Larry Cohen, Horror Maestro Behind ‘The Stuff’ and ‘It’s Alive,’ Dies at 77

He also helmed "God Told Me To" and wrote "Maniac Cop," among many others.
Us Scriptwriter and Film-maker Larry Cohen Poses Before the Presentation of 'Homecoming' One of the Thirteen Chapters of the Tv Series 'Masters of Horror' on the Third Day of Sitges International Film Festival in Sitges Northeastern Spain Sunday 08 October 2006 Sitges is One of the Most Recognizable Film Festivals Held in Europe and Considered the World's Best Festival Specializing in the Genre of Fantasy Spain SitgesSpain Cinema Sitges Festival - Oct 2006
Larry Cohen at the 2006 Sitges International Film Festival
Jaume Sellart/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

Larry Cohen, a revered figure in the horror genre best known for directing such films as “It’s Alive,” “Gold Told Me To,” and “The Stuff,” has died at 77. The filmmaker began his decades-spanning career by writing for television in the 1960s, penning more than 100 episodes of crime and detective series like “The Fugitive” and “The Defenders” before helming his first feature, “Bone,” in 1972.

He jumped between horror, science fiction, and even blaxploitation over the next 30 years and 20 features before stepping behind the camera for the final time with, fittingly enough, an episode of “Masters of Horror.”

Cohen continued as a screenwriter after helming his last feature, 1996’s “Original Gangstas,” including “Phone Booth,” “Cellular,” and “Captivity.” He also wrote the script for 1988’s cult classic “Maniac Cop” and two of its sequels as well as episodes of “Columbo” and “NYPD Blue,” among many others.

Speaking to IndieWire in 2017, Cohen — who despite his profession, wasn’t given to watching horror movies because he “wasn’t into torture and amputations and driving spikes into people’s eyes and stuff like that” — offered his insights on the current state of the film industry with characteristic thoughtfulness: “What’s happened to the movie business is like a poker game. The stakes are so high that most people can’t afford to sit down at the table,” he said.

“So you make a movie, but how are you going to exhibit the movie and get people to see it when a full page ad in the paper costs $40,000 for one day and these big movies are taking double pages and TV spots every five minutes? If you don’t compete with that, you’re just snowed under.”

Born July 15, 1941 in New York, he set many of his projects in his hometown and was honored there during a retrospective at the Quad Cinema in 2017 and two years earlier in Los Angeles courtesy of the American Cinematheque and Cinefamily. A documentary about his life and work, “King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen,” is available to stream on Shudder.

“You know, it wasn’t just going to a studio like a factory laborer and making pictures and going home every night,” Cohen told The Ringer last year while reflecting on his career. “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. … You’ve gotta make the picture your way and no other way. Because it can’t be made otherwise.”

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