The 13th Floor

5 Essential Larry Cohen Movies You Need To Check Out

On this upcoming Friday’s episode of the Shock Waves podcast, we are both humbled and honored to welcome writer/director/producer Larry Cohen to the show. The “master of horror” has such a long and vibrant career in the entertainment industry that it’d be impossible to narrow down his biggest achievements in a top 5 list. But if we narrow it down just to the horror genre, we sure as hell can try!

In prep for his interview, here’s 5 essential Larry Cohen movies you should check out ASAP.


The thing I love most about Cohen’s work is there are usually concepts and ideas in his movies that you’d never imagine, and more importantly, there’s no way you can predict what direction they’d even go! He himself has admitted that of his writing process – that he doesn’t know where it’s going either as he’s writing it, but that he likes to surprise himself and see where the characters will take him. In his first film post the massive success of IT’S ALIVE, a New York Detective is investigating a series of random murders committed by gunmen whom when caught, confess they did it because “god told them to.” Why are normal people suddenly compelled to kill? I’d rather not spoil for you the madness that the Detective uncovers, but just know you’ll be seeing the great Richard Lynch in a very unique way by the conclusion of the picture! Available on Blu-Ray through Blue Underground.


Another New York City set horror flick, this time with Cohen regular Michael Moriarty is the lead! Two NYPD detectives are investigating a series of bizarre Aztec murders. Or could the giant flying freakin’ serpent that’s picking people off of the streets have something to do with it?! This tagline says it all: “It’s name is Quetzalcoatl… just call it Q, that’s all you’ll have time to say before it tears you apart!” Cohen’s take on a creature feature is as original as it gets! Available on Blu-Ray through Shout Factory.


THE STUFF is Cohen’s satirical masterpiece. A gooey substance emitted from the Earth has been bottled up and marketed to the American people as the latest dessert sensation. Everybody’s eating “the stuff!” But is “the stuff” eating them back? Arrow Films put out a pretty stellar Blu-Ray of this one recently, so if there’s any way to watch THE STUFF, it’s in high def, baby!


The one franchise that Cohen is most well-known for has to be the IT’S ALIVE series. He ended up writing and directing all 3 films: IT’S ALIVE, IT LIVES AGAIN and IT’S ALIVE III: ISLAND OF THE ALIVE. There’s stuff to love about all of them, but if I had to single out one, it’d be the sequel, IT LIVES AGAIN. John Ryan returns as the father of the rampant killer mutant baby of the first. There are 3 other pregnant women that will give birth to similar children and Ryan’s Frank Davis is trying to make amends by warning them. The main reason I’m picking this one of the 3 is because of the opening sequence. One of the couples is having a festive baby shower, and Davis sits quietly in the corner the whole time. As the guests start to leave, the couple finally notice him and begin wondering to themselves, “wait, you don’t know that man in our home?” It’s such a great continuation from the last film and a great starting point to launch the new story. There’s a great and fairly affordable 3 disc DVD set that features all 3 IT’S ALIVE movies on it!


This one was actually directed by William Lustig, most notorious for the original 1980 “slasher” cult classic MANIAC and penned by Cohen. The duo were both responsible for all 3 entries in the MANIAC COP franchise, although the third film was probably the one they had the least input into. Regardless, the concept revolves around a cop wrongly convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, and set up to go to jail where he’ll be surrounded by a lot of the people he put in there. Some time has passed and the supposedly dead super cop is back and committing horrible murders across the streets of New York City. People are in a panic and don’t know who to trust in a blue uniform. In this sequel, Matt Cordell (the Maniac Cop) hooks up with a serial killer while looking for the remaining men that set him up. While the first one is good, I think this second one could be the greatest action/horror hybrid ever committed to film. There is some crazy, jaw-dropping things that happen here, and a police headquarters massacre that rivals the one in THE TERMINATOR! I thank Larry Cohen for all of the above contributions to cinema, but above all, I thank him for candidly blurting out over lunch one day, “you have the right to remain silent, forever,” and inadvertently creating the “Maniac Cop!” Available on Blu-Ray via Blue Underground.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to break out all of the above to gear up for the next episode of Shock Waves!