Imploring b-movie sensibilities to deliver a potent and playful satirical take-down of Hollywood, Special Effects finds the iconoclastic filmmaker Larry Cohen operating at the top of his game. Traversing the traditional formalism of the mystery/thriller, Special Effects delivers a subversive, self-reflective study of creativity, art, and the Hollywood machine, being a film which finds the dark humor in the the intrinsic, exploitative nature of not only Hollywood, but of being an artist itself- a role that is autocratic by design. Chris Neville, the suave, monstrous filmmaker at the center of Special Effects, is a director intent on returning to the forefront of his career, a psychotic man, who murders an aspiring actress one night and sets out to make a movie based off of this killing. What transpires over the course of Special Effects strange and singular narrative is Cohen providing a reflection of the exploitative nature of the Hollywood system, one in which often the wide-eyed romanticism of big dreams is exploited and manipulated by those in the position of power and authority to do so. Neville is the extreme example of such exploitation and manipulation, a man who goes as far as murder to create his next piece of filmmaking, with much of Special Effects interested in the collision between reality and illusion, with Nevillle attempting to control and distort the world that exists around him, much like he would on any film set. While Special Effects is interested in the psychology of authority and control, following Neville as he manipulates and extorts those around him for his personal artistic gains, the film's most powerful assertion lays in its critique of the Hollywood system; one which is often exploitative in its designs, profiting off of the tragedies of reality. Neville himself is a reflection of the Hollywood machine, a character who attempts to profit off of real-life tragedy (one he created in this case), using the allure of movie-making to entice and control those around him. Everyone from the police to the murdered actresses' own husband find themselves intoxicated on various levels by Neville's position of power, with the sheer promise of being part of Neville's creation often blinding them from the realities in front of them. In Cohen's Special Effect's Neville is simply a symbolic representation of the Hollywood machine, a force which exploits and manipulates the world, blending reality with illusion for personal profit. Wielding its exaggerated, b-movie thriller narrative to make thematic assertions related to the exploitative nature of the Hollywood machine, Larry Cohen's Special Effects is a profound, self-reflective deconstruction of the darker aspects of creativity, recognizing how the powerful allure of creation can often lead to exploitative practices.
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