Reviewed by: Dave Murray
F. Murray Abraham
What's it about
A group of young college students travel into an unexplored jungle, at the request of a psychotic and pushy professor (Abraham), to find a legendary missing link gorilla that could be smarter than man. But the gorillas are also blood thirsty, and as they lay wicked traps to kill the explorers left and right, the few young survivors face death from both fronts!
Is it good movie?
This wasn't a bad movie, but it wasn't a good one either. Sure, it's cheesy B-movie fluff, with the young actors being nothing more than fodder for some off screen kills. It's clear the writer and director were borrowing from the Alien model of creature movie. You don't see the titular killer apes until the last few minutes. Most of the time they are lurking in the shadows. And the DVD packaging actually contains the line "In the Jungle No One Can Hear You Scream"! Nice, I think. Veteran actor and Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham is his usual excellent self as the crazed professor, but like other venerable screen actors he's slumming it here. And the jungle locations, as well as some of the gore that is actually shown onscreen, are all quite good. However, there are some things that went wrong with this movie aside from the title (which had me in stitches for a few days...BLOOD MONKEY!!!! It sounds better with a silly, movie trailer voice accent, trust me!).
While most of the monkey business (I know that was a lame joke) happens off screen, the majority of the movie consists of the students being pushed around by the professor, and being bullied and abused by his little asian chick of a henchman (played with unconvincing and annoying menace by Prapimporn Karnchanda). I mean seriously, you have six young people who are all in decent shape, and they can't overpower one old man and a tiny scowling asian girl with one gun? In any other movie, they would have overpowered them and kicked their asses (if a soccor team can defeat terrorists in Born 2 Fight, then why not?). Also, like other movies of this level, we have the obligatory character with a video camera. While this does provide some cool nightvision scenes, I'm getting sick of the whole cliche. The two leads (Matt Reeves and Laura Aikman) are competent and likeable, and I like how even they run afoul of the monkeys in the end.
Now, while most of the effects were well done, and some of the gore was sweet, the actual apes are kind of weak. What we mostly get to see are glowing CG eyes in the shadows. But at the end, we are treated to a couple of seconds of them as our heroes meet their fate. I can applaud the effort that the filmmakers put into that shot, but the CG apes are not very well done and more than a little cheesy. The ending would have worked much better without seeing the apes. They would have remained a mysterious threat, instead of becomming half rendered animated caractures. And this may be a small gripe, but the DVD description seems to be a little confused about their primates. The title is Blood Monkey right? And yet, the DVD cover refers to them also as apes and chimps? Make up your mind already!
The flick looks great, and the jungle locations are lush and colourful. The look of the film is a little above the usual digital video crap being pushed out these days. The script is pretty good, and the acting is for the most part adequate. I enjoyed the interplay between the different types of students (the jock anthropologist, the geeky botanist, the hot yet quiet primatologist), but they were a bit stereotypical. Also, why is it always the anthropologist who's the biggest sexist asshole and the first to get eaten in these movies? Call it a little pet peeve. All of the problems aside, this is a pretty decent movie that manages to rise a little above it's B-movie origins and become slightly more entertaining than other movies of it's ilk. But not by much.
Video / Audio
Video: Fullscreen - 1.33:1.
Audio: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround).
Despite it's flaws, Blood Monkey is a competent and even entertaining movie. While the CG apes at the end are a little weak, the whole movies has this killer survival vibe that, while not on a par with movies like The Descent or Predator, still manages to pull off some tense moments, and some "hell yeah" scenes where annoting characters get peeled like bananas. If you like B-grade monster movies, where nature goes freaking apeshit all over some dumb teens, this is one for you. It is enjoyable, just don't expect to be watching a classic. This is barely better than most movies like this get, the usual for SciFi Channel creature movies, so as long as you aren't looking for too much from it, it can be a fun time. My recommendation....friends and alcohol, and it'll be a hilarious ride! For anyone bored with this type of by the numbers flick, it's just more of the same TV movie/STV fare.