God Told Me To / Demon (1976)

God Told Me To / Demon (1976)

“He wouldn’t ask me to do anything that wasn’t right.”

While investigating a rash of murders in New York City committed by people who insist “God told them to do it”, a deeply Catholic police detective (Tony Lo Bianco) who is estranged from his wife (Sandy Dennis) and living with his girlfriend (Deborah Raffin) meets an ethereal hippie (Richard Lynch) and an older woman (Sylvia Sidney) still traumatized by a mysterious pregnancy that occurred years ago.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Aliens
  • Detectives and Private Eyes
  • Larry Cohen Films
  • Mind Control and Hypnosis
  • New York City
  • Police
  • Sandy Dennis Films
  • Sylvia Sidney Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that “no one has ever questioned Jewish [writer-director-producer] Larry Cohen” about “making a film which is essentially about Christian faith and morality” — most likely because “no one can figure out what ideas he’s trying to get across.” He notes that while this “low-budget horror film does have an interesting premise”, it’s essentially “a mess”; and while Peary thinks the “interesting premise” centers on “the theory that our gods were ancient astronauts”, I’m much more intrigued by the idea of scads of devoted, mind-controlled cult members calmly committing murder in the name of their God. Regardless, “whole scenes seem to be missing… , the editing that connects the scenes is sloppy, subplots (like the hysteria in New York over the religious murders) go nowhere or are irrelevant, and co-stars [Raffin and Dennis] seem to have been hired for a morning’s work, so minor are their parts.” (Sydney is also wasted in her role, though it’s nice to see her.)

Peary notes that while the “picture has a strong underground reputation”, he “can’t figure out why” — and I must say I agree. I wanted this mish-mosh of a film to be much more (and much less) than it is.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Tony Lo Bianco as Peter
  • Good use of NYC locales

Must See?
No; you can skip this one unless you’re curious.


4 thoughts on “God Told Me To / Demon (1976)

  1. ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2 out of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    First class Cohen film is one of his best, most imaginative genre mashups. Only bettered by Q (1982). I would argue that this and Q are both essential must see films as the best work from Cohen a largely unsung director who deserves to be much more appreciated. Terrific performances.

    Incidentally, the alien abduction sequence uses outtakes from the classic Gerry Anderson series Space: 1999 (1974-76) which was in production at the time and I think God Told Me to had some UK production.

    Must see!

  2. First viewing 5/24/20. Skip it.

    Confused and confusing ‘possession’ flick. Lo Bianco starts out well in a standard cop role but, as things develop, he seems flummoxed (any actor would be) as to what to do with his, um… ‘backstory’. Poor Ms. Dennis and Ms. Sidney, both troopers, are used badly. Raffin proves she still can’t act. Sammy Williams – the original ‘gay guy’ in ‘A Chorus Line’ on Broadway – is, inexplicably, a gay serial killer. Coming off better (also in small roles) are Mike Kellin, Robert Drivas and Sam Levene. Actually, the premise isn’t bad, but jeez!, this thing can’t settle on a clear gimmick.

  3. Just saw this, and it had potential. But something seems completely chopped off in editing, or they ran out of money, or something got lost.

    I wouldn’t call it a must see. It did hold my interest some, but ultimately it failed.

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