If you’ve read my review for the original Trilogy of Terror then you’ll know that, outside of the last act, I found the movie to be generally disappointing and fatally uneven. Then, in 1996, this made-for-TV sequel came along which I discovered to be far more balanced and exciting than the original offering. While the Zuni fetish doll segment in this installment doesn’t quite live up to the quality of the original’s (possibly the only advantage that film has over this one), Trilogy of Terror II never-the-less averages out to a far better movie.
Trilogy of Terror II
The first episode of the trilogy, “The Graveyard Rats”, features a money-hungry young woman (Lysette Anthony) plotting against her elderly sugar daddy. After doing the deed and burying the old coot, the woman discovers a tunnel infested with giant, man-eating rats. You can probably guess where things go from here.
Written by William F. Nolan and Director Dan Curtis, “The Graveyard Rats” feels more like an issue of Tales from the Crypt than any of the other installments. It has that blatant morality tale quality to it, which was standard for most EC Comics horror stories, and ends with your typical just desserts. While I find this one to be the least interesting of the three stories, it’s still pretty fun, even if it recalls long-buried memories of films such as Graveyard Shift and Nightmares.
Story #2, “Bobby”, features a grieving mother (Anthony) who is heartbroken over the accidental death of her son, Bobby. After resorting to black magic, Bobby suddenly appears at her doorstep, apparently having been lost for all this time. The mother’s joy is short-lived, however, as she quickly discovers that there’s something terribly wrong with Bobby (ex: he’s trying to kill her).
Written by Richard Matheson, the guy who wrote all three stories from the original Trilogy of Terror, this one is easily my favorite of the bunch. The story is strong and the tension is built up with serious expertise. The payoff is especially freaky, with the ending of this story being the part of the film I always remembered best. The only major problem with “Bobby” is that the boy playing the title character, Blake Heron, isn’t a very good actor. I know it’s not kosher to rag on child actors since they lack the experience of their adult counterparts, but regardless of that, he can come across as rather annoying. The lines he says while hunting down his mother are supposed to be spooky, but they’re delivered so awkwardly that they irritate you more than anything else.
The third and final chapter, “He Who Kills”, picks up almost immediately after the third story from the last film, “Amelia”. The police arrive at Amelia’s place to find her and her mother dead as well as a bizarre antique doll charred black in the oven. The police don’t know what to make of the doll, so they take it to a doctor (Anthony) at the local museum for identification. No sooner does the museum close for the night, leaving the doctor all alone with only a handful of bumbling security guards, the Zuni fetish doll comes back to life and continues his rampage.
“He Who Kills” is a more than worthy sequel to “Amelia”. I’m glad Curtis chose to include a new Zuni fetish doll story, as he’s really the mascot of the series. I have a handful of mild complaints, though.
Firstly, writers Nolan and Curtis remake several scenes from “Amelia” for the purposes of nostalgia, such as trapping the doll in a suitcase or recycling memorable dialogue. This practice annoys me a little, especially if you’re watching both films in a row, as it feels particularly redundant.
Secondly, for some reason I can’t figure out, Curtis chose not to even try to recreate Amelia’s apartment from the first film. As a matter of fact, they re-imagine it as something more along the lines of a mansion. This really disjoints the continuity of the two stories and feels rather pointless since, come on, would it have really been that difficult or expensive to recreate Amelia’s itty bitty apartment from Trilogy of Terror?
Those minor qualms aside, it was great to see the Zuni fetish doll in action again and with much better puppetry effects, to boot.
While I’ve said it before, I actually prefer Trilogy of Terror II over the original. It’s far more even in quality and more entertaining on repeat viewings (whereas the first two segments from the original film are a chore to sit through a second time). I’m still holding my breath for a third installment in the franchise, although I suspect I’m starting to suffocate.