Saturday Horror Movies :: Hell Baby and Trilogy of Terror
This week the girls got in on the horror movie double feature, my oldest joining in to watch the “birthing a demon” spoof Hell Baby, and both daughters crowded on to the couch to watch the Karen Black threesome thriller from the 70’s, Trilogy of Terror. This was a night of mocking and merriment, more than one of true frights (though I did jump out of my seat once), as we compared and contrasted two films from differing decades, one current, and one from my childhood.
Hell Baby (2013)
From the makers of Reno 911 and The State (the latter a favorite sketch comedy show of my husband and I), Hell Baby was a better take on the horror spoof genre than I have seen in a long time. Written by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, who also play two priests/exorcism specialists, are carved out of the 70’s Saturday Night Live‘s infamous Father Guido Sarducci, with a wee bit of Ghostbusters‘ Bill Murray thrown in for good measure.
Speaking of the 70’s, the film itself is paced like a 70’s exorcism and/or demon spawn film, which threw me at first, but settled in eventually into a past familiarity. The movie has a eccentric cast of characters, some who completely steal the show, most notably Riki Lindhome, previously known to me as one half of Garfunkel and Oates, a parody duo that I enjoy, and Keegan Michael Key, who I found myself waiting for and hoping to see pop up again and again. Oh, and the cable guy, played wonderfully by Kumain Nanjiani (my favorite character on television series, Franklin and Bash), who had my daughter and I laughing ourselves to almost tears when he tries to leave the scene and drive away completely high. It is a typical stoner scene that we have seen many times before, but it amused us – a lot – nonetheless.
There are moments of pure shock value here, first with the unfortunate blanket gag with the unexpected blow job, and what felt like the longest nude scene ever, when we first meet Riki’s hippie/house-blesser/sister-in-law, Marjorie.
There were moments where the movie drug on too long for me, especially the side scenes in the Po-Boy sandwich restaurant which seemed just an excuse to have fart and belch jokes included. The last twenty minutes, as well, drug for me and had me wishing for the inevitable wrap up. Beyond that, though, I did find myself doing a lot of laughing. Oh, and this is the movie that did cause me to jump – damn shower shocks always get me, no matter how predictable those kind of scenes are.
Wave goodbye to your demon-free life, new parents-to-be.
Trilogy of Terror (1975)
I was six years old and probably should not have been watching, but much like my own household, I was brought up in a family of horror movie fans. This anthology movie played on broadcast television, on a Saturday night, if I remember right, and I was both thrilled and completely terrified. The third story, Amelia, would live in my consciousness from that day forward, and that now infamous Zuni Fetish Doll would be the first image that would come to mind whenever I would think of “what scares me“.
As much as the third story stuck and stayed with me, visiting me sometimes in my nightmares, the other two stories were mostly forgotten. Because of that, I very much enjoyed the revisit and was struck by the talent of underrated and underused actor, Karen Black. Karen played the lead woman/women in all three of the stories, each written by Richard Matheson, writer and creator of Dark Shadows, The Night Stalker and Burnt Offerings, all three horror staples in my family while I was growing up.
The trilogy starts out with Julie, a story about a young college professor, bookish, hidden behind too big clothes and glasses, who we are made to believe is lonely and sad. That is until a young douche bag student of hers, Chad, takes notice, asking her to the drive-in, drugging her snack bar bought root beer, stealing her unconscious body away to a cheap motel where we see him take photographs and are to believe that he rapes her, as well. Watching this I could not help but wonder what my six year old self thought was going on when I first watched, and I was also somewhat surprised it made it past the censors of 1975, for broadcast television.
I will not spoil the twist of the story, but I will say this is the one of the three that I think still holds up. A little trivia for the episode that I will share is that douche bag Chad was played by Robert Burton, who was Karen Black’s real life husband at the time. Also, the “movie” playing at the drive-in was actually scenes from The Night Stalker, written by Trilogy’s Richard Matheson, as previously mentioned.
The second story, Millicent and Therese, does not hold up as well for me, but this may be because we have seen this thriller trope too many times. Though not as shocking of a surprise at the end (no, I will not spoil you readers, it may shock someone still), it is still a great performance from Karen Black, who plays two completely opposite twin sisters, Millicent and Therese.
Millicent hates her twin, sure that she seduced their father and caused their mother’s death. She keeps a journal of all of Therese’s bad behavior, certain that her twin is a devil-worshipper and sex freak. Her fear and loathing grow so exponentially that we see Millicent plot her own twin sister’s death. As I mentioned, the good and evil twin trope has been done before, as has the twist, but at the time perhaps it was surprising.
The third and final story, Amelia, is still my favorite, and despite the years and the definite moments of “dated-ness” about this chapter, the story is taut and terrifying, and I have to admit that it still gets to me. We are introduced to Amelia, girl on her own who has just bought a gift for her anthropologist boyfriend: a Zuni fetish doll called “He Who Kills.” The doll comes with a scrolled curse which warns that if the gold chained necklace is removed the demon trapped inside the doll will be set free.
Without spoiling anything, because really we all know what will happen next, the necklace falls and Amelia does not notice because she is too pre-occupied with a domineering mother and Friday night plans (was she a Gilmore?) with said Mother that she is trying to break in order to celebrate her boyfriend’s birthday, and bestow upon him this cursed gift (well, he is an archeologist, maybe he will like a gift like this).
At six years old, “He Who Kills” scared me so much that I would not let my feet dangle off the over-sized chair I sat on, and for longer than I care to say, with the bathroom door closed I would glance repeatedly to the crack at the bottom between door and floor to make sure there was not a knife poking in (this irrational fear was not helped by my own Grandmother’s prank of lying on the floor outside of the bathroom, brandishing a butter knife that poked in and out from under the door).
My daughters, on the other hand, found the Zuni doll something to laugh at. For me, though, he still unnerves me, as does the final shot of Karen Black as the trilogy comes to an end.
Waiting for Mother to come over for Friday night dinner.