Out of all the grindhouse horror classics made by the likes of Larry Cohen, William Lustig and Frank Henenlotter in the ’70s and ’80s, Cohen’s “Q: The Winged Serpent” is by far my favorite. There’s nothing else quite like this out there, and I’m not sure there ever will be again because it’s so distinctly a product of its time. Cohen’s camera captures New York City of the early ’80s, before its renaissance as a chic destination in the early aughts, when it was dirty, dangerous and grimily charming as all hell (like in “Fame” and “Midnight Cowboy”), and it’s impossible to picture this movie happening anywhere else. Then there’s the monster itself, which is rendered via stop-motion animation, both so dorky and so charming at the same time, and while it robs the movie of any real menace it makes the whole thing so pleasantly campy and compelling. In the midst of all these elements is a series of impressively committed performances by B-movie gods like David Carradine and Richard Roundtree, but none compare to Michael Moriarty as Jimmy Quinn: The striking performer strolls confidently through the movie, delivering a method performance like nothing could be more fun or more satisfying, and he’s a joy to watch the whole way through. All these disparate pieces come together extraordinarily well in the end thanks to Cohen’s inimitable, ebullient directorial style, which guides the movie forward and makes it as cohesive and entertaining as it is gonzo.
Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)