The joy in watching a Larry Cohen movie is that you're never sure what you're going to get. Yes, you may know the premise -- couple has monstrous baby or killer yogurt becomes the biggest dessert craze in America -- but you're never sure where things will go from there. Every single one of his films (and I'm speaking here of the ones he has directed) has some sort of twist or eccentricity -- often more than one -- to keep audiences off kilter. His work resembles nothing else but other Larry Cohen movies. We have taken him for granted for too long.
There is so much to unpack in Special Effects, a movie that's years ahead of its time in the way that it examines the relationship between cinema and reality and how they constantly reflect one another; it's like Albert Brooks' Real Life crossed with Body Double with some Vertigo thrown in. The longer the film goes, the deeper into Neville's new project we go, the more those lines begin to blur -- Keefe is reenacting moments that really happened with his wife except he wasn't originally there and is acting opposite a woman who looks exactly like her. There are also satirical elements to the film, probably because Larry Cohen is incapable of not being satirical, like the subplot with the cop who trades in his investigation for a producer credit and starts doing his own rewrites -- everybody wants into the movie business.
Special Effects is one of the happiest surprises of my #ScaryMovieMonth. Though not quite horror -- I guess "thriller" would more accurately describe it, though so many of Cohen's movies defy classification -- it is always engaging and unpredictable. I love its '80s New York independent film vibe, I love its rough edges, and most of all I love Bogosian's performance. If you're any kind of fan of Larry Cohen's work and haven't yet seen this one, it's worthy of a blind buy.
Blu-ray release date: October 18, 2016
106 minutes/1984/Rated R
DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
Buy Special Effects from Olive Films here.