Larry Cohen, the writer and director who made his mark with cult classics like God Told Me To, and Hell Up in Harlem has died. He was 77. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he was surrounded by loved ones.
Cohen’s career began with him writing for television in the late 1950s. He created the sci-fi drama The Invaders for ABC and Branded for NBC. The Invaders starred Roy Thinnes who attempted to stop an alien invasion with skeptical officials and public. Branded was an American western staged in the post-Civil War old west. It told the story of a United States Army cavalry captain had been court-martialed after an unjust accusation of cowardice. Although Cohen had quite the experience in television, he was mostly known for his movies.
Bone was Cohen’s directorial debut. It was a movie about a black thief who breaks into a Beverly Hills home and holds a white couple hostage. In Cohen’s film The Stuff, Cohen told a story inspired by the rise of junk food. The movie is about a yogurt-like substance that is found oozing out of the ground, when it is bottled up and marketed as an ice cream alternative the stuff turns out to be a parasite that turns consumers into zombies. Cohen also wrote Phone Booth which starred Colin Farrell and became a commercial success grossing $98 million in 2002. Two years later in 2004, he wrote Cellular starring Kim Basinger and Jason Statham.
“We were out there in the jungle making these movies, improvising, and having fun, and creating movies from out of thin air without much money,” Cohen told The Ringer last year. Cohen’s films were low-budget films that built cult followings, created sequels and gained notoriety for their reflections of contemporary social issues. Often times Cohen was his own producer, writer and director. He also was the prop maker and production manager, “otherwise I’d have to sit down with producers and producers are a real pain in the ass, believe me,” he told Village Voice.
Director and producer Edgar Wright wrote on Twitter “many people say they’ve made ‘independent’ films (many financed by majors) but Larry Cohen truly was an independent freewheeling movie legend. For so many fun high concept genre romps with ideas bigger than the budgets, for so many truly inspiring cult movies, I thank you Larry.”