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Monkey Shines (1988)

DVD Cover (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
Genres / Traits:
Horror, Natural Horror, Primates
Director:
George A. Romero George A. Romero
Starring:
Jason Beghe Jason Beghe
John Pankow John Pankow
Kate McNeil Kate McNeil
Joyce Van Patten Joyce Van Patten
Christine Forrest Christine Forrest

6.5 / 10 - Overall Rating

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A quadriplegic man is given a trained monkey help him with every day activities, until the little monkey begins to develop feelings, and rage, against its new master and those who get too close to him. --TMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: March 02, 2005
Allan Mann (Jason Beghe) lives the good, albeit normal, life. He lives with his beautiful (in an eighties way) wife Linda Aikman (Janine Turner), he attends law school, and he's quite the impressive athlete. One morning, as he's out for his morning run, a german shepherd jumps out from behind a fence, causing Allan to jump out into the road... where he's mowed down by an oncoming semi. As he regains consciousness, he's in a hospital, having undergone surgery on his spinal cord by one Dr. John Wiseman (Stanley Tucci). He'll live, but the rest of his life will be that of a quadriplegic. He is finally able to leave home, and returns to his house to find a surprise party thrown by his overbearing mother Dorothy (Joyce Van Patten) awaiting him. He also meets his new nurse at this party, the incredibly bitchy Maryanne Hodges (Christine Forrest). Shortly after the party, Allan finds out that his wife is leaving him... for the doctor that operated on him. A bit of time passes, and the thought of living out the rest of his life paralyzed from the neck down and alone save for the nagging live-in nurse causes him to become suicidal. A failed attempt at suicide is carried out, and Allan winds up back in the hospital. Meanwhile, Allan's scientist buddy Geoffrey Fisher (John Pankow) is hitting a dead-end with his experiments in genetically enhancing monkeys. He figures that maybe if the monkey has a bit more social interaction, the experiment will achieve better results. With that in mind, he takes the monkey to Melanie Parker (Kate McNeil), another scientist who specializes in training monkeys to help out the handicapped. Melanie trains the monkey to to be a, well, good little monkey, and the two scientists present the monkey to Allan. Allan enjoys having the monkey around, and especially enjoys the help that he is... however, when the monkey starts to carry out Allan's vengeful thoughts for him, he starts to believe that something is quite wrong with this primate...

I was a bit conflicted on whether or not to give this movie a rental. After all, the plot outline sounds like an incredible recipe for disaster... but on the other hand, this is a George Romero film, and his track record in the world of cinema is beyond excellent. Since you're reading this review, I think it's safe to say that the decision I went with is blatantly obvious, and that was indeed a good decision on my part. While that storyline does sound to be just a bit lame, it turns out to be quite the excellent little film, with a solid storyline that keeps the movie moving along nicely for the nearly two-hour running time. As the movie unravels, the explanation behind the monkey's behavior comes out, something that turns out to be quite the doozy of a storyline twist. Some may find these twists to be a bit hard to swallow, and while they're admittedly far-fetched, they play out marvelously and keep things entertaining right up until those end credits start to roll.

Romero does an excellent job at building the atmosphere with this one, which seems to be just one of the many things that he's great with. The sense of being paralyzed and helpless is built upon with astonishing results, which really set the mood for the film in each of the scenes. I've seen more than enough films where the lead character was paralyzed, but none were nearly as convincing as this one was. Finally, we have the monkey itself. There's no CGI junk to be found here, as it was an actual monkey used, with the exception of two or three scenes where a convincing animatronic setup was used. The time that someone must have spent training this monkey had to have been up there, as the monkey does a better job in the acting department than a fair share of humans that I've had the displeasure of watching in various films. From scene to scene, whether the monkey was supposed to be happy, loving, mean, pissed off, whatever... each mood that it goes through was excellently done and very convincing. You could say that this was a result of clever editing, but there's quite a few scenes where a single shot is used with no cuts that the monkey does just as well in. This was definitely one impressive primate.

Over on the human side of things, we have a pretty good cast for the most part. Jason Beghe (Allan) is great in the lead role, contributing nicely to the sense of helplessness that the movie builds upon as it moves along. While a good director can set this mood into motion, it takes an actor with talent to pull it off and make it believable, and that's something that Beghe did here. Kate McNeil (Melanie), his love-interest for end half of the movie, falls onto the other side of the fence, sadly. While she wasn't flat-our horrid by any means, she just seemed to be too plain and unconvincing in the role. In another role, I'm sure the lady would have done fine, but here... well, someone else could have made the film better, I think. Christine Forrest (nurse Maryanne) is one of the better characters in the movie, and the actress plays the character with conviction. I'm not totally positive on whether or not the character was supposed to be comedic relief or not; on the one hand, everything she says is straight-forward and serious, but on the other hand, a good deal of it comes off as being hilarious for some reason. Just try and not laugh when, with tears rolling down her face and hate in her voice, she screams out at Allan that "you killed my Bogey!"

Overall, this would definitely be a recommended film for you horror-loving movie fans. Don't let the kinda-lame sounding plot scare you away, as it turns out to be quite the excellent film. 8/10.
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bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added 07/11/2008, 10:48 AM
Saw this last night for the first time in years and enjoyed the hell out of it. Nice campy Romero film. It was nice to see a younger Stanley Tucci and Stephen Root, who always looks the same age. The lead performance was so campy and over the top. Nice little 80's horror film. I concur...8/10.
Shakes #2: Shakes - added 01/22/2009, 12:04 PM
When I was a kid i saw this and couldn't stand it. Here ten years later I saw it again, and it is quite a masterpiece. very original. 8/10 as well
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