Director – Larry Cohen
Cast – Michael Moriarty, David Carradine, Candy Clark, Richard Roundtree, James Dixon, Malachy McCourt, Fred J. Scollay, Peter Hock, Ron Cey
Release Year – 1982
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I have been a fan of Larry Cohen’s work(The Stuff, God Told Me To, It’s Alive) for years, but his 1982 effort Q: The Winged Serpent is one that I never got a hold of until recently, and unsurprisingly I found joy in this creature feature. The FX are cheap and the cheese reigns high in this extreme B-movie, but it delivers what fans of cheesy horror love to see from one of the masters of cheese.
As reports of a winged serpent plague the New York City police force, Det. Shepard(David Carradine; Kill Bill: Vol I, Kill Bill: Vol II, Dead & Breakfast) is the only one on the force that believes such accusations could be true, but soon enough the entire city of New York will learn of the winged serpent’s wrath – a wrath that can only be stopped with the help of a sleazy ex-con and pianist, Jimmy Quinn(Michael Moriarty; The Stuff, Troll, It’s Alive: Island of the Alive, A Return to Salem’s Lot).
If you love creature features then this story is for you. I loved the idea of a winged serpent soaring above a large city and picking off unsuspecting humans, and the usage of Jimmy Quinn and Det. Shepard added much to the film and kept things going when Q wasn’t delivering the carnage. It was very surprising to see such good character usage in a cheesy creature film, but Larry Cohen shows his writing excellence by giving us enjoyable characters and good character development – especially regarding Larry Quinn. Whereas good zombie films tend to focus more on the humans and their social reactions to the zombies than the zombies themselves, Q: The Winged Serpent focuses on Jimmy Quinn and how he uses his discovering of the serpent’s nest to his full advantage in forcing the police to give him, a robber/criminal, whatever he wants if they wish the know the location of the beast sending their city in panic, over the usage of the serpent itself. David Carradine’s character, Det. Shepard, was the usual law enforcement presence, however one more understanding of the situation and not a hot-head who goes “Dirty Harry” in every situation. Thankfully, we do get enough usage of the serpent and some pretty cool deaths too as Cohen made the most (storywise) of what he could with such a very low budget, especially a film such as this that involves skyscrapers and many aerial views that are not cheap to film.
Cohen’s direction adds to the story and makes this a fun experience as he does the most with what miniscule of a budget he had. The creature FX are mediocre at best for most of the film, but I found little problem with them because of how well Cohen executed the scenes. Thankfully, the up-close scenes regarding the serpent were live-action and resulted in live-action gore, which in my eyes made up for the cheap FX used during the creature’s flying scenes. This was especially prevalent during the scenes in which unsuspecting victims were snatched from their activities by a giant claw from a beast seen off-screen, adding much awesomeness and cheese to this experience. The character performances were especially good, which surprised me given this is a B-movie effort, but Cohen has always managed to employ favorable actors and achieve good performances in all of his directorial films, showing this guy really is a solid horror filmmaker that has yet to really achieve the recognition he deserves.
Overall, Q: The Winged Serpent is another solid and cheesy effort from Larry Cohen that gives us an awesome creature experience despite numerous low-budget woes plaguing this piece. The storyline does not stop at the creature carnage but adds to it with great character usage that along with Cohen’s fantastic direction makes for a very fun and enjoyable experience sure to please fans of Cohen’s work.