Special Effects (1984)

Genres - Drama, Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Thriller  |   Release Date - Nov 16, 1984 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 93 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Special Effects is an example of writer/director Larry Cohen at his most conceptually audacious. His script for this film touches on Hollywood egotism, the cruelty of showbiz, snuff films, the corrupting allure that moviemaking holds for neophytes and even works in a few allusions to Hitchcock (a key plot device is lifted from Vertigo). He grounds his unusual script with a low-key directorial approach that achieves some fine setpieces: the showiest moments are the murder that kicks off the plot and the loft-set finale but the most effective might be a silent, desolate moment where a dead body is abandoned in an isolated, snow-covered Coney Island parking lot. More importantly, Cohen anchors the film with gutsy performances by actors from New York's experimental arts scene: Brad Rijn brings a convincing sense of raw emotion to the naïve and confused husband and Zoe Tamerlis is an effective chameleon in her dual role as the victim and her fictional counterpart (essentially, creating dual images of naivete from two different backgrounds). However, the glue that holds Special Effects together is Eric Bogosian's furiously intense portrayal of the egomaniacal director who drives the story's events: he hits the right blend of charm and menace necessary to convince the viewer he is capable of pulling off such a bizarre murder-and-coverup scenario. The end result is a worthy sleeper for cult film fans who like their thrillers infused with offbeat themes and satire.