainly welcome to partake in it any time you please, I tells ya: If there was ever a movie made for afternoon couch watchin', it's Theatre of Blood (1973). Perhaps the five people who voted for it in 2020 already knew that.

Vincent Price is Edward Lionheart, a Shakespearean actor who, with the help of his daughter Edwina (Diana Rigg), takes Shakespearean-flavored revenge on the critics who derided his abilities and gave him countless bad reviews.

Price remarked that out of his lengthy filmography, this was his favorite. It's easy to see why: As each murder is modeled after a death in the work of Shakespeare, Price gets to deliver some of the Bard's most famous lines--and he gets to wear all manner of wigs, makeup, and putty. What's not to love?

It's a trip to watch something like Theatre of Blood and see Lionheart rail against the critics who were so powerful, they could ruin lives with their influence and think about the state of popular criticism today. There is still thoughtful writing out there to be sure, but in the mainstream it's a single sentence on social media, a number on Rotten Tomatoes, drivel on a BLOG...so dire. 

I actually have a lot of thoughts about all of that, but that's all for another time. Or maybe for never, because who cares! 

Edward Lionheart is a fascinating character in that perhaps those critics were almost right about him. It's not that he's a "bad" actor per se. It's more that he was a man trapped in another era, given to over-the-top, melodramatic performances that had fallen out of favor decades before his time. He's a silent movie actor in the world of Talkies, you know? An Actor, a man who is nothing without the theatre, a man with enough ego to name his daughter after himself and mark the significant moments in his life (someone's death, his own...uh, suicide attempt) with Shakespearean monologues. He is the quintessential ham, and it's wonderful watching Price go full flourish, but also find small moments to imbue this character, for whom all the world is a stage, with some kind of real humanity.

It's also fitting that his daughter and cohort Edwina, who learned everything in life from her dear father, dons terrible drag throughout most of the movie. These two live in a fantasy world, fully dedicated to their dubious crafts. 

The murders are often exceedingly bloody and brutal, but completely fantastical, much like the grand guignol theatre of yesteryear. Lionheart must have spent a pretty penny on some of these elaborate set-ups, and I can only imagine what it was like trying to wrangle his troupe of vagrants, vagabonds, and vveirdos. It's Shakespeare by Jigsaw and it's quite a bit of fun, even if Theatre of Blood is a bit overlong at almost two hours. But there are far worse things you could do for that much time than watch Vincent Price in what is essentially a variety of roles, each one more outré than the last.

As Lionheart and his Shakespearean performances were holdovers from a bygone era, so too were Price and Theatre of Blood. By 1973, horror was truly entering a new phase: out were the likes of Vincent Price in his Corman-produced Edgar Allan Poe films, and in were the pea-soup antics of The Exorcist. The exceedingly white and demure houses of Hammer and Amicus were barely holding on, while Blaxploitation horror was thriving. Leatherface was just around the corner, revving up his chainsaw. Price would go on to focus more on his other interests, such as cooking and art, making occasional appearances in things like The Muppet Show or Michael Jackson's "Thriller," where he could bank on his well-earned legacy and simply be himself. Edward Lionheart wishes!

Day 24 – "Mother of God…they’ll kill all of us!"

As someone who is vehemently opposed to humor in all forms, I tend to avoid horror-comedies. Sure, a little of one in the other is fine, but I like to keep the funny and the scary separate like a cinematic McDLT. That's my excuse, anyway, for being an animals run amok aficionado who had never seen Piranha (1978) before last night.

I can think of no other reason why I wouldn't have chomped this one down ages ago. Everything else point to it being made just for me. A 70s animal attack movie from Joe Dante, with a cast one only dares to dream of:  Bradford Dillman, who famously fought the fire-farting cockroachs of Bug! Keenan Wynn of television's Dallas! Barbara Steele, star of this year's SHOCKtober! Dick Miller! Kevin McCarthy! Paul Bartel! Melody Thomas Scott of The Young and the Restless! It goes on and on. And just went you sit up on your fainting couch, you find out that John Sayles wrote this shit and you say "WHAT!" and you immediately come down with another case of the vapors.

All this to say, the three people who called Piranha a favorite horror movie in 2020 were really on to something, because it's a lot of fun. Yes, I say this even though it has some comedy in it!

A couple of horny young folk break into a disused military testing facility and decide that a giant murky pool is a great place for some skinny dipping. After something (spoiler: it's piranhas) in the water noms them a shitton of times, the horny young folk are dead.

