God is an alien (?)
Well, I had heard about this movie's reputation of being weird,
slightly disturbing and above all intriguing. Now that I finally had
the change to see it, I must say it lives up to its reputation very
well. The interesting premise on its own was one of the main reasons I
wanted to watch this film. That and the fact that the movie was written
and directed by Larry Cohen (of whom I had seen some enjoyable stuff
In New York a lot of strange (and quite shocking) incidents occur. A
sniper on a rooftop starts randomly shooting people. A New York cop
goes berserk in a street parade. A loving husband kills his wife and
kids with a shotgun (...). When the perpetrators remorselessly confess
about their crime, they all say "God told me to". A NYPD detective,
with firm Catholic believes, tries to uncover the mystery.
As the story unfolds, things get weirder with every scene and at the
end you can only conclude that the plot is way out there (with a solid
ending, I might add). I won't spoil anything here by telling where it
all leads to, but this movie is such a mixture of genres
(horror/crime/drama/sci-fi), that it's bound to be intriguing. But GOD
TOLD ME TO isn't without any flaws. The main problem is that the movie
feels a bit muddled and confused (including a few plot holes that got
me thinking...). Mainly because of Larry Cohen's messy story-telling
and rattling coherence. I won't go into any details because of the
danger of plot-spoiling, but on one occasion I was severely mislead
concerning the motivations of detective Peter Nicholas. Now that might
have had something to do with the sound-quality of the DVD-version I
saw being pretty bad (several times I had to re-wind it to clearly hear
what people were saying). But sill, Cohen doesn't give any clearly
defined explanations throughout the movie. I'm not saying that there
aren't any, but I for one will have to re-watch this movie because the
story is so complex.
The movie looks pretty dated as it is from the mid 70's. Especially the
fashion and clothes shown in it can cause some people to chuckle
(Deborah Raffin's over-sized glasses!). As for the filming style: a lot
of typical 70's hand-held camera shots are used. In some scenes you can
feel and see Larry Cohen's blaxploitation-roots being present. But as
the movie progresses you forget those dated elements and become
intrigued. There are even some good-looking special effects and some
pretty ingenious use of lighting and filters (for example, in the
scenes with the mysterious Bernard Phillips). But on the other side the
blood used in this film is of that typical orange colored 70's-style
On a last note, the acting is certainly above average. Tony Lo Bianco
portrays perfectly the changes detective Nicholas goes through. And I
liked seeing Sandy Dennis playing his ex-wife. Now her name didn't ring
a bell, but I instantly remembered her much younger face in GOD TOLD ME
TO as that from the over-religious Aunt Lucy in Robert Englund's 976
EVIL from 1989. She was great in that flick. And then, of course,
there's the brief appearance, perfectly cast, by creepy and darkly
charismatic cult-actor Richard Lynch as Bernard Phillips, the homicidal
messiah with a mission.
I think you get the picture now, no? GOD TOLD ME TO isn't for everyone.
But if you wanna see a 70's movie that's weird, odd, terrifying and
complex (or if you're a fan of Larry Cohen), then search for and find
this critically acclaimed cult classic..
This is exactly what is missing in modern (particularly post-80s)horror
films. Take note, young Sam Raimi wannabes... Gore and pointless nudity
are not enough to make a true cult classic. This movie is a prime
example as it contains no real gore and only a little nudity- and it's
done for horror value more than cheap arousal.
This movie epitomizes the weird plotting and over-the-top social
commentary of the old B-flicks. I still can't say I fully understand
what exactly the metaphysical reality is that was being portrayed...
but I do know what it was in rebellion against- and that's what counts.
The weirdness of the plot will keep you hooked in, much in the way of a
Lovecraft story (the kind of horror story that usually doesn't do well
on film). And you'll be asking questions at the end..