A Movie About a Movie
”Special Effects” is a movie about a movie being made about a murder. The story has to do with a director who strangles an aspiring actress while the camera is running and then tries to pin the crime on her husband.
Larry Cohen directed this self-reflexive thriller that deliriously dissects the boundaries between reality and fiction. With his career in shambles after having blown a $30 million special effects- project, director Christopher Neville (Eric Bogosian) finds inspiration for a comeback after he murders a young would-be starlet named Andrea (Zoë Lund), films the scene and then blackmails the victim’s husband, Keefe (Brad Rijn) who is detective Delroy’s (Keevin O’Connor) prime suspect in the slaying. He gets the inspiration to star in a reality-based film about the murder starring an Andrea doppelganger named Elaine (also Lund) with whom Keefe begins falling in love. It’s an insane set-up to be sure, and Cohen never seems fully in control of the myriad themes he’s addressing.
Writer/director Larry Cohen’s script for this film touches on Hollywood egotism, the cruelty of showbiz, snuff films, the corrupting allure that moviemaking holds for neophytes and even works in a few allusions to Hitchcock (a key plot device is lifted from Vertigo). Coney Island parking lot. Cohen anchors the film with gutsy performances by actors from New York’s experimental arts scene and what holds it all together is Eric Bogosian’s furiously intense portrayal of the egomaniacal director who drives the story’s events.
Unfortunately, there is little coherence in the script and it all does not come together. If this film is meant to be a spoof of the auteur cult, Mr. Cohen doesn’t know what to do. There is some humor, however, that is extracted from the part of a detective who wants an associate-producer credit on the movie about the murder he is investigating – and gets it. “Special Effects” should have worked.