Feisty skip tracer Maggie (Heather Menzies) searches for the horny young folk with the help of local reclusive drunkard me Paul (Dillman); they make their way to the testing facility and drain the murky pool, only to be scolded by local weirdo scientist Dr. Hoak (McCarthy). Hoak explains that the murky pool was not only full of the leftovers of the military's biowarfare experiments, dubbed Operation: Razorteeth...it drained right into a nearby river. 

Two points of note: one, I never thought I'd get the chance to describe a character as a "feisty skip tracer," so Piranha has already proven to be a gift. Second, I loved the little stop-motion dude in Hoak's lab and was really hoping to see more of him!

Maggie, Paul, and Hoak set off down the river on a raft to warn as many folks as they can about the incoming piranha threat, making stops at the summer camp where Paul's daughter is staying and a new resort run by Dick Miller. The military is called in to help clean up the mess, and Barbara Steele is one of the military scientists. Yes, Piranha keeps giving and giving.

There is a lot of carnage in this movie: women, children, Paul Bartel...those piranha don't care who you are, they will swim in, make a gurgly woobwoobwoob noise (not to be confused with a Three Stooges woobwoobwoob noise), and nibble you to death, turning the river red with your blood. It's so great. 

The characters were charming and weird (thank you, John Sayles), there was no skimping on the attack scenes (thank you, Joe Dante), and abrupt-as-hell ending aside, I enjoyed the heck out of this (thank you, three voters). Except, of course, for all the times something funny happened. Those parts were the worst. If anyone says I so much as cracked a smile during this movie, I'll say I was hacked! 

Day 23 – "I told you it was gonna be too dangerous and now look what she’s done!"

When I saw that Silent Scream (1979) earned three votes and landed at number 274 on the 2020 list of your favorite horror movies, I was psyched! It didn't quite land for me when I originally reviewed it, as I found it a case of "the parts are all there, but they are not assembled into a completely satisfying whole." I was therefore eager to revisit it and see if time might weave some magic.

Well, spoilers, I still feel that Silent Scream isn't quite satisfying overall, but time has indeed woven a wee bit o' magic, because I find that I'm more than satisfied with the parts.

Though it's often billed as a slasher flick--and, yeah, some people do get killed with a knife all slasher-style--Silent Scream is too odd a duck to be put into such a narrowly-defined box. It predates the the stalk-n-kill subgenre's heyday by a couple of years, but I'm not even sure if I'd call it a proto-slasher, exactly. It's more like a gothic soap opera walked through a slasher movie perfume mist, maybe. 

It feels a bit underseen in the mainstream, I think, so I'm reluctant to give away too many spoilers, although I certainly gave them away in that old-ass review. Four college students rent rooms in a seaside mansion owned by an eccentric family. Maybe that's all you need to know? Well, that and the fact that Avery Schreiber and Cameron Mitchell are our intrepid police detectives. For those of us with discerning taste, that's definitely a selling point!

Schreiber and Mitchell aren't the only draws on this cast though, not by a long shot. Perhaps you recognize Rebecca Balding of The Boogens under that mushroom cap? (If not, get thee to The Boogens stat!) 

And of course we get horror icons Yvonne De Carlo and Barbara Steele--Steele in particular is a real treat, emerging from the cobwebs (as she tends to do) and turning in a delightfully unhinged performance without saying a word.

So yes, Silent Scream straddles a few subgenres and isn't enough of any one of them to knock your socks off...but boy is it fun nonetheless. The entire film takes place over two days or so, and it gets really bonkers for all the folks involved in that short time span. It sort of keeps unraveling and unraveling as secrets are revealed, and then it's suddenly over, just shy of the 90 minute mark. It's missing some essential ingredient to bring it all together, though I can't quite pinpoint what it is. But I'm also completely fine with that--I really dug its strangeness this time, and it'll be thrown into a much more regular rotation around Stately Final Girl Manor, that's for sure. It's got a charming cast, a few terrific jump scares, a bit of atmosphere here and there, and Barbara Steele stole the show. That's definitely not unheard of for her, but still, I was really into the creepy weirdness she brought to this one.

Even just writing about it now, I feel my fondness for Silent Scream growing. Hot dang, SHOCKtober, you've done it again!

Day 22 – "This island didn’t have a murder rate until you people showed up!"

Ooo-wee, SHOCKtober really has me wilding out! Look at me, after...disregarding? ignoring? avoiding?... it for 25 years *cough hack die* I watched I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998) because one reader out there calls it a favorite. I don't use the word 'hero' lightly, but I think we can all agree that because of this brave step I took, it certainly applies to moi.

