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Special Effects (1984)

A director makes a movie based on a murder he committed.


Larry Cohen


Larry Cohen

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Complete credited cast:
Zoë Lund ... Andrea Wilcox / Elaine Bernstein (as Zoe Tamerlis)
Eric Bogosian ... Neville
Brad Rijn ... Keefe Waterman
Kevin O'Connor Kevin O'Connor ... Det. Lt.Philip Delroy
Bill Oland Bill Oland ... Det. Vickers
H. Richard Greene ... Leon Gruskin (as Richard Greene)
Steven Pudenz Steven Pudenz ... Wiesanthal
Heidi Bassett Heidi Bassett ... Neville's Asst. Director
John Woehrle John Woehrle ... Studio Executive (as John Woerhle)
Kitty Summerall Kitty Summerall ... Andrea's Roommate
Kris Evans Kris Evans ... Cosmetician
Mike Alpert Mike Alpert ... Taxi Driver


Reality and illusion collide in this thriller about a megalomaniacal movie director who murders a young would-be actress, then sets about making a feature about the deed, casting the dead woman's clueless husband as the patsy, and finding a dead ringer to play the part of the dead actress. Written by Eugene Kim <genekim@concentric.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A Shocking, Sensual Thriller! See more »


Drama | Horror | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

16 November 1984 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Cutting Room See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


One of the head shots Neville and Detective Delroy look through is Dustin Hoffman as Dorothy Michaels in Tootsie See more »


Andreas hair changes from wavy to curly in each scene See more »


Reporter: What is your greatest influence?
Neville: Abraham Zapruder.
Reporter: Who?
Neville: Honest Abe never lies.
Reporter: How do you spell that?
Neville: J-F-K.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The UK video version was cut by 30 secs and edits shots from the stranglings of Andrea and the blackmailer, as well as heavily reducing a scene of Neville watching film footage of Andrea's murder. See more »


References Vertigo (1958) See more »


Let's Dance
Performed by David Snider and The Defiel Band
Music and Lyrics by Michael Minard
©1984 Minard Music Company-ASCAP
See more »

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User Reviews

Plodding thriller never quite gains traction
19 September 2018 | by drownnnsodaSee all my reviews

"Special Effects" follows a filmmaker who murders a naive, wannabe actress in his New York City home. After, he cons the woman's ex-husband into appearing in his film about her life and demise, attempting to recreate her murder with a lookalike actress.

Larry Cohen is alternately considered an auteur and utter hack depending on which critical circles you ask, and I frankly have not seen enough of his work to make a judgment call. That said, "Special Effects" is a bit of a tiresome thriller that juggles some interesting ideas surrounding self-reflexivity and voyeurism, but as a movie, never quite satisfies.

Part of this is due to the screenplay feeling lopsided and disorienting, and Eric Bogosian frankly does not make for an effective or menacing villain. The lack of threat and any sense of true danger legitimately strips the film of suspense, which is ironic given Cohen's clear admiration for Hitchcock. Zoe Lund's performance here is effective as Elaine (the second actress who becomes a vessel for Bogosian's replication of reality), but her turn as the naive Texas woman who first meets her demise is laughably bad. Brad Rijn is a serviceable and handsome leading man, though his chemistry with the other actors feels shaky. Like with most of the film, the pacing and tone of the finale is bizarre and feels rushed and slightly sloppy, though it is ostensibly the only moment where Cohen seems to ramp up toward something daring.

In the end, "Special Effects" feels like a lost opportunity. Its core thematic ideas are intriguing, but the execution is half-witted and feels quite sloppy at times. Save for Lund's turn as would-be-dead-girl-number-two and some time capsule photography of 1980s Manhattan, there is frankly not a whole lot to praise here. Worth a watch for hardcore genre fans, but that's about it. 5/10.

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