The creative minds behind everyone’s favorite TV-horror movie, TRILOGY OF TERROR, return with a sequel built around the same concept. Three stories, each supposedly terrifying, but the only common thread between them is that they all ultimately fail in their purpose to scare. The slight exception is the final story which resurrects the world’s most famous African Zuni-doll. All in all, director Dan Curtis tries to coast on the reputation of the first film and comes up short. At least this one goes a bit further in blood and guts, but not nearly far enough.
As in the first film, this one uses the same gimmick of one actress playing the lead in each of the three segments. Karen Black clearly was no longer available, so the honors this time go to Lysette Anthony, doing her very best in three very different roles. The first story, “Graveyard Rats,” is a straight-forward tale of jilted lovers and adulterers. In it, two lovers murder Anthony’s older husband.
Then, they follow-up the murder with an attempt at grave robbery that goes horribly horribly wrong. And, as the title implies, rats get involved in the fun. Big rats. Totally fake, big puppet rats. But still, it’s decent cheesy fun seeing them chew Anthony’s face. It’s just not particularly exciting or over-the-top. They should have kicked it up a notch, had the rats do even nastier things (I won’t say what they are, but use your imagination). Oh well.
Story two, which is far and away the worst of the three, is entitled “Bobby.” In this one, Anthony is a grieving mother who just lost her son Bobby. She stumbles across a sort of witch’s chant that can bring loved ones back from the dead. Of course, she can’t resist trying this and before long, Bobby is back home. As anyone who’s read Stephen King’s PET SEMATARY knows, the dead brought back to life tend to be more evil than they were alive. This case is no different – in fact Bobby is really more monster than boy, as we see in the story’s most effective scare moment. Despite that brief scare, the story is generally lethargic and boring and eminently skippable.
Finally we come to “He Who Kills.” This segment resurrects the notorious African Zuni-doll from the original movie. We all know the doll is going to go a-murdering and we’re just waiting for it to happen. In the first TRILOGY OF TERROR, the film was so cheesy that seeing this puppet get up and kill actually had sort of a chilling effect. In the sequel, the film is more glossy-looking and professionally-executed. As a result, the cheesy doll effects stand out as just lame and not the least bit terrifying. Still, cheese is cheese and there is still some pleasure to be had from it – and let’s face it, that evil little doll just looks cool. I also enjoyed the final twist of the segment involving Anthony’s character.
But at the end of the day, what’s the point of TRILOGY OF TERROR 2? It’s not nearly gory or sexy enough to stand up to comparable films of the day. It’s sort of a PG-13 version of horror, and why, oh why, would we want that? Horror should be hard R every time, if not unrated or TV-MA. Okay, I’ll stop with the ratings shpiel, the point is simple: just putting the word “terror” in a title doesn’t make a movie terrifying, and this rather tepid flick proves just that.
RATING: ** (out of four)