special effects

Special Effects was written and directed by Larry Cohen and stars Brad RijnZoe Tamerlis, Eric Bogosian, Kevin O’Connor and Richard Greene.

From the writer & director of It’s Alive, Larry Cohen’s Special Effects casts a satirical eye on Hollywood, viewed through the prism of the horror film genre. When the fresh-faced Oklahoma country boy Keefe (Brad Rijn) comes looking for his wife Mary Jean (Zoe Tamerlis), a wannabe actress, he soon discovers the seamy side of Tinsel Town when Mary Jean is found dead and he’s the prime suspect. With a few swipes at Hollywood archetypes (Eric Bogosian as Christopher Neville, a once-revered Wunderkind director; Zoe Tamerlis as Mary Jean look-alike, Elaine, a budding actress who isn’t beyond manipulating the situation for her own benefit), Special Effects offers chills, thrills, shrieks, and a few laughs along the way.


So, what if a director murders this aspiring actress and he films it all and this suddenly gives him an idea that could possibly respark his stale career as a filmmaker? Yeah, this guy decides to make a movie about the murder he just committed and he’s so egotistical and slick that he thinks he can get away with it all. He casts the actress’s husband who ends up being the prime suspect for her murder through most of the movie, plus he stumbles upon a doppelganger to play the actress he murdered. The director lays it all out there in front of the cops and everybody but they can’t see through the smoke and mirrors just yet. The dead actress’s hubby is already suspicious of the director but he plays along until he can find enough evidence that points towards the sleazy filmmaker. It all leads to a showdown between the two of them with this doppelganger stuck in the middle. Ultimately, karma finds the director and justice is finally served, plus the hubby gets a new lease on love with the doppelganger. What a crazy love story!


The front of the packaging features the artwork you see up top and the back includes movie details, some images and list of special features. The Blu-ray disc also features some matching artwork. Inserting the disc, the menu screen was simple and easy to navigate. The picture and sound quality for this high-definition release were crisp and clear. I didn’t have any issues with the video and audio. A great job by Olive Films!

Bottom line is, Special Effects was a pretty cool first time watch for me. The movie is this character driven noir thriller that features a pretty smart and twisted story. Although, for a movie titled Special Effects, there’s not a whole lot of that kind of stuff going on here, but that’s okay because the movie is a twistedly fun cheesefest. It’s a bit of a slow burn but it does come with a nice payoff and sort of a happy ending. Cohen is mostly known for his genre classics like It’s Alive, Maniac Cop, The Stuff and many others but the filmmaker has actually delivered hit comedies like Spies Like Us, so this movie really wasn’t some big step out for him or anything like that. He’s a storyteller who came up with something new and original and Special Effects was the end result, but it’s not for everybody. This 1984 Larry Cohen obscurity released on Blu-ray on October 18th and is worth checking out.

Distributor: Olive Films

Run Time: 106 Minutes

Rated: R

Blu-ray Video: 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (1.85:1)

Blu-ray Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

Subtitles: English

Special Features:

  • Audio Commentary with writer, director, and producer Larry Cohen and filmmaker Steve Mitchell
  • Trailer (01:42)


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