Halloween Scene: Monkey Shines (1988)

I really didn’t know what to think when I started watching Monkey Shines last night. I had added it to the top of my Netflix Instant queue, but it got bumped back a few places. I don’t know about you but sometimes anything past the first five slots on there become white noise. Like a piece of luggage you haven’t put away since that summer trip, it just becomes part of the virtual room instead of something on your to do list. Anyway, I made a concerted effort to check out some of that luggage and came to this flick. I remember seeing the cover of the VHS as a kid and it freaked me out. How could it not? In fact, when I read Stephen King’s short story “The Monkey” last year, this is the image I couldn’t get out of my head.

I didn’t even know that George Romero directed it! After reading the description about a quadriplegic with a helper monkey I figured this wouldn’t be that scary of a movie and that it might make for some good background noise while I got some posts ready for the blog this week. It turned out to be surprisingly engrossing and holds a very distinct spot in my recent movie watching career: I actually turned it off at the end. Not because it was bad, but because I didn’t want to watch what was happening.

See, the movie is quite tricky. Even though the premise sounds like it might be silly, it does a great job of making you feel for all the people you’re supposed to. You feel for Allan, the man who used to run a lot and now can’t move anything except his head because not only can’t he do the most simple of tasks, but he has essentially become a prisoner to people like his mean/crazy nurse and later his mother. You’re automatically on his side. Then, you bring in the monkey who goes by Ella. Not only does she do a great job of helping Allan, but she’s also a victim because his friend Geoffrey is secretly experimenting on her because he doesn’t have access to monkeys anymore (or something). Allan and Ella become pretty tight, so tight that it seems like Ella starts wreaking vengeance on Allan’s enemies. The problem I had with the movie, even though the turn was pretty obvious, is that it wound up pitting Allan and Ella against each other for a pretty intense scene. Man vs. monkey doesn’t sound all that scary on people but when it’s a man who can’t move and a monkey enhanced by whatever Geoffrey had been injecting him with who ALSO has a blade on him, it turns out pretty intense. I guess I’m getting too soft because I had to turn it off when SPOILER Allan bit down on Ella to, presumably kill her. Netflix told me there was only 5% of the movie left, but I was spent by then and removed it from my queue. Anyone remember what happens after that?

Overall, I was impressed with what Romero did. I think this only the second non-zombie movie of his I’ve seen. I saw the original The Crazies a while back but remember almost nothing about it. There’s masks or something? Didn’t really stick with me. I think Monkey Shines with it’s ridiculous poster and trailer and surprisingly intense ending will definitely stick with me though. That poor monkey…

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