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.
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.