Monkey Shines (1988)


A paraplegic former athlete is given a pet monkey named ‘Ella’ to help out with everyday tasks. Things start to go a bit pear-shaped when he realises that ‘Ella’ has homicidal tendencies and that she is willing to do anything her master desires…..


A bit of a cult favourite this one, from the director of the living dead trilogy, George A Romero. The film received mixed reviews on release.

Another great tagline too:

“Once there was a man whose prison was a chair. The man had a monkey, they made the strangest pair. The monkey ruled the man, it climbed inside his head. And now as fate would have it, one of them is dead.”

Put simply, Monkey Shines is well-directed with a rather unique plot and some solid characters. That said, it starts off quite slowly and I don’t think Romero got the pacing quite right with this movie  (that said, I think Orion pictures messed about with the final cut of the film before release). Nevertheless, I really enjoyed this film which I re-visited just tonight. Here’s why:

  • the monkey is awesome and fully develops her own character in the movie. watching the interaction between the monkey and the other characters is fascinating.
  • each character is actually rather deep, exhibiting both positive and negative qualities – there are no cardboard-cut-out cast members here. Special mention should go to Jason Beghe’s performance as the paraplegic and also to his neurotic mother, played by Joyce Van Patten.
  • the editing is very off-the-wall but in latter stages effectively builds the tension to fever-pitch levels during the final 20 minutes or so.
Of course, there are some negatives too. I have already mentioned the slow start to proceedings. Other drawbacks include a rather absent soundtrack – I think the film could have benefited from a slow pounding score – and a pretty low body count, such that splatter fans probably won’t be best-pleased. But then again, this isn’t a movie aimed at that type of audience. Monkey Shines is basically a psychological thriller with some supernatural elements – so look elsewhere if you want a gore-fest along the lines of Romero’s living dead trilogy.
The bottom line is that this is a welcome addition to anyone’s collection. It won’t knock you for six, but it’s a well-crafted horror movie which manages to be both tense and strangely novel at the same time.
hotdog rating: 7.5/10

About hotdogcinema

film fan

Posted on August 21, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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