Directed by George A. Romero
Starring Jason Beghe, John Pankow, Kate McNeil and Boo the monkey
After getting hit by a car, a quadriplegic man gets a helper monkey from his scientist friend who is actually performing tests on it to make it smarter. The monkey develops feelings for its master and becomes way overprotective, lashing out with jealousy and anger at anyone who gets too close to him.
After the accident, Allan becomes depressed at not being able to use his extremities anymore, his nurse is a bitch, his mother starts sticking around more often and his girlfriend is banging his doctor on the side. Things are looking pretty bad and after his friend Geoffrey walks in on an attempted suicide, he decides that maybe Allan should get a helper monkey.
Geoffrey has ulterior motives however. He works in a lab that is working on a serum to make monkeys smarter. His boss (Stephen Root) is threatening to pull his funding and fire him if he doesn’t produce results so he decides to get the monkey away from the other test subjects and get closer to humans to learn faster. After a quick training session, Ella is ready to help Allan around the house.
Allan grows to like the monkey and is impressed at how much she can do. He still falls into another depression but he becomes very angry at everything and Ella starts acting out towards those he projects his anger on. While initially he enjoys these coincidental bouts of revenge, Allan starts to believe he and Ella have a bond and he can see what she does. He wants to break up with Ella but she won’t take no for an answer.
The majority of the film is a total drama, a recently handicapped man who resents everyone around him and lashes out in extreme anger. What’s left of his good nature he puts into Ella who starts to reciprocate his feelings only to a higher degree. She starts attacking those who she believed wronged Allan based on his rage towards those same people. It’s an interesting story, though not necessarily a scary one. It’s not until near the end, of course, that anything remotely scary happens but that’s only if you consider a tiny monkey to be scary.
George A. Romero decided to take a break from zombies for a while and this was his first movie after Day of the Dead. Most of the movie is standard directing but he includes some terrific point-of-view shots when Ella is on the loose and towards the end he tries to wring as much suspense as he can once Ella goes full nut-job but there’s not a lot to be frightened of.
Acting-wise, everyone does a fine job. Jason Beghe, stuck in a wheelchair all movie, does a pretty good job of projecting vulnerability and anger as I would imagine anyone in his situation would feel. Geoffrey Fisher as Allan’s scientist friend is a well meaning character who initially can’t believe what Allan tells him until it’s too late. Even Boo the Monkey is a cute little character who’s misguided love lands her in a lot of trouble. Dramatic horror movies bring a different sense of tone that doesn’t always jive with the normal horror fan. For a film of this type, it relies on solid acting performances and we get just that.
It’s certainly no fright fest, but Monkey Shines delivers a good story with solid acting from everyone, monkey included, to enjoy from beginning to end.
Story: 8 – Lovesick monkey takes revenge for its quadriplegic master. It’s different for sure.
Blood: 2 – An electrocution, a couple of light stabbings, and an interesting surprise that I won’t say anything about. You won’t see it coming.
Nudity: 2 – Side boob and a couple of butt shots.
Overall: 7 – It’s all about the script and performances, the movie delivers that very well.
-This was Romero’s first studio film, all his movies previous to this were created independently.
-The film contains a rare scene involving quadriplegic sex. Kinda hot. Kinda weird.
-Ella was portrayed by a male Capuchin monkey. Ella urinates on Allan as a sign of mating but that’s what the male monkey does. So….gay monkey?