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Film / God Told Me To

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God Told Me To is a 1976 American Sci-Fi Horror film written, directed, and produced by Larry Cohen and starring Tony Lo Bianco, Deborah Raffin, Sandy Dennis, Sylvia Sidney, Sam Levene, and Richard Lynch.

In a strange crime wave, a series of ordinary New Yorkers suddenly commit mass murders. All of them give the same justification: "God told me to." Detective Peter Nicholas (Lo Bianco), a devout Catholic, tries to find out why. He finds that all the killers talked to a man named Bernard Phillips (Lynch), and sets out to track him down.

Andy Kaufman, in his screen debut, briefly appears as a police officer who goes on a shooting spree.

God Told Me To contains examples of:

  • Ancient Astronauts: The science editor once published an article about how God might have been an ancient astronaut.
  • And Starring: "Starring," "Also Starring," and for some reason "Guest Star."
  • Bystander Syndrome: A man walks past a door behind which a murder is being committed. He hears the victim gasp, looks over his shoulder for a moment, then continues walking.
  • Catapult Nightmare: The morning after the first attack, Pete sits up in bed, screaming.
  • Collapsing Lair: When Pete finally kills Phillips, the building they're in catches fire and starts collapsing, possibly because of all the energy deployed during the fight.
  • Dies Wide Open: One man stares at the ceiling after being stabbed.
  • Dissonant Serenity: The family annihilator smiles pleasantly and politely answers the police's questions as he describes how he murdered his family, which only makes Pete angrier.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: The first killer's mother remembers Phillips partly because he walks around New York City barefoot.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: Pete and Phillips were both conceived when their mothers were raped in Alien Abductions, which involved a bright light going through the women. Pete was born first; when it became clear that his human side was dominant, Phillips was conceived.
  • Forgettable Character: Most of the people Pete interviews find Phillips strangely forgettable — they usually remember seeing him, but only vaguely.
  • Freeze-Frame Ending: A shot of Pete, along with a caption saying he was committed to the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
  • Gene Hunting: Pete was adopted, and he goes to the orphanage where he lived as an infant to look for his mother's name.
  • Hermaphrodite: Bernard was born looking like his genitals hadn't developed yet. His mother referred to him by male pronouns, and the doctor followed suit. He does have fully functioning alien genitals, which are on his side.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: One of the attacks is during a St. Patrick's Day parade.
  • Jack the Ripoff: A drug dealer kills a Dirty Cop who didn't respect his orders, and uses the knife to write "GOD" in the cop's blood on the wall to make it look like another random crime.
  • Mama Didn't Raise No Criminal: The sniper's mother refuses to believe he had anything to do with the deaths, saying he was a good student who couldn't possibly have had such accurate aim. She thinks there must have been multiple snipers, and the police are covering it up and pinning the murders on her son.
  • Monochrome Past: Pete interviews a man about the time he found Mrs. Phillips naked on the side of the road, insisting she'd been raped by aliens. His flashbacks are in black and white. Later, when he interviews his birth mother about the time the same thing happened to her, her flashbacks are in sepia.
  • The Missus and the Ex: Casey meets Pete's soon-to-be-ex-wife Martha (Sandy Dennis), who tells her things Pete never did, like the fact that she had three miscarriages because of Pete's reality warping powers and his desire to not be a father.
  • Mistaken for Prank Call: A man calls the police station, saying there will be murders during the St. Patrick's Day parade. He is assumed to be a prank caller, and everyone except Pete is surprised when the murders happen.
  • Mystical Pregnancy: Phillips and Pete were both born to virgin mothers. Although we never learn how Bernard's mother feels about it, Pete's was badly traumatized by the abduction, the pregnancy, and Slut-Shaming from people who didn't believe her story, to the point where she considered suicide.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Pete publishes a news article about the killers' religious motivation, hoping that once they're acknowledged, the killings will stop. He only succeeds in causing panic and riots.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Used during the opening credits and some of the murders.
  • Pater Familicide: One man shoots his seven-year-old son, then his wife. His young daughter locks herself in the bathroom, so he tells her the gun is a toy and the others aren't really dead, then shoots her as soon as she comes out.
  • Power Glows: Phillips glows so brightly that Pete has trouble looking at him. His and Pete's alien parent is shown only as a bright light that blinds the women it rapes.
  • Promotion to Parent: Pete's father had Parkinson's, so for a while he was the sole breadwinner for his stepsiblings. He put both of his stepbrothers through college, giving up his own opportunity to go.
  • Screaming Warrior: Mrs. Phillips screams constantly as she attacks Pete.
  • Shirtless Scene: Pete gets one while he's lying in bed with his girlfriend, Casey Forster (Deborah Raffin).
  • Staircase Tumble: When Mrs. Phillips tries to stab Pete, he grapples with her until she falls down the stairs. She's so badly injured that she can't finish choking out "God told me to" before she dies.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: During the first murder, Pete climbs the tower the sniper is sitting on in an attempt to talk him down. It doesn't work - when Pete asks why he did it, the man gives a Title Drop and then jumps off the tower.
  • Waving Signs Around: Christians respond to reports of the killers' motivation by waving signs that say things like "Thy will be done" and "The End of the World!"
  • We Can Rule Together: Phillips explains that Pete's alien genes were recessive, but his were dominant. He invites Pete to impregnate him so they can create a race of Half-Human Hybrids, all of whom will have dominant alien genes.