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God Told Me To (Blu-ray)

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
Blue Underground
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Larry Cohen
Tony Lo Bianco
Deborah Raffin
Sandy Dennis
Sylvia Sidney
Richard Lynch
Bottom Line: 

A sniper picks off random passers-by on the crowded streets of New York City. A father shoots his wife and child after breakfast. A police officer opens fire on the Mayor at the St. Patrick's Day parade. The only things the crimes share in common are the dying words of their perpetrators.

"God told me to."

Larry Cohen's controversial tale of religiously motivated murders has long been a favorite of mine. Along with Cohen's classic monster movie Q: The Winged Serpent, God Told Me To stands as one of the finer examples of quality filmmaking on a skeletal budget.

Peter Nicholas (LoBianco) is a homicide detective who’s suddenly thrown into an urban nightmare in which seemingly passive people suddenly turn into killing machines. As Peter digs deeper and sees the common thread that ties all of these crimes together, his faith, as well as his sanity, are stretched to the limits. Peter finds himself torn between the demands of his superiors, his own instincts, and the gnawing sensation that he, too, is somehow being manipulated by this powerful presence that has taken over his city.

God Told Me To is a very dark and somewhat disturbing drama that tackles a pretty taboo subject, yet still manages to do so without feeling exploitative or calculated. While it'd be easy to take a subject like God's wraith and turn it into a grade-Z Exorcist rip-off, Cohen avoids this with a very well written screenplay that's rich in character development and actually quite thought provoking. As with the excellent Q, Cohen's screenplay puts the main players up front and center, and lets them act out against the relatively subdued "horror" subtext, which makes God Told Me To more of a New York story than a traditional horror film. LoBianco is very effective as the conflicted Nicholas, and as the film thunders along toward its somewhat dubious conclusion, the strength of LoBianco's performance and Cohen's script keep things from slipping into the realms of existential farce.

Blue Underground originally released God Told Me To as part of a trio of Cohen films (the aforementioned Q, as well as the criminally underappreciated Bone) on DVD back in 2003, but the film is finally given the HD treatment it deserves.  

The film is presented in its native 1.85:1 aspect ratio in full 1080p HD, and is a 4K transfer scanned from the original film negative, so this isn’t simply an upscale rush job, and it shows! The image quality is superb, with a wonderfully crisp image that’s rich in detail and surprisingly vibrant given the gritty old New York aesthete Cohen’s films are known for. The contrast is dead on, here, as well, with deep, luxurious blacks that don’t show a hint of artifacting or compression, all of which is complemented by a warm, welcome sheen of filmic grain.

Blue Undeground gives us a few sound options including a 7.1 HD DTS track, a 5.1 DTS track, and my preferred DTS-HD mono track, which, for me, perfectly suits the material.

The Blu-ray is loaded with extra features, the majority of which are all-new (and in HD!) and made specifically for this release! Bonuses include the previously available commentary track featuring Cohen moderated by the legendary Bill Lustig, and it’s a real treat to listen to these two pick each other’s brains about the film. The track is loaded with reminisces of shooting in the “old” New York, working on a meager budget, and all sorts of fun and informative behind-the-scenes tidbits.

New features include Heaven & Hell On Earth - Interview with Star Tony Lo Bianco (HD), which is an entertaining sit down with the film’s star in which he waxes nostalgic about his experiences making the film, where his career was at the time, and his co-stars.  Bloody Good Times - Interview with Special Effects Artist Steve Neill (HD) offers a brief interview with the FX guru, with more of a focus on his career than his work on the film, but also offers up some funny nuggets about working with Cohen over the course of several films. God Told Me To Bone (HD) and Lincoln Center Q&A with Larry Cohen (SD) feature Cohen discussing the film with audiences.

Rounding out the bonus features are an exhaustive collection of trailers and TV spots, a stills and ephemera gallery, and more.

God Told Me To is an edgy horror/drama that excels due to its creator's unconventional approach to the genre, as well as his intimacy with the film's setting. Gritty documentary style looks and authentic characters and dialogue are hallmarks of Cohen's oeuvre' and God Told Me So is another fine example of this b-movie maverick's winning formula. The Blu-ray presentation from Blue Undeground is simply fantastic, with an excellent new transfer, and comprehensive collection of bonus features that make this the definitive edition of the film. Highly recommended.

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