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Larry Cohen's "Special Effects" is an average snuff-themed horror film.Eric Bogosian plays here an on-the-decline director who murders a starlet(brilliant Zoe Tamerlis,who sadly died in 1999)on camera and decides to use a dead ringer to make a film about the killing."Special Effects" is average-the script is mediocre and the action is dull at times.Still the snuff/murder scene(the strangling)is pretty nasty!The ending is also effective.All in all I'd recommend this film for undemanding horror fans-it's really nothing special,but if you want a passable time-killer...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Zoë Lund stars in dual roles, her first being a wannabe star, Mary
Jane, a woman who ran out on her husband and son for a life as an
actress..her dream is snuffed out(pun intended)when she has the
misfortune of showing up at the massive art deco home of failed
director, Christopher Neville(Eric Bogosion), whose decorum has a
strange emphasis on flowers. Neville, reacting to Mary Jane's insulting
in a moment of furious anger, strangles her when she ridicules his
recent firing from a big budget Hollywood movie, after becoming upset
that he has a camera hidden behind a mirror to film them having sex.
Keefe Waterman(Brad Rijn)is the third party in this situation, Mary
Jean's husband, who had come to New York City to take her home, even if
it was against her will. Leaving MJ's dead cleaned body in Keefe's
station wagon on Coney Island, Neville has just gotten away with the
perfect murder. Even worse, Keefe is arrested for MJ's murder when
there were witnesses seeing the disgruntled husband forcing her into
the station wagon to go to her apartment to get some things. Neville
decides, after realizing he had recorded the murder on film, to shoot a
biography on MJ's life, with plans to implicate Keefe by getting him
out on bail and in the movie! Kevin O'Conner is Detective Phillip
Delroy, the cop on MJ's case, who is included as an adviser on the
film! It's a way for Neville(a clever, calculating, cold-blooded
bastard)to seduce Delroy by having him part of the "Hollywood process"
and soon another will become enamored in the title role, a feminist
named Andrea(Zoë Lund's second role)Keefe discovers at Salvation Army.
Andrea loses her own identity as she immerses herself in the role of
MJ, having a hard time overcoming the allure of being part of this
movie. When we see Neville strangle a blackmailer with film(that tears
into the victim's throat), we know he's not playing for keeps. When
Keefe ruins the snuff footage, Neville has plans to stage the scene
again, this time Andrea's life is in danger.
Another one of those great Larry Cohen oddities, I think he had Marilyn Monroe in mind as inspiration for the roles of Andrea and Mary Jean. It's interesting, I was thinking about actors/actresses who spend a lifetime portraying other people, and having a hard time determining where the character ends and real person begins. I think that is what really spoke to me as I was watching SPECIAL EFFECTS. I think the draw of Hollywood is what Cohen uses most in his satiric(albeit a dark one)script for the movie. Kudos to Zoë Lund for portraying two distinct personalities, Mary Jean, selfish and self-absorbed, yearning for success, and willing to bed Neville in order to do so, & Andrea, a vocal, blunt, honest woman who sees through the director's bullcrap, often calling him out for the phony that he is(as she puts it, he's always working a routine, never authentic in anything he does), but not denying the thrill of being in his film. I think Cohen establishes in the opening dialogue that Neville was destined to commit murder, describing Zapruder as his most favorite director because he caught a real murder on film. Cohen makes sure to incorporate the title within his script as Neville is notorious for blowing a budget primarily on special effects, obviously wanting to make his pictures as authentic as film will allow. Unusual synth score and, as typical for a Cohen production, good use of New York locations. I personally found SPECIAL EFFECTS a fascinating film(not average at all, although the ending where Neville finally gets his comeuppance, is kind of a cop out)with layers, and was entranced by Zoë Lund..there's just something about her that holds me in a trance, I'm not sure what it is about her. The final scene, where Andrea makes a decision to "adopt a new personality", is quite intriguing, I think..resisting Keefe's desire for her to be Mary Jean, instead of who she really is, there's a subtext regarding "playing the role" which I found compelling.
A failed movie director kills an actress he is auditioning for a film. He then begins to make a film about her life and tries to frame her boyfriend in the process. An interesting idea is hampered by rather uneven performances, poor plotting, and a low budget. One wonders what the master of the genre Hitchcock could have done with this. My rating: 5 out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Arrogant and unscrupulous down-on-his-luck faded former big shot director Chris Neville (an excellent live-wire performance by Eric Bogosian) films himself murdering naive aspiring actress Andrea Wilcox (the gorgeous Zoe Tamerlis of "Ms. 45" fame). Neville decides to make a movie around the snuff footage and hires sassy lookalike Elaine (also played by Tamerlis) to portray Andrea in the picture. Neville even convinces Andrea's earnest, clean-cut hick husband Keefe Waterman (likable Brad Rjin) to be himself in the life and persuades pesky, hard-nosed Detective Philip Delroy (a fine turn by Kevin O'Connor) to serve as a technical adviser. Writer/director Larry Cohen, taking a break from his usual monster horror affairs like "Q" and "The Stuff," expertly crafts a deliciously twisted and absorbing thriller which unfolds at a gradual, yet hypnotic pace, offers a fascinatingly cynical inside look at the film-making process, maintains a properly bleak and eerie tone throughout, and builds a reasonable amount of tension as it culminates in one doozy of a startling double whammy surprise conclusion. Cohen gets a lot of intriguing millage out of distorting reality and astutely explores such weighty themes as the dangerously seductive allure of cinema, the manipulation of the truth, and American culture's obsession with making stars out of nobodies. The acting is uniformly sturdy and impressive, with Tamerlis a particular stand-out in a demanding dual role. As a tasty added bonus, Tamerlis bares her beautiful body a few times. Paul Glickman's glossy, glittering cinematography, Michael Minard's shivery, flesh-crawling synthesizer score, and the gritty New York City locations all further enhance the overall sound quality of this spooky, unsettling, and underrated little pip.
After making a disastrous, special-effects laden film, a movie director decides to make a low budget biography of a murdered actress. To make her murder look as real as possible the director murders the actress himself. Could have been a very good film about snuff films, but the film's direction is a letdown. Zoe (Ms. 45) Lund (in a dual role) and particularly Eric Bogosian are very good in their respective roles of the murdered actress and the actress playing her, and the Cecil B. Demented director. Brian DePalma would have had a field day with this film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS CONTAINED HEREIN. This is an okay one-time watch, but don't expect anything spectacular. The only thing that made this interesting for me was the "cheese factor." In other words: bad acting, bad hair-do's, terrible music soundtrack, moronic plot, lazy directing. This cheese does, however, get tiresome quickly. Larry Cohen obviously thought he was being oh-so-clever when he made this. Like wow, I'm a director, maybe I killed someone. Please! He even screwed this up at the end by making the police detective character "the director." Lame. It is also obvious, Cohen got his idea from Brian DePalma's far superior "Body Double." At least with "Body Double" DePalma took the cheese factor to the max. Re-watch that instead.
"Special Effects" could easily pass for a weak episode of "Columbo", except for two things. There is nudity and there is no Peter Falk. I can just imagine an episode titled "Reel Death" on my television screen. This is not far fetched, as director Larry Cohen wrote no less than three episodes of "Columbo". Unfortunately "Special Effects" has problems. The gorgeous Zoe Tamerlis would not be one of them, that is until she opens her mouth. Her acting was perfect in Ms.45 since she played a mute. The New York locations and Eric Bogosian's artistically decorated film studio offer more entertainment than the film itself, which is almost awful ........................... MERK
Nicely twisted and rather unpredictable thriller, with a very interesting character played by Bogosian. Worth a check...
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