61 Days of Halloween: Trilogy of Terror (1975)

Introduction

For an introduction to the concept of 61 Days of Halloween, as well as a list of previously featured films, go here.

Trilogy of Terror (1975)

At times it’s interesting, in fact, preferable to watch things out of chronological order when it comes to the work of a given director that are not in a series. I viewed and wrote about Dan Curtis’ anthology follow-up to this film, Dead of Night, before I got to this one the more famous of the bunch.

Whether or not I was inspired to go on a mini-Curtis binge I was likely to take this in as an homage to the late, great Karen Black, an actress I’ve not seen as much of as I would’ve liked by now, so this was welcome for that reason alone (Although she did help another Dan Curtis film greatly that being Burnt Offerings). For this anthology is fascinating inasmuch as it allows its lead to reinvent herself in three separate stories with quite different characters in each. It’s a great showcase and not a bad idea for how to assemble an anthology.

Yet, even with anthologies this one and the one that follow it have a similar structure. “Julie” the first tale in the trilogy has a bit more of an air of mystery to it. In something I’ve not seen much from anthology installments it plays more to subtext and isn’t overt about the nature of the power struggle. Similarly, the first tale in Dead of Night, while eerie has a definite air of mystery to it.

In “Millicent and Therese” much like “There’s No Such Thing As Vampires” there’s a conflict between characters being discussed with an outside party, and apropos to this particular tale the game is changed.

Lastly, this anthology ends with its doozie “Amelia” it’s the iconic moment from the film and the final shot in this film is seared on my mind not only for its execution, but because of Black’s commitment to her business. It’s haunting. A similar wallop is delivered by “Bobby” to close out Dead of Night.

Again involved in the writing of this film is Richard Matheson so the quality of the scripts, as well as the narrative design of the films, owe much to his work as well. However, Trilogy of Terror works not only because it had the interesting idea of having the same star in each tale, but of putting her in different kinds of roles and casting the right one, as Black knocks it out of the park here.

61 Days of Halloween- Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering

Naomi Watts and Mark Salling in Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (Dimension)

Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering is an absolute dud. If it wasn’t for some of the performances this film might rank lower in the annals of the franchise than it does. It is seriously sluggish throughout and never gets anywhere fast.

The most notable thing about this film is that two of its more prominent players have gone on to bigger and better things and you can see why Naomi Watts and Mark Salling (Glee) are so much better than the parts they play and the film they’re in that they scarcely lift it up but merely make their portions of the film somewhat tolerable.

To get a sense of the issues that this film faces there is yet another noteworthy performance in this film and it is that of Karen Black. It’s actually a shame to see someone like Karen Black in a film like this and it made me think of the Family Guy joke about her just a little bit different, not as an obscure reference but in an obscure film.

This also one of the films in the series wherein the child prophet (Josiah played by Brandon Klayla) is missing through a large majority of the film. Rather than write him scarier he’s disfigured with bad prostheses and doesn’t invoke as much fear as he should, however, he is behind the eight ball due to his screen time.

This film also suffers from the fact that it’s the one that does the most to try and absolve the children of being evil. The corn and its disease plays a major role in this film and though some of the hospital scenes are the better ones in the film it’s a perpetuation of an unfortunate development in the series that thankfully dies after this film.

While this film does only somewhat better in juggling a blossoming romance and a horror story it misses the boat. The problem is romances are exciting and new and you “have” to watch the courtship and have it detract from the reason you’re watching the film, to be scared. Yes, it could help you connect to these characters and raise the stakes but it also introduces a lot of artifice and room for easy exposition, life stories as exchanges and so forth. Whereas in the original, the remake and the latest installment one of the stronger elements in all of them is that the couples have an existing relationship. They have a history they talk, debate, bicker and fight and you learn about them in a more subtle way and have a better chance of rooting for them because they are together and want to get out go on a honeymoon, have kids and what have you. Marriages, and/or committed relationships have more permutations, interest and conflicts than star-crossed love stories.

The other huge issue with this film is indicated by the subtitle, The Gathering. There’s not much more to it than that. It’s likely if not the most, one of the most anticlimactic films in the series. In the other ones, even those that aren’t good, at least deliver a compelling climax, in conception anyway.

I frequently write about the last image, shot and/or scene of a film being very important. After a film such as this one you want that scene to something quick and simple and hopefully not open, I’ll grant it that this one wasn’t an open end but still kind of a gimmicky one but unfortunately fitting considering what preceded it.

3/10