After very lackluster episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Ray Bradbury Theater, I have been looking forward to Thriller coming up in the rotation again. It got off to a great start last week.
Johnny & Tim, a couple of college boys, are touring the south and get stuck driving through a swampy shortcut. Johnny tells Tim to go find a pole, and he responds, “Since you’re the one who wanted to fight the Civil War again, you find the pole.” Too bad they weren’t refighting WWII.
Johnny hears a blood-curdling screech that could be human or feline and goes deeper into the woods to investigate. He sees a large run-down house with a yard full of the titular pigeons; and presumably, shit. It seems to be abandoned so they decide to sleep there for the night.
Johnny is captivated by an old portrait. That night, he awakens and hears something beckoning him upstairs. A few minutes later, Tim hears him scream and runs upstairs. He sees zombie-Johnny emerge from the shadows with a hatchet that he tries to put in Tim’s noggin.
Tim runs away from the house, but trips and falls in the woods. He is found by the county sheriff, who takes him to a nearby shack. They go back to the house — the old Blassenville Place — and discover Johnny dead on the floor, still hanging on to that hatchet.
Tim and the sheriff go upstairs. Their lantern mysteriously goes out, so they retreat, but it burns again once they get downstairs. After they put Johnny in the meat-wagon, they go back upstairs. The lantern continues to restrict where they can go, especially deterring them from one room in particular.
They go to see Jacob Blount, an ancient former servant at the house. He says every one is dead at the house. Before he can spill the beans, a snake crawls out of some wood and kills him. They go back to the house. In a nice touch, the police car is covered with pigeons.
That night, Tim goes into a trance and is also beckoned up the stairs. An old woman comes out of a bedroom wielding a butcher knife. The sheriff fires at her several times. He pursues her into a secret room where he finds skeletons of the Blassenville sisters — including the half sister he just killed.
Maybe the thought of her being a child of the master of the house and a servant woman was the horror of the episode. This was set long after slavery, but the job description didn’t seem much removed.
All in all, a major let down from last week.
- Based on a short story by Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian. First published in Weird Tales, May 1938.
- Stephen King considered the short story “one of the finest of our century.”