(director/writer: Larry Cohen; cinematographer: Paul Glickman; editor: Armond Lebowitz; music: Dwight Dixon; cast: Anne Carlisle (Sally), Brad Rijn (Johnny), Ann Magnuson (Malda), Stephen Lack (Lieutenant Burns), John Woehrle (Fred), Kitty Summerall (Joanna), Matthew Stockley(Matthew), Otto Von Wernherr (Private Detective), Zachary Hains (Maletti), Joe Chiaramonte (Murder Victim); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Paul Kurta; New Line Cinema (Hemdale Film); 1984)
“Delivers the chills.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Maverick indie Bronx-raised filmmaker Larry Cohen(“Black Caesar”/”The Wicked Stepmother”/”Full Moon High”) delivers the chills in this exploitative oddball psychological thriller, that offers a weird macabre humor. It’s a trashy pulp thriller, lacking logic. It’s about a handsome small-potatoes Mafia hit man, Johnny (Brad Rijn). He falls for the women’s lib single mom, Sally (Anne Carlisle), only because he wants to know if her two-year-old son Matthew (Matthew Stockley), the sole eyewitness to one of his contract stabbing hits in a back alley, can recognize him. The kid remembers the incident but can’t speak up or understand what he saw, in fact he likes Johnny and takes pleasure in picking up kitchen knives to imitate him. When Johnny tells his Mafia bosses about the kid, they order him to kill the only witness. It sets up as a frightening urban flick, where violence or peril seems to be always in the air.

Perfect Strangers provides a few nostalgia shots of the World Trade Center, a couple of nice beatings (like Sally’s ex-husband worked over by Johnny), a chase involving a merry-go-round on a truck, a scary swing ride for Matthew, the inattentive mom leaving her son home alone and the gangster giving the child a bath while telling him in an eerie way the E.T. story, and a feminist ‘Take Back the Night’ anti-rape rally attended by mom.

It’s a small film that ultimately lacks punch but nevertheless has enough sparks of creativity, making it a better watch than so many mainstream horror thrillers that might have better actors, scripts and production values.

REVIEWED ON 12/21/2014 GRADE: B-