[b]God Told Me To[/b]
a review by Braden Adam
Many films over the years have tackled the concept of evil acts committed in the name of God. Some of them have even been quite convincing in their arguments that human beings are, in fact, inherently evil and murder, rape, corruption and illness are simply God?s way of punishing us for our sins. David Fincher?s [b]Se7en[/b] was arguably one of the most controversial movies of the 1990s, with a killer whose motive is to punish those whose sins are not punished in society. One of the most incredible things about that film was that it made us believe that there really is something wrong with us. We are not being the pure, wholesome and loving creatures that God meant us to be. Larry Cohen?s 1976 horror/thriller [b]God Told Me To[/b] captures some of these same themes of God punishing us for our sins, and doing it through acts that our society deems evil.
The story begins with a bang (quite literally) as a sniper on top of a water tower in New York city begins killing people at random with impossible accuracy. When Detective Peter Nicholas (played by Tony Lo Bianco) asks the man why he committed such a horrendous crime, he replies ?God told me to?. The next few days test Nicholas? courage and sanity as he is called in to murder scenes where the murderers make the exact same claim. This is just the tip of the iceberg in a suspenseful and out-right terrifying journey of self discovery for Detective Nicholas, that also makes us question our own views on religion, and the meaning of existence, which is a rare gift to find in a film.
Another rare gift that this film give its audience is genuine scares. Any film can have a jumpy part, usually consisting or someone or something popping out of a dark area with a loud BANG! or a musical cue. [b]God Told Me To[/b] chills to the bone, and takes advantage of one of the greatest fears that all human beings share: fear of the unknown.
The strengths of [b]God Told Me To[/b] do not lie in its presentation, however. The acting is quite bad in most scenes, and the production values make it more than apparent that the film had a shoe-string budget. The writing is what counts in this film, which almost borders on a David Lynch-like confusion. Cohen presents the ?facts? of the story, but manages to put such a twist on things as to make the ending completely ambiguous. This can be somewhat of an annoying trait in some films, since some stories call for closure. This instance, however, manages to create even more unease in the mind of the viewer, who is left wondering what the real answers are - if there are any at all.
Much like Fincher?s [b]Se7en[/b], [b]God Told Me To[/b] creates a disturbing atmosphere and effectively questions religious fanaticism without delving into a battle over whether or not God exists, and presents a series of events so unbelievable in their cruelty that the real-word setting makes it a terrifying story. Putting aside the technical shortcomings and budgetary restraints, Larry Cohen?s [b]God Told Me To[/b] is a thought-provoking and utterly disturbing film that fans of both serial killer crime dramas and supernatural horror films should enjoy.