Larry Cohen is a name film lovers know very well. Q: The Winged Serpent, and The Stuff being 2 of the more prolific of the 80s. Very B style and campy. I liked both of those films, I liked one he did in the 90’s called Ambulance as well. Turns out in 1984 he made a lesser known one, to me anyways titled Special Effects which was a far different cry than the others I have mentioned.
Special Effects is a very dark satire on the film industry according to some. I find it more like a standard sleazy exploitation film. Nothing wrong with that, just a bit weird as it has a fair amount of comedy sprinkled in. Its about a small town hick named Keef. He’s from the great Sooner state of Oklahoma but he heads out to NY to find his wife Mary, who left for NY to become an actress.
He finds her, but instead of doing movies she is just doing nude porno shoots. She tells him she doesn’t want to come back with him as she is going to be the star in the new Christopher Neville film.
Well turns out Neville has just been let go from the project as he keeps going over budget on his special effect and his last few films have bombed at the box office. He doesn’t tell Mary that and tricks her into sleeping with him. She finds out however that he is videotaping them and gets infuriated, insulting him and his films. He flips out and kills her, then dumps the body.
When the cops find her Keef of course becomes the main suspect and is arrested. Luckily for him Neville bails him out and tells him that he wants to make a film all about Mary and that Keef is going to play himself in the film. I mean why not he already has her death filmed for the ending. Keef doesn’t want to but Neville says he will pull the bail and have him arrested. He even makes Keef reenact scenes depicting their failing marriage.
This film, although a work of fiction borrows a lot of elements from Star 80. Granted Star 80 was a sad true story but the whole make it famous tragic murder plays into both films. Keep in mind this is just my opinion. If you dig Cohen’s work this is worth checking out because of the difference in tone and style. Like I said the others films he’s best known for are campy B films. This plays out like a sleazy, dirty, exploitation mystery. That’s not a bad thing, in fact it’s a nice change from a lot of current films I have seen.
Olive Films has just released this on Blu Ray and the transfer looks great. It has the sleazy feel, but the colors used really stand out. The new cover art looks great, as the old dvd version had just a photo of Mary on it. This gives it more of a Horror/Art House look to it. It’s a great film with a nice amount of twists and turns that is well worth checking out.
Overall 3 out of 4 stars!