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10 Best Larry Cohen Horror Movies

Infused with biting satire and high-concept cheesiness, no one made horror movies quite like this underrated king of the genre.
Larry Cohen Horror Movies
By  · Published on October 4th, 2021

5. The Ambulance (1990)

Cohen Ambulance

Larry Cohen’s horror movies aren’t always easily classifiable. Even in films like Q: The Winged Serpent that has a literal monster in it, the film still toes the line between creature feature and crime film following a conman. In The Ambulance, Cohen threads horror into a paranoia thriller about the titular vehicle spiriting away helpless victims into the night. At the core of the story is Eric Roberts’ Josh Baker, a comic book artist with flowing locks who finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy concerning medical experiments on diabetics. The story may only brush the upper regions of the horror genre, but it still manages to do so through Cohen’s interest in socio-political themes against the backdrop so many of his films used: a pre-Disneyfied New York City. As an added bonus? A cameo appearance from Marvel superstar Stan Lee as Baker’s comic book boss. (Jacob Trussell)

4. It’s Alive (1974)

Cohen It's Alive

Leave it to Larry Cohen to make a movie about a mutated baby that will emotionally catch you off guard when you least expect it. The director’s take on the all American family starts pretty damn idyllic, with mom and pop Frank and Lenore (John P. Ryan and Sharon Farrell) about to welcome their second child. Well, things don’t exactly go as planned during delivery and before Frank can light his cigar, there’s a creature carrying his DNA terrorizing Los Angeles. And while It’s Alive certainly lives up to its status as a stellar horror movie, it also has a baked in sense of paranoia that puts it up there with several legendary 70s conspiracy thrillers. And with an ending that will shock and unsettle even season horror fans, this film is a must-watch. Pair with Rosemary’s Baby for a real cheerful double feature. (Anna Swanson)

3. Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)

Cohen Q

​​Larry Cohen got the job done. He didn’t worry about laws, money, or feelings. If a shot was needed, a shot was got. Hoping to capture an honest response from a screaming crowd in Q: The Winged Serpent, Cohen fired machine guns high above New York streets. But as the ejected shells fell upon the citizens, they could barely be bothered to look up — just another day in the Big Apple. The city, however, felt differently, and he was forbidden from firing guns within its borders for the rest of the shoot.

Q: The Winged Serpent is like all Cohen flicks, utterly bonkers and totally insane. A mythical dragon plucks hapless sunbathers from rooftops while David Carradine, Michael Moriarty, and Richard Roundtree scramble to blow it out of the sky. Tonally, it’s all over the place, and you wouldn’t have it any other way. Mostly, it’s just a rollicking weird adventure that no other maniac would dare to make. (Brad Gullickson)

2. God Told Me To (1976)

Cohen God Told Me

When things go right for people, they’re always quick to thank God. You see it with athletes all the time after winning a big game. But when things go wrong, people don’t give God as much credit. You’ll never hear a star basketball player after losing a game say, “God just wasn’t pulling his weight tonight.” Larry Cohen‘s God Told Me To sort of does that. A string of unconnected murders plagues New York. In each case, the killers say, “God told me to.” NYPD detective and devout Catholic Peter Nichols (Tony Lo Bianca) investigates the killings, desperately trying to find a common link. Nichols’ journey takes him down a mysterious path involving virgin births, psychic powers, adoption coincidences, and an alien creature that resembles a glowing Mr. Burns. It’s not just a great Larry Cohen horror movie, it’s a great movie, period. (Chris Coffel)

1. The Stuff (1985)

Cohen Stuff

Sometimes you just get a hankering for a giant carton of The Stuff, a Larry Cohen concoction critiquing America’s blind consumption of the latest trend. In The Stuff, the latest trend is just that: The Stuff, a white substance that appears to be a combination of ice cream, yogurt, and marshmallow and is guaranteed to go straight to your head. This junk food is actually an alien parasite being utilized by corporate America to create the perfect capitalist consumer. Cohen marries nasty parasitic body horror with campy delights including some incredibly laughable line reads that make this film all the more loveable. This satirical consumerist nightmare is a terrifying horror comedy with a dash of outlandish spy flick, a delicious mixture the likes of which only Cohen can deliver. (Mary Beth McAndrews)

Larry Cohen wouldn’t have cared if you read more 31 Days of Horror Lists, but we sure do!

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Jacob Trussell is a writer based in New York City. His editorial work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, Rue Morgue Magazine, Film School Rejects, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the author of 'The Binge Watcher's Guide to The Twilight Zone' (Riverdale Avenue Books). He is available to host your next spooky public access show. Find him on Twitter here: @JE_TRUSSELL (He/Him)