Livin’ Like Larry (Cohen)

I have a thing for awful stop-motion monsters

Since the writing of this article, Larry Cohen has passed away. I hope that people will watch his movies and let his legacy live on, because i genuinely enjoyed my time with these films.

RIP, Larry Cohen

Larry Cohen is a man famous for making sub-par movies. Starting in his career in the ‘60s, he has made consistently “ok” movies all the way up until 2010.

Over the December holiday, I was graced with the chance of watching two of his most “ok” films: 1982’s “Q the Winged Serpent,”and 1976’s “God Told Me To.”

Now each of these movies isn’t actually horrible, but there are some decisions made in the stories and the filmography that turn these into quite bizarre films. From dragons in the big apple to alien Jesus, Cohen really didn’t pull any punches with the concepts for his movies.

When looking at his most well-known work, “God Told Me To,”the craziness of the film makes itself apparent from the get-go. A stream of gruesome murders are committed across the city by different people who all feel no remorse for their actions. When asked why they did it, they all answer in the exact same tone that, “God told me to.”

From here on the movie only gets crazier, with subplots about genderless babies, openly cheating on wives and virgin mothers being abducted by aliens. At one point the protagonist (played amazingly by Tony Lo Bianco) mentions that he was never hurt once while growing up, kind of out of nowhere after he gets his hand injured.

How does that even happen? Did he never fall as a child? Did he never fall while learning to ride a bike? What type of a sheltered life would this guy have had to lead in order to have never been hurt until being a fully-grown adult?

Now, this is actually explained later when it turns out that our protagonist along with the villain is an alien Jesus – and that is why he is the only one unaffected by this current craziness, though still affected by his own craziness in the form of having a cult-like devotion to Christian faith far above what any normal person has.

The most insane part of this film by far is near the end of the movie, when our protagonist confronts Evil-Alien-Jesus in the basement of a factory. The villain in the middle of his big monologue pulls up his shirt to reveal the reason he was considered genderless at birth: he has a vagina on his ribs…I have so many questions.

Does our protagonist have one? Why it was pulsing the whole time they zoomed in on it? Yet no answers were given – they kind of just brush past it.

In the end, the evil guy turns out to be evil because he too had never been injured, and somehow that made him completely foreign to the idea of pain, making him extremely psychopathic. Makes sense.

Our hero then proceeds to show him the only pain he’s ever felt by just strangling the villain to death right there on the spot. Afterwards, we can see that he is held accountable for killing the guy (who everyone thinks is just a 20-something hippy) and is arrested. When he is asked why he did it, he just gives a smirk to the camera and repeats the name of the film, just like everyone else.

While “God Told Me To” is just a weird movie, “Q” is one of those movies that is so bad it has gone all the way around to being good again. The reason for this can be whittled down to 2 things: The “hero” and the monster.

Our hero is a washed up ex-con and drug addict who is probably the least likable character I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch on the silver screen. He has no redeemable qualities and its pretty obvious that the actor had a hard time with the character, because its really awful to watch whenever he is on screen.

The only problem is that he’s on screen for most of the movie.

He goes from a wimpy guy who almost seems likable to a complete scumbag the second he has the slightest bit of power. He spends the entire later half of the movie making outrageous demands to the police in an attempt to get his prison sentence commuted and make some cash at the same time, but what they want from him is the location of a monster that has been brutally killing people in the streets.

He keeps telling himself that he isn’t killing anyone despite the fact that anyone can see his inaction is directly leading to the deaths.

The monster, on the other hand, is an entirely different beast (I will not apologize for that pun). This is a monster in the early ‘80s, which means that it is either an okay-looking practical animatronic or a doofy-looking claymation.

Wanna guess which one this movie has?

That’s right – this claymation monster is one of the worst-looking ones I’ve ever seen.

It is supposed to be some ancient Aztec god, but it just looks like something a grade-schooler would make out of playdough. Though maybe a kindergarten student would be a little more appropriate. It’s this awful green color that looks like they just mixed all the colors they had sitting around and didn’t have the budget to buy more after they messed up.

What’s worse is that the monster is only ever shown “flying” over the city is shots that look like what they play outside of cars in early sitcoms. Every time I saw this monster, I broke down laughing because they played it completely straight. Characters were acting genuinely terrified by this indistinguishable blob of clay that they had to act like was flying above them.

Though, I guess if I saw a weird green blob in the sky of New York, I too would be terrified.

I rate movies from -10 to 10 with negative being ironic enjoyment. “God told me to” gets a solid -7 because of it’s crazy plot and “Q” gets a -9 because I’m a sucker for bad acting and even worse claymation.

This was originally written for The University of Tennessee’s Daily Beacon and edited by Margot McClellan.

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