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God Told Me To (1976)
God is one mean mother... er... father... thing. At least Larry Cohen, the writer/director of God Told Me To (also known as Demon), believes that.
There are few films out there like this. It is at once a gritty New York crime story and a science fiction/horror mystery of such bizarre magnitude that one may have to watch it twice just to check their sanity.
There's been a rash of mass murders in the Big Apple that are seemingly unrelated, except that all of the perpertrators justify their actions in the same way: "God Told Me To." Detective Lt. Peter Nicholas of the NYPD (Tony Lo Bianco) finds himself inexorably drawn to the case, tangled in its enigma more than he's willing to admit.
Cohen wisely chose to shoot the movie minus gloss, lending the increasingly far-fetched proceedings an air of realism. Almost all of the filming took place on location in New York, including the actual St. Patrick's Day parade (a sequence that features a pre-"Taxi" Andy Kaufman). When the climax finally hits the truly out-there material, it's that much easier to swallow thanks to the believable locale.
I can also dig the script, which Cohen wrote in response to the hypocrisy of several religious figures. In many senses, God Told Me To reminds one that the origins of Judeo-Christian belief are soaked in blood, spilt by a very pissed-off deity.
What is so chilling about this film is the calm and placidity with which the unlikely assassins describe their crimes. One father who has just finished slaughtering his whole family (off-screen) calmly tells Nicholas about the joys of serving God, up to and including homicide.
At the center of God Told Me To is the very heavy performance by Lo Bianco. Though the movie's plausibility was already stapled down by the direction, Lo Bianco brings his own set of verisimilitude tacks.
Problematic, however, is the relationship between Nicholas and his ex-wife Martha (Sandy Dennis). It's never quite made clear how they mesh (Dennis often seems to be acting in an entirely different film), and their scenes together are stilted and difficult.
Cohen, a cult auteur with a yen for wild social commentary only overshadowed by Lloyd Kaufman, crafted one of the oddest films about religion ever made (not including Blood Freak). God Told Me To was filmed, it exists, and it's damn weird. That simple fact should be enough to get you to see it.