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Oct 11, 2014

October 2014 Horror Movie a Day - Day 10: MONKEY SHINES (1988)


Warning: Plot insights that could be considered spoilers ahead.

Monkey see, monkey kill!

Monkey Shines is my second Horror a Day selection directed by George A. Romero.  This is not part of his Living Dead series so there is not a zombie to be found anywhere, just a guy in a wheelchair and a killer monkey.  That's right, a simian who has seen Planet of the Apes a few too many times and decided to start the revolution herself.

Hail Caesar!
When we first meet Allan (Jason Beghe), he's in just getting out of bed with his gorgeous girlfriend (Janine Turner) who conveniently has let the covers slip down to her knees so we get a full on view of her naked profile.  Allan doesn't like clothes much either as we see that this guy is ripped as he carries out strenuous exercises in the buff. This guy is all about physical fitness as he packs a backpack full of heavy bricks, then heads out on what is obviously a regular morning run. He's in the zone when a dog leaps out at him from a driveway which causes him to jump into the middle of the road just in time to get hit by an oncoming truck. Defying the laws of physics, he flies into the air in what appears to be a perfect spiral (almost like Rodney Dangerfield performing the 'Triple Lindy' in Back to School).  We get a shot of one of the bricks smashing on the pavement and I only could imagine a few of the others landing squarely on this guy - just to make the accident that much more tragic - and comical.

We only sleep like this when the cameras are on us. It's called the obligatory sex shot. Don't worry, there's another one later on.
He's operated on by a "superstar" doctor (Stanley Tucci) who cracks jokes in the operating room letting us know immediately that he will end up dead at some point.  To add insult to injury, Tucci even moves in on invalid Allan's girlfriend - what a slime!

I made fun of you on the operating table AND stole your hot girlfriend. There's nothing I can prescribe for that pain except maybe have the monkey kill me later.
Allan is paralyzed from the neck down and is doted upon by an way over-eager Mother (Joyce Van Patten) and a nurse from hell (Christine Forest).  The nurse is so bad you have to wonder how she stays in her job given that she acts as though everything is a burden and begs for God to help guide her through even the most mundane of tasks.
 
I'm really not this bad, I'm just rehearsing for my role as 'Nurse Ratched' in a community theater production of 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'
As mentioned above, Allan is into physical activity and we find out is also studying to be a lawyer. Unable to live with his new condition tries to kill himself. His buddy Geoffrey (John Pankow) comes to his aid with Ella, a monkey that has been trained to be a helper. Of course the nurse hates the monkey, but then again the nurse pretty much hates everything except her annoying little bird. Geoffrey has been experimenting and injecting Ella with human brain tissue in order to increase her intelligence. Giving her to Allan is probably not the best idea especially since he's lied to everyone about it claiming Ella is 'normal' - including the attractive monkey trainer (Kate McNeil) who also develops a thing for Allan. He also lies to his boss (Stephen Root) who is creepily hovering over Geoffrey demanding the results of his experiments, and holding on very tightly to his stapler.

I'm pretty sure when we hook up, the monkey is going to want me dead.
So the monkey helps Allan, the nurse gets more cranky and to top it off, Allan's uber-annoying mother gives up her life to move in and help him out (without asking, but then getting angry with Allan for making her life difficult).  While Allan and Ella bond, Allan becomes more and more angry and is suddenly prone to bursts of rage. It doesn't help that he discovers Tucci missed something during the operation and that the accident was not the reason he is paralyzed.  A second opinion has discovered a genetic default that kicked in so everyone just assumed it was the accident and now there is a far-off chance he could be cured (convenient, right!).

I dropped out of Barber school on the first day so this might hurt, a lot.
Allan and Geoffrey both notice that Ella is showing signs of superior intelligence.  When people (and that annoying bird) that Allan is angry with start dying, he suspects it's the monkey doing the killing and Geoffrey comes clean about the experiments.  Allan orders that Ella be taken away figuring out that his anger is linked to Ella's presence, and then naturally he immediately has sex with Melanie.  His Mother isn't too happy with this relationship or with Allan period. The monkey isn't happy with anyone and needless to say it isn't long until all simian hell breaks loose.

Get ready for lots of tongue.
This picture for the most part, is pretty silly. Right from the beautiful ballet move made by Allan during his accident, to the point where Allan and Ella start getting a psychic mental bond which is never really properly explained as later Geoffrey injects himself with the same serum he's been giving Ella to connect with her, yet Allan has never been given any of it. Allan even grows what appears to be monkey-like fangs. How? Tucci is an over-the-top ass but then is barely on screen long enough for it to matter. Oh and how about the idea that suddenly another doctor conveniently discovers that genetic default?  As you can assume, if Allan makes it through monkey hell there is a large chance he'll be getting out of that chair before the end credits roll. Yay, happy ending!

Hey if the monkey isn't scary enough, I could easy channel Norman Bates' mother!
The final act of this picture is when it finally gets interesting - to a point.  It becomes a sort of Misery-like scenario with the jealous monkey carrying out the deep subconscious, murderous desires of Allan then holding him hostage in the house (of course, the monkey did not go on to win an Academy Award for Best Actress like Kathy Bates did, but she does give it her all).  It's almost like a strange lover's quarrel that is part fascinating, part ridiculous.  Ever seen a full-grown adult do battle with a small-sized monkey? Or how about a monkey licking blood off of a guy's face. Yeah, it's as goofy looking as it sounds.

If they take my monkey, I'll set the building on fire...
The movie does have its merits, and there are moments of tension especially during the final stretch even if the scenario is completely ludicrous.  It wasn't the best movie I've ever seen, then again it wasn't the worst and I'm sure it has its admirers, enough to warrant a Scream Factory Blu-ray release on November 18.