Category Archives: Creature Features

Rise of The Zuni Fetish Doll! A Brief History of Trilogy of Terror’s Scariest Entry

When I was a young kid, I remember walking down the hall late one night to the kitchen to grab a drink and while passing by our living room area, my parents were watching some late-night movie. I paused for a minute in curiosity and what I saw gave me nightmares for DAYS. This poor lady screaming for life while some psychotic tiny doll- thing with about 100 teeth chased her around her bedroom wielding the tiniest knife I had ever did see. Upon discovering the midnight-child invasion of the parental movie night, I was squawked at to get back to bed but the visionary terror I had witnessed on the Magnavox screen was clear as day. For years, until I was old enough to ride my bike to the video store on my own, the image haunted me until I was able to remedy it with a full viewing, and when I finally did around the tender age of eleven, Trilogy Of Terror became a tried and true favorite of mine that I would revisit many times; my go-to especially on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

So, let’s talk about THEE absolute scariest entry of Trilogy of Terror: “AMELIA“.

Born on ABC on March 4, 1975, Trilogy of Terror was a made-for-tv special presentation of primetime horror. Directed by Dan Curtis and starring Karen Black in three stories (Julie, Millicent and Therese, Amelia) consisting of different roles, each tale unrelated to the other but compelling in nature with each entry inducing uneasiness in the next. However, it was ultimately Amelia that stirred the most attention and well, nightmares for those who watched and became the signature face for the anthology film.

Famed author Richard Matheson, who is well known for his novels, “I Am Legend”, “What Dreams May Come”, and many more including writing several scripts for the original Twilight Zone series also penned the stories for the film. As it turns out, the story of “Amelia” and the Zuni fetish doll was actually a rejected storyline for one of Matheson’s most iconic Twilight Zone scripts, “The Invaders”.

Matheson explained in Dimensions Behind The Twilight Zone: A Backstage Tribute to Television’s Groundbreaking Series:

“I’m sure that Rod, being the consummate writer he was, did not think, for a moment, of making every Twilight Zone as though made with a cookie cutter. Their variety was perfectly in keeping with his creative awareness. What the story called for, we did. If the notion was serious, we wrote it that way. If it was comedic, we did it that way. Interestingly enough – I have said this before – the original submission for ‘A World of His Own’ was very grim and serious indeed. They suggested making it a comedy, which I did gladly. A similar occurrence was on ‘The Invaders.’ My original story was not to their taste, so I turned it into a science-fiction approach. Many years later, the grim approach to the story – not that ‘The Invaders’ is exactly comedy – became one of the stories on Trilogy of Terror, the Zuni doll chasing Karen Black all over her apartment.”

Both stories are based on Matheson’s short story, “Prey”. In “The Invaders,” Agnes Moorehead plays a woman who is stalked in her humble home by invading miniature spacemen. In “Amelia,” Karen Black plays a woman who is stalked in her apartment by a small warrior doll. So the similarities are pretty significant.

Beyond the detailed, horrifying looks of the Zuni fetish doll, one of the keynotes in what made this thing absolutely terrifying, was the high-pitched warrior voice that screamed relentlessly toward our Karen. That voice is of one Walker Edmiston, who was uncredited for the role. Edmiston is a famous voice-over actor you’ve probably heard plenty of times growing up in cartoons and film as he is most famous for voicing the likes of Inferno in the Transformers Movie and TV series, Dr. Blinky in H.R. Pufnstuf, the radio announcer in Dick Tracy, and infamously the voice of Mr. Slugworth in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory! Walker made notable on-screen cameos throughout his nearly 50-year career in show biz as well as appearing in Land of the Lost, Get Smart, and Knot’s Landing.

Adventures in Odyssey

One of the actual dolls was sold at an auction in 2019 for a whopping $217,600, making it one of the most expensive horror props in horror history even beating out Jack’s ax from The Shining which sold for a little less than that year. Not bad considering the TV movie was probably made for a quarter of that.

I think we can all agree the Zuni doll is the stuff of fucking nightmares, and in my opinion, scarier than any doll I’ve ever seen on the cinematic screen. This thing is not only visually horrifying, but it has a Terminator-like quality as it doesn’t stop until you’re dead. He’s fast as FUCK, and if all else fails, will just possess your soul. As a matter of fact, Amelia being possessed by the little shit is almost more terrifying than the doll itself.

For you wonderful physical media lovers, you can grab the beautiful Blu-Ray over at Amazon here for less than $20. For anyone else that is on a budget, for now, you can totally watch for free on youtube, which I’ve taken the liberty to stick right here in this article.

Sweet dreams Zuni warriors.

Believe It’s Magic! The Painstaking Special Effects of “Ghostbusters”

I think it goes without saying Ghostbusters is a once-in-a-lifetime movie experience that can and never will be replicated, and a lot of that credit goes towards the special effects of the film. In 1984, this sort of visual sorcery wasn’t running rampant across filmmaking. With few exceptions like Star Wars and Poltergeist, (both of which Ghostbusters visual effects supervisor Richard Edlund worked on) audiences were bedazzled with the hypnotic effects the movie presented within.

Let’s take a ride and talk about that.

