Friday, 10 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: God Told Me To (1976)

God Told Me To (1976)
Director: Larry Cohen
Starring: Tony Lo Bianco, Deborah Raffin and Sandy Dennis
Running Time: 91 min

Going in to this, I thought this was going to be your typical slasher film about a David Berkowitz kind of killer who heard voices and had dogs telling him to kill people.  Boy was I wrong, this film was a whole lot weirder than that.

Detective Peter Nicholas is sent up on a water tower to speak to a sniper picking off New Yorkers in the afternoon.  Outside of shooting people, the sniper seems like a reasonable guy and tells Peter that God told him to do this and then pitches himself off the tower.  Well, I guess that is the end of questioning that guy.
  Oddly enough this isn't the only situation like this, there seems to be a rash of massacre slaying all around the city and the final words of all the killers are the same, that God told them to.  Sooo, Peter puts on this detective hat and tries to find out if these killings are anyway connected, which they are! Surprise, surprise!  Ends up that before each killing, these maniacs were talking with a mysterious young man named Bernard Phillips, who seems to have a Jesus complex, Long hair, doesn't wear shoes and his records indicate that he was born of a virgin.  The weird shit doesn't stop there, the further Peter investigates, he opens up a world of cult followers, people talking about alien abductions and there are points in this investigation that he starts to questions his own faith, sanity and even his existence!  Can Peter find and unlock the truth from Bernard Phillips or in doing so will it unleash the terror from his past that he's been afraid to face?

  Good or bad, director Larry Cohen (It's Alive, The Stuff), if anything makes a really strange and interesting film that will leave you with a lasting memory.  This film is no different because what starts off as a run of the mill crime/horror/detective story soon turns into one of the weirdest films that I've seen for a while.  Although the X-files were created years and years later, it has that kind of vibe and touches on alien abduction stories before they were the rage in the 90's.  In a way, this film is actually kind of groundbreaking for that genre.  The ending is terrifically twisted and Cohen like any good director, leaves you wanting more, so much so that I was disappointed that there wasn't a sequel to this.  How could there not be a sequel!
  Tony Lo Bianco (The Honeymoon Killers, The French Connection) was excellent in the role as Detective Nicholas.  He brings his acting chops to the table and kills every scene in this journey, whether he is finding his way through a weird web of people and circumstances, dealing with his failing marriage or eventually having his religious faith in question.  Also, Sandy Dennis (Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe, 976-EVIL) and Debroah Raffin (The Sentinel, Scanners II) are good as well, just not in it as much.  Finally, keep an eye about for Andy Kaufman (SNL, Heartbeeps), who makes his theatrical debut as a killer cop or cop killer.  Like in true Kaufman style, if you blink, you'll miss him.

  There are issues with the film, it can get a little confusing at times because there is a number of stories from the people Detective Nicholas is interviewing.  This makes things get a little time jumpy, so it can get a little hard to follow.
  Also, I don't know if Nicholas marriage issues were that necessary to include in the story, maybe if the film was longer but it eats up time that could be put to the weird stuff.  However, it could be a balance thing, maybe you can have too much weird?  Probably not. 
  Then, there is the alien special effects, which was adjusted stock footage for Space: 1999, which was kind of cheesy looking but it was 1976 and I'm sure Cohen was trying to stay under budget.

  This is a great underrated movie with a devilishly bizarre ending that is well worth the wait.  If you are familiar and dig Larry Cohen's work then you don't want to miss this one and if you are new to his work, this is a good place to start.

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