Thursday, September 18, 2008

Monkey Shines Review

Monkey Shines Poster

George Romero’s Monkey Shines is a piece of horror gold, and if you haven’t seen this film, you’re missing out on one of the creepiest pieces of film to ever come out on vhs and dvd.

The movie revolves around a newly crippled man. While jogging one morning, Alan Mann is hit by a truck while jogging, causing him to lose use of his limbs. Meanwhile, his doctor starts dating his girl, and he just dips into a deep depression. After his scientist friend discovers Alan trying to kill himself by putting a bag over his head, things start to change. Alan’s friend gets him a trained monkey, to help him with tasks.

Now, if you remember the Simpsons episode where Homer got a monkey, and used him for cheap labor, you’ll immediately understand the capacity of this movie, because it essentially starts out that way. The helper monkey is completely trained and seems to start working out quite well, but like all horror movies, there’s a catch. This monkey was clinically dead at one point, and no one knows! No one except the mad scientist and Alan, who starts to grow accustom to the Monkey’s autonomy.

Homer and Monkey

Meanwhile, back at the lab, the scientist is getting pushed around by none other than the voice of Bill from King of the Hill. Hilarious! Things start going awry, as with all horror films, and Alan is getting really pushy towards his nurse, and starts to love his monkey way too much. Within 45 minutes of this film, nothing horror related happens, and we just have to settle for a lot of build up, but the build up is great, as things have a tendency to go downhill after that period of time.

Here is a trailer for Monkey Shines:

There is not a lot of gore in this film. There are not a lot jump scenes, and the pacing seemed a little slow. It really turned into a science fiction, mad scientist story, rather than a straightforward slasher or zombie epic, that we are used to seeing from Romero. However, this one is the epitome of a slow burner, you have to really hang on, and try to keep your wits, or else you’ll miss out on the overall tone of this film. The movie is hard to watch at times, because there are a lot of emotional sequences, which really take some getting used to, considering that horror films have a tendency to hit you in the mouth at times.

The film takes a weird turn towards the fourth act, showing a sex scene with a disabled person. That was definitely awkward, and I don’t know if I enjoyed that very much, but I guess that’s a good thing, considering that disabled people can still use their genitalia. I’ll leave it at that.

The monkey starts to kill people off, that’s the crux of the film, and while there is a revenge plot towards the end, it’s too little too late for a lot of fans. However, just like a lot of other man vs. beast stories, the beast gets too smart and turns on man, and we are treated to a really creepy film, a really creepy and grotesque piece of film making.

Monkey Shines was based on a novel, which is out of print right now, but if you have a chance to score one, get it. The book might dive into a lot more medical detail and story than this film, and like Stephen King adaptations, is most likely lackluster by comparison. The movie is tense, but it’s a slow burning, very slow paced intense film. The horror elements come from your thoughts of “what if” rather than relying on scare tactics or gore, which I appreciate greatly from this film.

The final act of this film is the most tense and really provocative in a lot of ways. The film makers and trainers did a great job of juxtaposing real live Monkey's with fake ones, and it never looks out of place and doesn't look fake at all. I have seen a lot of "animal" movies, and there's always that moment of disbelief, but this film really tries hard to break that, and I am impressed with how well this movie ended up portraying trained animals. This movie's monkey is creepy, scary, and an amazing example of how good animal based villains can be. Too bad Hollywood didn't learn their lesson from this film.

If you haven’t seen Monkey Shines on dvd, you gotta check it out at least once. If you’re a fan of Romero, don’t expect his usual gore fest, but expect a very creepy, and I do mean it, creepy piece of film making. I haven’t seen such a creepy film with little gore, since I was deep into reading those darn Goosebumps books. Monkey Shines is a classic example of science fiction, with a touch of horror, but not in the traditional sense.

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