A mere year after the visual stunner of Poltergiest, Ivan Reitman and his crew were tasked to make Ghostbusters in UNDER A YEAR. In this case, is asking the impossible with the sort of movie that called for such heavy special effects to sell the story. But according to Ivan Reitman, it had to be done in such a way as to balance the comedy with the “ghosts” so as to not make it too silly, or too scary as doing so would damage the film entirely.

“The special effects are just as important as the comedy. We’ve never seen this level of first-class effects in a comedy film before and it has to be evened out.” – Ivan Reitman

Much of Dan Akroyd’s vision for the creatures were on a large scale, some of which even ended up in space if you can just picture that! However, the budget for the film was about $5 million and Reitman worked with Akroyd to rewrite the script and the creatures in a way that would work in a beautiful balance of comedy and terror. Though they ended up around $700,000 over by the time the film was locked, if Dan Aykroyd’s original script had been filmed, according to associate producer Joe Medjuck, it would have had “50 large scale monsters”.

Enter Richard Enlund, head honcho of Boss studios. Launched in 1983 specifically for Ghostbusters, who knew the importance of not making these creatures into flat-out jokes for the film. And what we ended up with was some of the best damn practical effects of apparations still to this day.

In the instance of the Marshmallow Man, Edlund and his team went through dozens of ideas and designs before opting for the simple, yet practical 100-foot monstrosity we all know and love.

Part of what made the effects so, well, effective, was their practical nature. You just can’t beat practical movie magic no matter how much technology you throw in front of it. The clip below from Ghostbusters.net gives us a short and sweet breakdown of some of the wizardry undertaken in bringing the Library Ghost, Slimer, and more to life in the film.

Made in just ten months and filmed in 55 days, Ghostbusters is the prime example of practical effects done in a time-crunch without the technology of a computer. Cliche to say it has aged like fine wine, so we’ll just say it has aged as well as Keanu Reeves in 2022. Charming, beautiful, breathtaking, and as soft and nostalgic as a twinkie.

With that, I’ll leave here with my personal favorite shot from the movie- the ghost escape from the firehouse that wreaks havoc on New York City all leading up to the climax of Gozer. I’m actually kind of obsessed with this scene as it has everything that is great about this movie all rolled into two minutes of spectacular energy. It’s ominous, a bit silly, but not so much to where you can’t overlook the sense of dread that is coming. Paired with Mick Smiley’s “I Believe It’s Magic”, this is just cinematic gold right here. And I believe what Ivan Reitman set out to do in balancing terror and comedy, marries perfectly in this one scene alone.

“The Exorcist” Behind The Scenes Clips That Are Even Scarier Than The Movie!

I will NEVER forget the first time The Exorcist was seen by my eye holes.

Like everyone in the 80s and 90s, we had a stockpile of recorded movies on various blank Maxwell, Scotch, and Polaroid cassette tapes that held three or four films on each one. My Uncle Pat, who was the VHS Wizard Master for our family, would rent various movies from the video rental store and transfer said films onto the blank VHS tapes- conning the system in the 80s’ form of piracy rather than recording them off the television- which of course we still did, however.

Anyway, one of these tapes, in particular, was my absolute favorite at a young age and stayed that way well until it finally disappeared into the VHS Twilight Zone. I mean, realistically it probably got thrown out by someone in the family when the DVD era overthrew the VHS status quo. In any regard, this tape was a translucent light blue and stood out from the other black cassettes, shining like a piece of treasure among a sea of home-recorded films; and a treasure indeed it was as it held some of the most fantastic horror movies therein. In the exact order: Frankenstein, The Exorcist, and Halloween.

For visual purposes, I found the closest thing on the interwebs that resembles what this tape looked like. Also worth noting, I would give my right tit to be in possession of said cassette today.

Dreamstime.com

As stated numerous times here on NN, the Universal Monsters legacy films and Halloween were a pretty massive deal in our home and really laid down the foundation for my love of horror films via my dad and Grandfather, whom this tape belonged to rightfully. So, of course, I watched those two films rather religiously. Halloween, in particular, had to be accessed through fast-forwarding through The Exorcist and for the most part, only caught the last 2 or 3 minutes of the movie along with the end credits of Tubular Bells, of which even at the young age of six totally rocked out to. It wasn’t until I was around eight years old that I happened to stall on the infamous exorcism scene and I honestly had no idea what the hell I was looking at except I was like, “Wow those are hella dirty words!!” Then the thought came, “Should I be watching this?” The rebellious little shit in me was intrigued enough and went back all sneaky like to watch it.; at least I thought I was being slick anyway. This was dangerous and I thought it was like watching a porn or something so it was super thrilling to someone of my age. I mean, taking into account the masturbation scene, I’d say that was a pretty good analogy for someone of my age at the time.

I was always a hardcore kid that didn’t scare easily, and The Exorcist was no exception. I grew to adore that VHS blue tape in its entirety and the film has become a favorite since that adventurous day at the tender age of 8. However, the behind-the-scenes clips taken from the BBC documentary, “The Fear of God: 25 Years of The Exorcist”, are goddamn more creepy than the film itself. Kind of like that one banned trailer from the film that was almost more horrifying than the film itself. The makeup tests alone from the series of videos are from the stuff of deepest, darkest nightmares. Thanks to the Youtube channel, The Exorcist Online, we have confirmation that The Exorcist indeed, is the scariest film ever made- quite literally.

Each video is looped to the next to avoid uploading eight different vids here. Enjoy Nostalgic Nuggets!