This weekend, the horror community lost a genre film legend with the passing of Larry Cohen at the age of 77. He was a true maverick in the field, making films his way, unapologetically and with passion and his own signature style. For many, the films that immediately come to mind are It’s Alive, Q, and Stuff. But, he gave fans so much more: films such as Hell Up In Harlem, God Told Me To, The Ambulance, and more. He was also an accomplished screenwriter responsible for Maniac Cop, Uncle Sam, Phone Booth, Cellular, and more.
For those interested in finding out more about Larry Cohen, his films, and his career, the Grue-Crew highly recommend the recent documentary King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen. Listen to Gruesome Magazine podcast episode 25 to hear thoughts on the film and the man.
The first film I personally remember watching – or, in this case, wanting to watch- with the knowledge that it was a Larry Cohen film is It’s Alive back in 1977 upon its highly successful re-release. I say “want to watch” because it didn’t quite work out the way I had hoped. I had a choice to join my friends in seeing another film or convincing them to see a movie about a monster baby on the attack. The other film won the day, that film was Star Wars. The desire to see It’s Alive always stuck with me. Eventually, I would see It’s Alive and its two sequels. Q and Stuff would be shortly after in the world of VHS and HBO. It would be later, much later, sadly, that I would begin to explore more of his films catching entries such as God Told Me To and Return to Salem’s Lot.
Regardless, Larry Cohen’s films have a certain air to them, an urgency, an in-your-face ground level here-it-is execution that is uniquely his own. Even when they were less successful, they are always entertaining. Cohen has a gift in bringing out terrific performances from his stars, most notably Michael Moriarity, that elevate the films even further.
Larry Cohen will always be a Master of Horror and an example of bucking the system to get your vision on film without compromise. There will never be another Larry Cohen, but the world certainly could use a few more visionaries just like him. Rest in peace, kind sir, and thank you for the gift of your film legacy.
To hear more about Larry Cohen films, check out a few episodes of Decades of Horror.