1997 was the year of ascension of one Sarah Michelle Gellar. Though she already had a lengthy filmography and an even longer television resumé under her belt--not to mention a Daytime Emmy award--it was the trifecta of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Scream 2, and I Know What You Did Last Summer appearing in a single year that really catapulted her into the realm of bonafide pop culture stardom. I liked Scream, so I went to see Scream 2 when it opened. I liked Buffy, so I went to see I Know What You Did Last Summer when it opened. Though each film had some definite high points, overall I'd put both of them in the "eh, fine" category. The latter, in particular, felt very...young to me. I'm sure part of that is the fact that its roots lie in Lois Duncan's YA novel of the same name. But it was more the vibe of them: This was a new breed of slasher film, and the grit felt gone, somehow. It's the point where I mostly tapped out on slashers, in fact. And that's okay! It's also the point where other folks tapped in (some so hard that they end up writing books about it). It's the subgenre that acts as a gateway to horror for many a horror fan, and it's heartwarming, in its way, to think that some yoot out there is in love with Scream VI, no matter what I might think of it. 

The thing I liked the most about IKWYDLS (even the acronym is exhausting to type, for fuck's sake, Lois Duncan) is perhaps what everyone likes the most about it, which is Helen Shivers's death scene. It's scary! It's exciting! It's sad! I say it's the best part of the movie not only because I am a Sarah Michelle Gellar enjoyer, but also because as someone whose last name is a verb, I feel a kinship with Helen. 

But because my feelings about the movie--and, again, slashers in general--were decidedly meh, or maybe because Helen Shivers was not the returning Final Girl, I left I Still Know What You Did Last Summer to others. That is...until last night!

Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt), the returning Final Girl from the previous film, goes on a trip to the Bahamas with her best friend Karla (Brandy), Karla's boyfriend Tyrell (Mekhi Phifer), and...Will (Matthew Settle). Will has a crush on Julie, who is experiencing some strife in her relationship with fellow First Movie Survivor Ray (Freddie Prinze, Jr). Yes, Will is the new guy, played by an unknown actor, who doesn't appear on the poster. He probably has nothing to do with all the murders that start happening around the island resort!!

While overall a tepid, if harmlessly entertaining film, it's got a rather high-caliber supporting cast: Jeffrey Combs, Jennifer Esposito, and Jack Black (with ill-advised dreadlocks and blaccent!) all appear in sizable roles, and holy shit, it's John frigging Hawkes as Ray's pal? John Hawkes is the first person to die in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer? What a world!

If you really want to dig, there's some nuggets in there about trauma, courtesy of Julie, who is both survivor and secret-keeper. But mostly it's teens running place to place whilst all of the working folk around them are murdered. Even more than that, it seems designed as a star vehicle for Jennifer Love Hewitt, who not only gets the roving camera treatment during a tanning booth scene, lots of wet shirt action, a karaoke scene, and the honor of having her single (!) play over the end credits. I get it, she was going for a singing career to become one of those multi-threat-types. But you have to laugh resignedly at the absolute caucasity of having Jennifer Love Hewitt do karaoke and the end credits song while Brandy is right there. She's right there! Brandy! And she doesn't sing a note! 

Well, here are my big takeways (aside from the blatant Brandy disrespect) with this one. The very end was very surprising! I wonder if it is at all acknowledged in I STILL Still Know What You Did Last Summer (or whatever the next one is called)? I doubt I'll ever see it...unless one of you calls it a favorite horror movie next submittin' time.

Also this movie has a pretty great soundtrack (I'm not talking to YOU, Jennifer Love Hewitt)! Several groups I haven't listened to in forever, like Lamb, the underrated Esthero, and Great Value Portishead, aka Hooverphonic. In fact, it got me to bust out some CDs earlier, so if nothing else, I'm glad I finally checked this one out.

Day 21 – "Let’s die together and live forever in Hell!"

I am fairly ashamed to admit right here in public that before last night, I had never seen Death Spa (1988). The movie is almost 60 years old (close enough), surely I could have found the time to give it a peep? Sigh. Well, at least now I have rectified my lack, thanks to one reader who calls it a favorite. It should be everyone's only favorite based on the famously bitchin' poster art alone. 

PS, the Japanese VHS and chirashi art not only go just as hard, they feature its alternate/original/German title Witch Bitch.

I will never be able to say enough good things about Death Spa. Death Spa rules. There is so much in this movie that you should really witness with your own two/one/four/however many eyes--especially when things get really nuts towards the end. (It probably took me 25 minutes to get through the last 15 minutes because I kept rewinding moments to savor repeatedly.) But there are still plenty of specific things I want to mention:
  • This cast! Fresh Prince's Karyn Parsons appears in a small role, as does Chelsea Field, who was EXCUSE ME Teela in Masters of the Universe, be still my heart. The cast also includes the one and only Ken Foree, who wears this outfit sometimes:

    ...as well as gay icon, the late Merritt Butrick of EXCUSE ME Square Pegs.

