Monday, February 21, 2011

#199. Special Effects (1984)

DVD Synopsis: She was young. She was beautiful. She was primed to be a star. But now she's dead, and the morally bankrupt director who strangled her is intent on covering up his crime by shrouding its details in the plot of his next movie! By convincing the homicide investigators to "consult" on his film, director Chris Neville (Eric Bogosian) successfully alters the course of the investigation. But when the movie make-believe becomes too hauntingly similar to reality, Neville finds his plot unraveling in the final reel.

A quick glimpse at director Larry Cohen's filmography reveals a handful of memorable titles, such as Black Caesar, It's Alive and Q: The Winged Serpent. Unfortunately, Special Effects does not fit in this category; it's not one you're going to remember. 

That is, if you're lucky. 

Eric Bogosian plays a struggling filmmaker who likes to film himself having sex.  After luring an aspiring actress (Zoe Lund) into his bed, the two of them get into an argument, and the filmmaker, in a fit of rage, ends up killing the girl. Having captured the entire murder on film, the filmmaker quickly disposes of the body, which the police eventually find sitting in an abandoned car. The police immediately suspect the girl's estranged husband (Brad Rijn), whose only recently arrived in town. The husband is arrested and charged with the killing, and the filmmaker, sensing there's a hit movie somewhere in this story, posts bail for the husband and, with his assistance, starts shooting a film based on the life of the murdered girl, all the while intending to use the actual footage of her killing as his ending scene. 

The story itself has potential, but the problem with Special Effects is the execution. This movie is downright sloppy, and spends no time whatsoever building up any credibility for these characters or their story. Even the murder scene, which should have been the pivotal moment of the film, is mishandled. The actress (who's voice is obviously dubbed) shows up unannounced at the filmmaker's mansion, and proceeds to throw herself at him. But when the action switches to the bedroom, the actress, who can hear the hidden camera rolling, grows indignant (I guess she found it morally acceptable to sleep with a complete stranger to further her career, but draws the line at having the act committed to film) and starts shouting insults at the filmmaker until he's finally had enough, and strangles her. This is the big scene, the key moment in the entire film, but there's no heart to it, no cohesive flow; the whole thing feels rushed, and plays out like an emotionless reading of the first draft of the script. 

At one point, Bogosian's filmmaker, who's ultimate goal in making his movie was to bring authenticity back to the cinema, says “I want to make it real as I can get it”. Ironic, seeing as the film about his attempt to do so is as phony as they come.

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SJHoneywell said...

What a shame. I typically like Eric Bogosian, too.

I notice that the trailer appears to give away the end of the movie. I hate when they do that.

DVD Infatuation said...

Steve: Bogosian isn't bad in the film (if there is a bright spot, it's him). It's just he isn't very interesting...but then, nobody in this movie is!

And while I normally agree about trailers that give away the ending, in the case of SPECIAL EFFECTS it's a blessing in disguise!