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A confusing but amazingly good low-budget thriller
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 02/09/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"God Told Me To (also known as Demon) is probably the most powerful B-movie I have ever seen; writer and director Larry Cohen had me mesmerized from the start yet more and more confused by the end. This isn't the kind of movie you sit and watch drone-like; this is a complex film that revels in mystery, flirts with apocalyptic notions, and incorporates elements sure to make you question what you think you believe the movie is about. The action begins with a sniper perched on a water tower in New York City, killing a number of people on the street with uncanny accuracy. Tony Lo Bianco plays detective Peter Nicholas, who climbs up and tries to communicate with the sniper; he is surprisingly jolted when he hears the guy say that he committed mass murder because "God told me to." From there we encounter several other bizarre and deadly crimes, the perpetrators of which all tell Nicholas that God told them to do it. One truly memorable scene features a seemingly normal man explain how and why he killed his wife and children with no remorse; in fact, he feels better than he has ever felt because he suddenly knows God and has done what He asked him to do. Nicholas eventually finds out that a weird young guy was seen talking to each murderer shortly before he snapped, and this is where the story starts to get a little weird. The guy's mother is a virgin, as Nicholas finds out after she attempts to kill him. Having now come to believe that the religious aspect of the murders is actually real, Nicholas leaks the hidden confessions to the press after being shunned by his fellow detectives. A devout Catholic, Nicholas now begins to change, and one is hard pressed to figure out what exactly is going on with him. He learns a secret of his own birth and seeks out the Messiah figure who has set such incredible forces in motion. This movie is not as simple as a Christ-Antichrist type of motif. The virgin mothers were seemingly abducted by aliens and impregnated artificially, and this throws a definite monkey-wrench into how one should interpret the two central forces at work here. The Messiah figure, radiating a golden light that makes him almost impossible to really see, is both a counterpart and a completely opposite entity than that of Nicholas, and the possible fusion of the two primal forces betokens powers and realizations one is hard pressed to understand. In the end, I was left rather confused but deeply impressed by this movie. One very unfortunate aspect of the low-budget film is the fact that some of the incredibly important dialogue at the end was impossible for me to understand as it was drowned out by the ever-present and generally very effective music. Knowing everything that was said would still leave me somewhat confused about the immense complexity of the story, but I would certainly have had a better grasp of Cohen's unique vision. I would hope that religious people would not shun this movie as sacrilegious; I certainly have no problem with it. It does, however, force one to ponder incredibly deep thoughts, such as the total abnegation of God and the difficulty posed by a God who perhaps truly does seek to get the attention of his children by means of random terror. I would make special mention of the special effects, which are really very good, especially for a low-budget movie. The Messianic incarnation is otherworldly and rather incomprehensible, but I was most impressed by the shooting scenes. I've never actually seen a bullet wound, but the wounds in the movie struck me as quite impressive. These victims don't just fall down and play dead; we actually see the bullet's impact with each victim's body. At one point, we watch from behind a victim while the killer shoots him from in front, and we see the exit wound in his back explode with the force of the bullet. I found that amazingly effective. One trivial fact here is also worth noting; Andy Kaufman actually appears in the movie as one of the God-inspired mass murderers. Overall, I would like to understand this movie much more than I do, but I cannot question the power and hypnotic effect it had on me. You might walk away from God Told Me To shaking your head, but I can almost guarantee you will know you have watched a darn good movie."
Why? 'Cause God Told Me To!
Michael R Gates | Nampa, ID United States | 07/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"New York police detective Lt. Peter Nicholas (Tony Lo Bianco)--a devout Catholic who is struggling with his faith in the midst of marital problems--is investigating a string of fatal shootings and is disturbed by the fact the killers, when questioned about their motivation, have each offered the exact same response: "God told me to." Is God really ordaining these angels of death? Ignoring the downward spiral his personal and professional life seems to be taking, Nicholas' deep faith compels him to seek the answer to that question. But when his investigations put him face-to-face with the bizarre androgynous extraterrestrial who instigated the killings, the detective finds more answers than he was seeking.
As with nearly all of his films, this 1976 outre opus from writer/director Larry Cohen is no ordinary low-budget genre film. Though the premise of GOD TOLD ME TO is undoubtedly outlandish, the characters that Cohen creates in the film are vivid and memorable, their dialog very realistic, and the situations in which Cohen places them are so authentically and convincingly drawn that an audience is quickly convinced to suspend their disbelief. In addition, Cohen is a master at creating subtle subtext, and GOD TOLD ME TO is riddled with it. As the primary narrative progresses, things go on ?below the surface" that force viewers to evaluate, even if only subconsciously, their concepts of things such as marriage, sex, gender, religion & faith, family & genetics, security, and authority. Most Cohen fans regard GOLD TOLD ME TO as the auteur's most cohesive, articulate, and thought-provoking work.
A number of genre fans and critics alike have cited GOD TOLD ME TO as the precursor to the television series THE X-FILES. Certainly all of the TV show's main elements are there--alien abductions, spiritual overtones, a troubled and obsessive detective with authority issues, a powerful cabal, and bizarre plot twists. So it's hard to deny that the film had at least some influence on the series? creators. But unlike a TV show, the creators of which must ultimately defer to studios and sponsors, GOD TOLD ME TO is an independent, non-studio produced film, and Cohen has therefore been able to pull all the stops necessary to get his points across. Of course, such an iconoclastic film has often been misinterpreted or misunderstood (or maybe understood too clearly by religious zealots?), and GOD TOLD ME TO has at times been banned, boycotted, or cut to ribbons by some distributor or other to make it "palatable" to a particular audience. So some X-FILES fans may be offended by this film and consequently may not want to claim it as the progenitor of their beloved series, while others may embrace it as an example of what the TV show might have been had the creators been able to do their work without any major creative or aesthetic fetters.
The DVD release of GOD TOLD ME TO from Blue Underground is a must-own for any fan of Cohen, any fan of B-movie sci-fi, or any lover of bizarre independent cinema. It offers a top-notch digital transfer of the film in anamorphic widescreen at the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Bonus material includes an informative and entertaining feature commentary by Cohen and his protoge Bill Lustig, the theatrical trailer, and several TV spots. A cool DVD that is well worth the price of admission."
This is a horror classic and inspiring to young filmmakers
J. Blake Fichera | New York, NY | 01/07/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Directed by Larry Cohen, God Told Me To is a classic cult horror film, that has stood the test of time. The reason for this is its creatively original plot line that dabbles with the psycological horror that can come from religion. This horror could easily occur today. It is also an inspiration to all young filmmakers because of its low budget. It is quite apparent that there was an extremely small crew. In fact sometimes it seems that it might just be Cohen on camera and someone taking sound. Though this is most likely not the case, it shows that a lot of money, people and equipment are not needed to create a classic. Besides it contains Andy Kauffman's first screen appearence. How bad could it be."
Poorly made and edited.
K. Pehl | Pasadena, Ca. | 05/10/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"God Told me To is a low budget film that is very dated. We're talking African American men in velvet blazers, large hats and platforms. That kind of dated.
The copy I own has very poor sound. If you were using headphones the sound would only come out of one side.
The editing had to be done by 2 different people. The first half is choppy, the 2nd half is edited a bit better.
Nevertheless, the film isn't as bizarre as I remembered it. It does have some strange scenes but this film isn't well made. The acting isn't great, the dialogue isn't very good and it just doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
There might be some better copies out there and I wouldn't mind seeing one of those but I'd never pop mine in again and watch it.