Turn Back The Clock

Monkey Shines

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Distributed by: MGM

Reviewed by Ismael Manzano



     In keeping with g-pop’s tradition of reviewing old movies you might not have heard about or have forgotten about, I decided to dig up an old classic that scared the hell out of me when I was a kid.  Although, it didn’t do the same thing to me this time around, but that’s because I’m a battle-hardened horror movie watcher now.  That doesn’t mean the movie did not have some genuine thrills and chills.

     Monkey Shines, follows Allan Mann (Jason Beghe), a man whose recent accident left him a quadriplegic.  His life has deteriorated into one long, frustrated day after another.  His nagging mother has moved in to care for him, his nurse is an uncaring dictator with a crazed parrot, and his attempt at suicide has failed.  At the end of his rope, Allan almost gives up on life altogether, until a friend, Geoffrey (John Pankow) offers him assistance in the form of a trained monkey.  The monkey helps him to answer the phone, feed him, and overall, just be good company for him.

     What Allan does not know is that Geoffrey’s offer was not entirely altruistic.  The monkey Ella (Boo) was part of a research experiment designed to see if injecting human brain cells in a monkey would make is smarter.  Geoffrey’s funding is about to be cut and he wants to be able to keep Ella safe and continue his research without his supervisors knowing about it.  And what nobody knows is that the experiments have worked, giving Ella telepathic abilities that allow her to feel Allan’s emotions, anticipate his needs, and carry out his darker desires. 

     When Allan becomes enraged, Ella acts out his anger, hurting or killing the object of his rage.  But as time goes on, Allan discovers this and wants Ella gone.  But Ella is too smart now and she will not go without a fight.  Man and monkey come to a head in a gripping confrontation.

      However silly the premise might seem, Monkey Shines delivered a fair share of scares and had me wondering more than once how many lives will be lost so that Ella can have Allan and who would win in the end.  It’s a good solid, horror movie from back in the day when they knew that horror movies did not have to have a big budget or flashy effects.  The suspense of this movie came not from the crazed movie, but from the helplessness of the man in the chair, the fact that everything that happened around him was beyond his circle of reach even if it was happening a foot away from him.  So check out this old classic; it might scare you more than you think it will. 

     And now a disclaimer.  If you watch the movie with anyone who’s constantly commenting on how cute the monkey is and how it’s not really evil, just fussy, you might want to cover their eyes and ears during the last part of the movie.  If you’re smart you’ll know which part exactly.  And have a ready-made alternative story available when the questions start coming about what happened; I would suggest either that the monkey found a hot male monkey and ran off, paw in paw, to make little baby monkeys or that Allan tells Ella that he doesn’t want her around anymore and the monkey begrudgingly agrees, packs all of her monkey clothes in a little handkerchief, puts that on a pole and walks away to the theme song of the old Incredible Hulk television show.

      So I leave you today with an excerpt from the movie’s trailer that has stuck with me all these years:  There once was a man, whose prison was a chair.  The man had a monkey, they made the strangest pair.  The monkey ruled the man, and climbed inside his head.  And now as fate would have it, one of them is dead…

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