Monkey Shines (1988)

(aka Monkey Shines: An Experiment in Fear)

If there’s one thing we need to learn from this film, it is that jealous monkeys are bad news.

Looking at Monkey Shines, I find that it seems to have hit almost every horror movie trope of the Eighties.  We have our serial killer, our dream scenes, the character who experiences what the killer is doing, an unhealthy dose of genetic manipulation and, of course, that all time classic, telepathy.

Except, of course, that we’re talking about a telepathic serial killer who just happens to be a tiny little monkey.

This was George Romero’s first Studio film, an effort which ended with Orion insisting on their own cut of the film and George going back to the Independents for his next project.  It’s based on the novel by Michael Stewart, not that I have any idea how close it is to the original.  An incredibly athletic young law student, Allan, who seems to have everything, is paralyzed in an accident.  His wife runs off with his surgeon, and he is left in the care of the world’s most unsympathetic nurse.  But then his best friend, Geoffrey, a brilliant biochemist and speed freak, gives him a helper monkey which gives him new freedom.  Unfortunately, Geoffrey doesn’t mention that he’s been injecting it with human brain cells in an attempt to boost its intelligence…

I’ll confess, I enjoyed this one more than most reviewers have (although I really didn’t want to know that much about paraplegic sex).  The basic situation is unusual, and it does build to a nicely horrific ending.  It lacks something that George Romero gave to some of his other horror films, like The Crazies, but it still has enough thrills to satisfy the average horror fan.  It is interesting to note that its theme is somewhat similar to Forbidden Planet, as it is the primal nature of an animal that releases overwhelming feelings of anger, resentment and revenge in Allan when she is around — and which in turn leads to the terrible things that the monkey does.

I still wish we’d got George Romero’s cut of the film.

But you have to give a lot of credit to a movie that makes a tiny little monkey seem like a horrible, almost unstoppable threat.

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