Larry Cohen, the writer and director best known for his work in horror and blaxploitation films, including the cult classic It's Alive, Black Caesar, and Hell Up in Harlem, died Saturday night in Los Angeles. He was 77.
Cohen's publicist Shade Rupe confirmed the news, making the announcement in a post to Cohen's official Facebook page. Cohen's cause of death was not noted in the post, with Rupe's words instead focusing on Cohen's impact on entertainment.
"The entire #KingCohen team mourns the loss of its star, hero, and King, #LarryCohen," the post reads. "His unparalleled talents were surpassed only by his giant heart. The impact he made on television and cinema will be felt forever, and our deepest condolences go out to his family, friends and fans."
Cohen began his entertainment career writing for television in the late 1950s. His IMDb page features an extensive list of television writing credits, including The Invaders, a series he created on ABC that ran for two seasons in 1966-1967. In the 1970s, Cohen began to shift his focus to filmmaking. He both wrote and directed the 1974 horror hit It's Alive, a film that earned $7 million and spawned two sequels as well as a 2009 remake of the original film.
Low-budget horror became something of a niche for Cohen, who frequently took a police procedural approach to the films as well as sly social commentary, something that perhaps stands out best in his 1985 film, The Stuff, which Cohen himself told Diabolique Magazine in 2017 was an allegory for consumerism (via THR).
"Things were going on all over the country and the world that I wanted to try and deal with in my films," Cohen said. "Take The Stuff, which was about products being sold on the market that kill people. There are still so many products like that being sold today. In those days, you still had cigarettes being advertised on television.
"Nowadays, it's not cigarettes, but it's medication that'll probably kill you just as fast. As a matter of fact, every time they advertise a different pill of some kind, they have a disclaimer afterward telling you all the side effects — like death. So, The Stuff was an allegory for consumerism in America and the fact that big corporations will sell you anything to get your money, even if it'll kill you."
Later in his career he shifted his focus again to screenwriting where he found commercial success with films such as the Colin Farrell-starrer Phone Booth and the 2004 film Cellular which featured Chris Evans in one of his early film roles.
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