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Film Review: Special Effects (1984)

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A has-been director murders a struggling actress and then decides to make a movie (that claims her husband killed her) about it.


I had seen Special Effects when I was a kid and didn’t really like it because it didn’t involve someone in a mask running around chopping people to pieces. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me back then and I thought that it was pretty boring. I watched it again recently and now that I’m older and (hopefully) wiser I actually got it and really enjoyed it. I thought that it was intelligent, witty, and was just an all around well-done movie.



I’m not really sure how to classify this film. It isn’t a horror film and really isn’t a suspense/thriller. At the same time it isn’t really a mystery either since we know who kills who and all that jazz so there isn’t anything to try to figure out. Still I enjoyed it and at times it was almost like I was watching an episode of Perry Mason or Columbo minus the smart lawyer or detective who has little trouble solving a murder (there is a detective in the movie but he is anything but intelligent and seems more concerned with making movies than he does solving murders).

I guess if I really had to put it into a category I would have to say that it is a drama with some suspense/thriller elements thrown in for good measure. Don’t let that scare you away from seeing it though as it is an interesting drama/suspense/thriller and there is almost always something interesting going on to keep you entertained.


One of the things that I really liked about it is that you know that eventually Neville (the killer) is going to get caught but you just don’t know how it is going to happen (which is part of the reason this movie is so good). I don’t want to give anything away (or even say if he does or doesn’t get caught), but let’s just say that he gets what’s coming to him. There are times he does and says things that makes it seems like he wants to get caught but no one really seems to pick up on it because they are preoccupied with other things-like making the movie-until later.  In all honesty I liked Neville and didn’t want him to get caught and I think that many other viewers will feel the same way as he is without a doubt the most interesting character.


Speaking of characters we get a mixed bag with Special Effects. As I already said I really liked Neville and thought that he was the best part of the movie. He is such an arrogant, egotistical prick you can’t help but like him. He thinks that he is a little smarter than other people (and in most cases he is) and he likes toying with others. I also really liked Andrea and felt sorry for her. She is just a struggling actress who wants more out of life so you can’t really blame her for leaving her husband and child to pursue her dreams (too bad it costs her her life). I thought that it was cool that the same actress who played her (Zoe Lund of Ms. 45 fame) also plays the part of Elaine, the actress playing her in the movie within the movie (are you confused yet? It will all make sense when you watch it).


On the flip side, I absolutely hated Andrea’s husband Keefe and thought that he was a total piece of shit. I think we are supposed to root for him but I had a lot of trouble doing so as he is a redneck asshole. I also didn’t care for the main detective investigating the case (who later gets involved in Neville’s movie) as he was just sort of sleazy and annoying as hell in general (and his partner isn’t much better).

All in all I really dug Special Effects. I thought that it had a great premise and I had a blast watching it. It isn’t without its flaws (it is a little too long) but it is still worth checking out. Give it a shot if you are in the mood for something a little different.

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