Monkey Shines (1988)
Director: George Romero
Stanley Tucci/Dr. Wiseman
Good looking, hairy dude Jason (Mann) has got it all. He’s a healthy man with a hot bod girlfriend. But one morning on his jogging run a car hits him and changes his life forever. He becomes fully paralyzed, he’s slapped in a wheelchair, his girl (Turner) leaves him for his doctor (Tucci) and a bitchy nurse moves in with him. His bud Geoffrey (Pankow), who’s doing research on monkeys to make em smarter stops over and decides to donate his smartest test subject, Ella (also trained to help paralyzed folks) to help Jason out a bit (and to advance his research). An intense bond grows between the monkey and Jason. But when Jason’s temper begins to flare up for no reason, people he wishes dead turn up dead and dreams of running outside, seeing through Ella’s eyes invade his mind, he knows something ain't right. There’s some monkey business going on here…
Fatal Attraction with a monkey. Sounds silly but goddarn it, it really works. The movie takes lots of time to setup the characters, the situation and I appreciate that (others might think it takes to long to get cranking). The movie is split in the middle when it comes to character development. We have the layered parts: Jason, Geoffrey, Melanie and the monkey Ella. And the overly one dimensional parts: Dr Wiseman, Linda, the bitch nurse and the way annoying mom (who has victim written on her forehead). Funny how most of the one dimensional parts are the ones that wind up dead…mmm. Could of worked on those secondary characters a bit more.
The tie between Jason and Ella is similar to my last relationship. At first they are in love, then the monkey kills people, Jason breaks up with the monkey, the monkey doesn’t appreciate the break and comes back for revenge. I applaud Romero for making this implausible sounding plot extremely gullible on screen. Slap in some tasty elements like: a mental link between Jason and Ella, some cute monkey antics, the whole drama about being handicapped and a fun tense showdown…what do you get? A GOOD MOVIE. Lets give this one a treat…
The effects were handled by Tom Savini. The gore level is low to say the least but try to differentiate between the real monkey and the puppet monkeys…very impressive.
Allan Mann (Jason) gives a multi layered performance. He rocks the house and conveys all the emotions his character goes through to a T. Pretty good for a dude who was a model. (when hairy chests were in style). John Pankow (Geoffrey) gives a likeable show as the slimy but well meaning scientist. Kate McNeil (Melanie) is just a sweety, you can’t help but like her. Stanley Tucci (Wiseman) acts like a jerk and shows us his pumped up chest. Janine Turner (Linda) is in the film long enough to show her butt and Ella the monkey gives Anthony Hopkins a run for his money.
T & A
Kate McNeil’s loving breasts and Janie Turner’s evil ass.
Romero lite. Since the movie is almost a straight forward drama until the monkey goes bananas, Romero keeps the style on low vibe. But we do get the occasional red filters, kool monkey POV shots and some well directed, tension filled monkey attacks.
The score does a great job at supporting the different moods of the film.
This movie’s emphasis is on drama and suspense…not horror. But it’s still a good movie.
Apart from the incredibly thin secondary/victims characters, a slow start and a dream sequence where a monkey pops out of someone's chest (I smell studio insert) this flick is pretty solid. When this movie was released, it had a really bad marketing campaign. The cover was a rip-off of Stephen King’s "Skeleton Crew" cover (evil monkey holding cymbals). It was advertised like a monster movie and went to the theatres unnoticed. Well this is your chance to discover it. Want to see Romero do something different?
Want to view a good suspense? Want to see a monkey threaten people with a needle? Two words: Monkey Shines.
There’s two scenes that didn’t make the final cut: A very graphic brain surgery scene done on a girl. And a dream sequence where Jason dreams of the same surgery done on him.