Whatever you do, don't yank his chain !

Trilogy of Terror

Ok - so apparently this is what I do at night when I need to go to sleep before work but can't - I blog.

Anyhow, about "Trilogy of Terror".  I first saw the second movie on TV when I was a kid, and that was when I was introduced to the main attraction of the movie - a little Zuni Fetish doll named He Who Kills.  (If you're wondering what he looks like, he's on the cover of the DVD...)  Nasty little guy, isn't he ?  All the stories in the movie are based on Richard Matheson stories, and all star Karen Black, as are the stories in "Trilogy of Terror II".

I decided to buy "Trilogy of Terror" since I'd never seen the first movie.  The movie was filmed in 1975.  The effects are very much on par with the time period - but I think they're still relevant today.  The little Zuni Fetish doll looks frightening when he is first taken out of his box, silly when he first starts running around, and is the epitome of a nightmare when he begins wielding kitchen knives.  (Apparently his name is not a misnomer.)

The other two stories in the film, "Julie" and "Millicent and Therese" are alright.  "Julie" deals with a psycho teacher who somehow cons her students into falling for her, with mortal results, and "Millicent and Therese" deals with two polar opposite sisters who can't get along.

By far the most memorable vignette in the movie is the last, sporting my favorite Zuni Fetish doll.  If you're wondering about the title, the vignette is called "Amelia", after the woman who is the central character.  Apparently I'm not alone in my abject terror of the doll because on an IMDB.com forum, I found a post entitled, "That mother f'ing doll!!, which can be found here   http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073820/board/nest/113227049.

On a side note, apparently the Zunis are a Native American tribe from the western United States, and the dolls they make are of cornhusk, NOT African wood.  I will be reading Matheson's short story "Prey" to see if these details are there.

What a great movie !  Karen Black is a versatile actress who can play many characters in the same movie without seeming ridiculous.  Her signature hair will always give her away, but nonetheless, her acting is superb.  The vignettes in the movie are all original and very entertaining.  If you are looking for a seasoned classic, I would suggest "Trilogy of Terror".


  1. He Who Kills has certainly become a pop-culture icon. In addition to the follow-up segment in TRILOGY OF TERROR II, he appeared in “Quarry,” a sequel to "Prey" written by Joe R. Lansdale for the Matheson tribute anthology HE IS LEGEND. He has also made a cameo in "Battleground," an episode of the Stephen King series NIGHTMARES AND DREAMSCAPES written by Matheson's son, Richard Christian; been spoofed--as a composite with THE TWILIGHT ZONE's "Talky Tina"--on THE SIMPSONS in "Clown Without Pity"; and become a collectible figure from Majestic Studios. For further information, see my book RICHARD MATHESON ON SCREEN (http://www.mcfarlandpub.com/book-2.php?id=978-0-7864-4216-4).

  2. Being an avid He Who Kills Fan, I will most certainly take a look at "Quarry", especially considering Joe R. Lansdale's view of things. Until your post, I never realized just how far-reaching the little Zuni terror's influence was - it's kind of wild !
    I just recently was introduced to Matheson, and am still finding that when I go to the bookstore I have overlooked books either influenced by him or written by him. It seems his mark is to be found everywhere in the genre !
    Thank you for taking the time to view my post and respond. I will certainly be checking out your book, since I am both a fan of Matheson and movies.

    ~ deadaeris

  3. Much obliged; hope you enjoy the book. As I mention there, I think that if you read Elizabeth Hand's first published story, "Prince of Flowers" (which appears in her collection LAST SUMMER AT MARS HILL), you will also see a decided He-Who-Kills influence. And there has been at least one YouTube parody floating around, but of course they're far more ephemeral.

  4. I will be certain to post a review when I have read your book. It's in my queue of books - I have about two to go ahead of it, but since I read rather fast it should be up within a month or so. I'm trying to establish this site as soon as I can, and as thoroughly as possible as well.
    Thank you so much for the suggestion - I will be looking up Elizabeth Hand's work as well ! It never occurred to me to check YouTube for a parody...for awhile I thought I was the only person who had been frightened so deeply by our little wooden menace.

  5. No, you're not alone; HWK seems to have carved his way into the popular psyche in much the same way as the little critters from another memorable '70s TV-movie, DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, or the gremlin on the wing from Matheson's own TWILIGHT ZONE classic "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." Very gratified to learn of your forthcoming review, and look forward to reading it. Thanks so much.

  6. I'm so glad that HWK has not gone anywhere - I read the story recently and I think that modern readers will find it to be every bit as terrifying as when it was first published. I think that when it comes right down to it, that's Matheson's power. His ability to transcend his time and write stories about characters that are relevant years later. I saw a few books on Amazon that are Matheson's Twilight Zone screenplays. There are currently two volumes - which I will be getting soon, if all goes well.
    If you haven't noticed I love gathering books - I have so many that are in my reading queue. I'm in the process of finding a permanent teaching job and so I'm trying to use my time to burn through my books and get them all written up here.
    I am honored that you have taken so much of your time to discuss He Who Kills with me, and posted several times on my blog. Ever since I first read Matheson and realized how many films he has been involved with, I have been interested in reading his works and comparing them to the films. I was very glad to hear that you had put together a book on his influence in film and TV. Moreover, I am always happy to read books that have been suggested to me. I picked up a copy for my Kindle and am going to start it as soon as I finish my current main book. (Somehow I am currently in the middle of about 3 books).

  7. I think you've hit the nail on the head regarding Matheson's work---that's why it continues to be popular in print, as well as to attract Hollywood's attention. As you may know, the forthcoming Hugh Jackman film REAL STEEL is based on his short story and classic TWILIGHT ZONE episode "Steel." A fascination with comparing films and the literary works on which they're based is what led me to Matheson in the first place (not only his own works adapted for the screen, but also those he adapted from other writers like Poe and Bradbury), and ultimately to writing my book. It's always a pleasure to discuss Richard with a fellow fan.

  8. Actually, the Hugh Jackman film is news to me. It seems I have some catching up to do on Twilight Episodes as well as books! My fascination with Matheson began when I noticed so many authors citing him as inspiration. It bothered me that I didn't know who he was. I purchased "I Am Legend" and have been reading his work since then. I've only read one Bradbury novel - "Dandelion Wine" and I was so young that I don't remember much about it. Its been on my list to re-read for awhile now.


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