If I was a proper reviewer and had been making notes as I watched ‘God Told Me To’ the only intelligible words I’d have scribbled would be ‘wow!’ and ‘huh?’ over and over again like some Jack Torrance outtake.
Larry Cohen’s most recent success has been his script for ‘Phone Booth’ for Joel Schumaker (he’s also the man who gave us the calssic TV show ‘The Invaders’) but I much prefer his low budget films particularly when he’s writing, directing and producing them. He plays with genre very well and can usually be relied upon to come up with something weird and wonderful, and ‘God Told Me To’ from 1976 surely comes under the category ‘weird and wonderful’.
Random everyday folk suddenly go on killing sprees, giving the same reason, ‘God told me to’. The detective investigating one of the cases not only finds that these various cases are connected but that the killers are actually telling the truth. A mind boggling mix of horror, thriller and scifi with religion and genre ambiguity as it’s key themes I’m not kidding when I say I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it - although aspects of the plot seem to crop up in the ‘X-Files’.
‘God Told Me To’ is shot with lots of handheld camera work around New York making it look as fresh as anything you might see in modern US cop shows. Another plus in terms of feeling fresh and realistic (important in a film with such an outlandish plot) is Cohen’s love of old character actors, he clearly loves unique expressive faces and they repay him with memorable performances.
The DVD is available on Region 2 but it’s through Vipco and although I appreciate some of the titles they’ve released their presentations are not so good so I decided to get the Blue Underground produced Region 1 copy. The picture and sound are excellent and there’s a great commentary with some funny behind the scenes stories (as he was about to shoot a scene requiring a rifle with a telescopic lense Cohen found out that nobody had got hold of one and didn’t want to upset him by telling him. Seeing as the scene was being shot next to a New York apartment block Cohen simply asked if anyone had such a rifle.... sure enough someone did) and a easter egg of Cohen being interviewed at a festival.
I can’t recommend ‘God Told Me To’ enough, it’s fun, silly, strange, disturbing, smart and pretty cheap to buy online.