Combustible Celluloid
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With: Zoe Tamerlis, Eric Bogosian, Brad Rijn, Kevin O'Connor, Bill Oland, Richard Greene, Steven Pudenz
Written by: Larry Cohen
Directed by: Larry Cohen
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 106
Date: 11/16/1984

Special Effects (1984)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Killer Camera

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This Larry Cohen movie feels for all the world like a Brian De Palma movie, self-reflexive, using cinema and voyeurism as two of its main motifs, but it seems to be lacking some of De Palma's genuine paranoia and intensity. It does get plenty of help from the cult star Zoe Tamerlis, later known as Zoe Lund, who was a regular heroin user and died at a young age.

She plays a young, married actress who has failed to make it big in New York City. She tries to seduce filmmaker Christopher Neville (Eric Bogosian), who has recently been blacklisted for going over budget on some big visual effects extravaganza. He tries to sleep with her, ends up murdering her, and catches it all on camera.

So he comes up with a plan to make a new movie, incorporating the real murder footage, and use it all to shift the blame to someone else. And, lo and behold, an exact duplicate for the late actress is found (played by Tamerlis again, of course). Brad Rijn plays the small-town widower, who becomes involved in the new movie, though he rarely looks like he knows what he's doing.

Cohen manages to get some striking shots in, especially inside Neville's ritzy apartment, and frequently his themes click. But it goes on a bit too long, and poor logic and poor characters too frequently get in the way.

Olive Films released Special Effects on Blu-ray in 2016, including a commentary track by Cohen, interviewed by Steve Mitchell.

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