I find it odd that I have repeatedly encountered dismissing assessments of Larry Cohen’s film oeuvre, usually claiming his work is too inconsistent to be ranked along the likes of Romero and Carpenter. I disagree with this as, the more of his work I see, I have found most of his films in a similar vein—unusual tales with horror and sci-fi elements, populated with working-class characters, and usually set in the grime of 70s and 80s New York City. Sure, he make movies that are outliers, but every filmmaker has. I know that, when people talk about Romero, they aren’t thinking about There’s Always Vanilla or the Dead series after Land Of The Dead.
Still, I approached God Told Me To with some trepidation. Here is all I knew going into the movie:
- It was written and directed by Larry Cohen
- Andy Kaufman has a cameo
- The plot centers around normal people suddenly engaging in mass murder because, as they consequently claim, “God told me to”
This gave me pause, even though I was familiar with most of Cohen’s films by this point. If there is one thing I hate, it is vigilante-type films. I don’t think it is hard to add together “70’s NYC” and “mass murderers” to get to something like Death Wish.
Fortunately, it turns out I had nothing to be concerned about. God Told Me To lays out its premise early on, with Tony Lo Bianco playing a police detective attempting an conversation with a man who is perched atop a water tower. When asked why did he do it, the rifleman breaks into a song about how the streets are alive with the sound of killing. Just kidding—you already know what he’s going to say.
Further investigation reveals some unusual aspects of this particular round of killings, as the shooter’s aim, given the distance, was impossibly accurate. Even the rifle sights were misaligned.
From there, we have a couple more mass shootings, including Andy Kaufman’s rampage as part of the police unit marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
But the movie quickly moves into different territory and, at the risk of depriving future new viewers of any surprises, I cannot think of anything more I can say about the movie. That disappoints me, as the elements I would be spoiling are what I think are the best reasons to see this film.
Dir: Larry Cohen
Starring Tony Lo Bianco, Deborah Raffin, Sandy Dennis
Watched on Amazon Prime