Special Effects (1984)

JUNE 28, 2008


Last week, fellow horror movie nut and loyal HMAD reader B-Sol wrote up a list of 10 major missteps from promising horror filmmakers. As with any list, I didn’t agree with some of the choices, but I can only assume that he just never saw Special Effects from Larry Cohen, because in my opinion it deserved the number 1 spot: it’s actually hard to believe that the guy who made It’s Alive and The Stuff could make a movie this dull, badly acted, and just plain lousy.

The plot is almost like something out of Hitchcock – a director kills a woman on film and decides to make a movie around the footage. Pretty awesome in theory, but the way this film is carried out, it almost seems like Cohen (who also wrote) was almost going out of his way to execute the story as badly as possible. The director’s scheme is needlessly complicated (involving framing a guy and then paying for his bail moments later, some nonsense about a rose, bringing in a cop to watch the dailies... all sounds exciting, huh?), which doesn’t help. Maybe at 75 minutes this would merely be disappointing, but 105 for a thriller in which only 2 people are killed (without any sort of suspense leading up to either) and nothing else of note happens until the final 10 minutes (rounding UP) is way too much to ask for, especially when the actors are as bad as they are in this.

Eric Bogosian (the director) is pretty amusing at times, but that is to be expected. But even he fails to keep viewer interest (in fact he himself looks bored at times). But the other two leads have to be the absolute worst I’ve ever seen in a major motion picture. The actress in particular, ZoĆ« Lund (playing two roles), manages to ruin just about every moment that, despite being poorly written to begin with, would have carried at least SOME weight. You know when you’re flipping around the channels and you come across a soap opera and someone is saying “I found out who the father of your baby is!” and you decide to watch and find out, even thought you don’t know who anyone is? THAT is more compelling than any one moment in this entire movie.

I honestly cannot think of a single reason to watch this movie. It’s too dull to be “so bad it’s good” entertainment, and it’s too long to use as a time-killer (if you have THAT much time, you should be watching something good). The only thing I got out of it was an understanding why I had never heard of it before adding it to my queue.

Also, I know I have been offering the trailers lately, but I couldn't find one for this. I assume they couldn't figure out how to take a minute of the film and make it look interesting and thus never bothered to cut one.

What say you?


  1. I just saw this movie. You write a very good review and 100% acurate. It stunk!

  2. Don't know why this one gets so many bad reviews. Actually, I'm enjoying this flick. I think the unusual acting and stange physical features of that Zoe Lund gal helps to add to the realism snuff feel. The rose symbolizes fleeting beauty yeah I guess you can say that about Zoe Lund. I'm about half way through and so far no complaints.


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