  • The sign for STARBODY HEALTH SPA burns out and becomes DEATH SPA. This is one of my favorite horror movie devices, like when MOTEL HELLO become MOTEL HELL, or at the end of Psycho when MASTUR burns out on the sign for BATES MOTEL. (nyuk nyuk!)

  • There is erotic, suggestive asparagus play:

  • Yeah you could just say this is a computerized health spa where people die, but Death Spa is a matryoshka doll of red herring plot lines, none of which make any sense. You will not care!
  • Death Spa feels like a Google translate error. I don't mean the dialogue (although we'll get to that in the next point), I mean the way it's constructed. The filmmaking feels like the equivalent of translating an English sentence to another language, then translating it back to English. Scenes never seemed to go on long enough, things happen and people are there and as a viewer, you feel like you're supposed to know more than you do. While the proceedings are simple on the surface, you will feel lost, somehow.
  • For example, here is the entire conversation from a scene where the conversation is the only thing that happens: 
            "What is it?"
            "What's wrong? You're upset."
            "Saw a parapsychologist today."
  • Here is another conversation...
            "How many reps can you do?"
            "Eh, 15 or 20. More if I'm showing off."
            "Why don't you show off for me?"
            "I never waste effort in the gym. Besides, I'm Beta. You're VHS."
            ...man, I bet the person who slung that last insult is really embarrassed now! (And maybe they should have been at the time? Beta was already virtually dead by 1988. Although it was technically the "superior" format...? I am going to stop trying to figure this out now. Death Spa can never be figured out!)
  • There is some really crazy gore and a lot of nudity!
  • There is more dance happening at Starbody Health Spa than there is exercising, and I am so thankful for it.
  • I know it is every woman's dream to one day set herself on fire and then somehow possess someone and also possess a computer system to take revenge on her enemies, but after watching Death Spa I am already dousing myself in gasoline and learning how to hack (well, learning how to hack more) to ensure it will happen.  

Late in the movie, a band performs at the spa during the Mardi Gras party. (Los Angeles is famous for Mardi Gras celebrations, especially the LA fitness studios.) A line during one of the songs says "bless this mess," and I have never concurred harder with a song lyric in all my life. 

Okay, yes, except for "let me see that thong." But I say bless this mess that is Death Spa! It is weird in so many ways. There is a whiff of the perhaps-problematique at times. It is so much fun. I've said it before (in this post): Death Spa rules!

Day 20 – "Then I am a freak, the girls are right!"

When I first reviewed Audrey Rose (1977) for a SHOCKtober past--2009, to be precise--I found it fine but disappointing because I'd been told it was terrifying, not only by someone I knew but also by the VHS box for it. Since it appeared as one of a lone reader's favorite horror movies on the 2020 list, I thought this year would be a good time to revisit it to see if I would enjoy it more than I did way back when.

Spoiler alert, no I did not! In fact, I think I enjoyed it less!

It's got a fine birth year in 1977. It's got a fine cast in Anthony Hopkins, Marsha Mason, John Beck of television's Dallas. It's got a fine director in Robert Wise. He directed The Haunting for chrissakes! 

What I remembered from last time, mostly, is that there is so much screaming and crying, and Anthony Hopkins says "Audrey Rose!" a lot. What I didn't remember is that Marsha Mason really doesn't have much to do beyond this:

Even she has admitted she disliked the role: "All I did was cry!"

I'd also forgotten just how little horror there is in all the drama. I'm good with that kind of thing usually, but once this really gets to the courtroom plotline, it is just glacial and dull and I start dreaming about the fantastic horror movie it could have been. That's pointless, I know, and unfair to the film Audrey Rose actually is. I don't care! I also know I'm giving a shitty "review" this time, and I don't care about that either! (That 2009 review is a bit more in-depth, if you are interested.) This movie made me cranky. Is that the movie's fault? I'm not sure!

But I do know that I'm counting my blessings that Chris MacNeil was a single mother, because she could and did do whatever it took to get help for her daughter and wasn't clamjammed by her stubborn husband.  

Well, I have given this film two tries and I think that's enough to say "I am happy for that reader who calls it a favorite, but it is definitely not for me." If you catch me trying it again during SHOCKtober in 2037, please knock the videotape out of my hand!

Tales Of Horror-HellPart1

Tales Of Horror-HellPart1

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!