Film / Q: The Winged Serpent

"Its name is Quetzalcoatl... just call it Q... that's all you'll have time to say before it tears you apart!"
Tagline for the movie

A 1982 fantasy/horror movie movie written and directed by Larry Cohen, starring David Carradine, Michael Moriarty, Candy Clark, and Richard Roundtree.

Shepard (Carradine) is a New York City Cop investigating a series of ritual homicides. Bodies turn up skinned alive, with the heart cut out, decapitated, and otherwise mutilated in disturbing ways.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Quinn (Moriarty) is a piano player and petty criminal who gets caught up in a jewelry-store heist caper. When things go badly, he takes the stolen jewels and flees, abandoning his fellow crooks, and hides the jewels in a disused attic space at the top of the Chrysler building. There he finds a humongous nest near a hole in the roof.

The two plot lines come together when Shepard figures out that an Aztec Cultist priest has been convincing victims to be somewhat willing human sacrifices as he prays the ancient Aztec god Quetzalcoatl back into existence. Quetzalcoatl appears in the form of an enormous snake-bird thing with six limbs, and nests in the top of the Chrysler building, flying out to snatch victims off of skyscrapers under construction, rooftop swimming pools, and snacking on the occasional skyscraper window-washer.

The cultist priest is chased down and killed by Shepard and his Da Chief Sergeant Powell (Richard Roundtree). Jimmy disposes of his fellow crooks by leading them to the nest and cheering as the bird eats them, then informs Shepard where to find the nest in exchange for a promise of immunity and one million dollars, tax free. A team of NYPD cops waits at the top of the Chrysler building, and when the bird-snake-god thing returns from a hunting flight, they shoot the thing to death in a surprisingly cool action sequence. Jimmy gets his one million dollars, tax free.

"Q is all you'll have time to say before its tropes tear you apart":

  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: A giant snake-bird thing terrorizes New York City.
  • Big Applesauce: Of course the events take place in modern New York City.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Michael Moriarty has his moments. Such as when he tricks his fellow crooks into climbing up into Q's nest, and momma comes home.
    "Eat him! Eat him! CRUNCH! KA-RUNCH!"
  • Death by Sex: Inverted. One of the monster's victims is a guy who decides to go swimming in a rooftop pool rather than watch some bikini-clad babes do push-ups. It ends badly for him.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: At the end of the movie the NYPD manage to kill Q, an Aztec God. Somewhat justified in that modern weapons such as sub machine guns didn't exist in the Aztec's time.
  • Fanservice Extra: The rooftop sunbathers qualify, particularly the one who takes off her bikini top and lotions herself right before being snatched away by the monster.
  • Giant Flyer: Quetzalcoatl's physical form.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: Until people start praying to him and offering him sacrifices again, Quetzalcoatl can't fly around biting people's heads off.
  • Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: Jimmy claims to have become a crook as a result of having drugs planted on him, insisting he only wants the money so he can go straight.
  • Hate Sink: Jimmy, who's a money-grubbing, obnoxious coward who doesn't care that innocent people are dying and actually made it out of the movie alive.
  • Hidden Depths: Michael Moriarty's petty criminal is also a talented jazz pianist, and plays an original song composed by the actor for the film, called "Evil Dream".
  • Human Sacrifice: Q is prayed back into existence with ritualistic human sacrifices.
  • Landmarking the Hidden Base: The monster nests in the top of the Chrysler Building.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: A feathered serpent. With six limbs. And a beak.
  • Monumental Battle: The final shootout at the top of the Chrysler Building.
  • One-Letter Title: On some releases. Turned into an example of Role Called when the subtitle is added.
  • Sadly Mythtaken:
    • In Aztec Mythology, Quetzalcoatl was one of the only gods that did not receive human sacrifices. In fact, he harshly condemned the practice.
    • Also, he wasn't a dragon, but a feathered serpent with wings.
    • Also, the mythical Quetzalcoatl was male. In this movie, Q was made female.
  • Sequel Hook: The final scene is a slow camera pan through an abandoned building, ending with a zoom in on a second nest, complete with gigantic egg that hatches as the screen fades to black. No sequel was ever made, sadly. Also an example of The End... Or Is It?.
  • Vertebrate with Extra Limbs: Q has four legs and two wings.