Monkey Shines (1988)

Rating: N/A

Dir: George A. Romero
Star: Jason Beghe, John Pankow, Kate McNeil, Joyce Van Patten

[2] You may have heard about the program in America where paraplegics are given trained monkeys to help them with everyday tasks like fetching things, dialling phones, etc. This film uses that idea as it’s central premise, beginning when Allan Mann (Beghe) is hit by a truck and paralysed from the neck down. His best friend Geoff (Pankow) gives him a monkey, Ella, without telling him that she has been experimented on by Geoff, trying to develop her intelligence. Things go well for a while, while the man/monkey pair becoming closer and closer, until Allan realises that when he has nasty thoughts about people, they tend to die ‘accidentally’ shortly afterwards. Could Ella be to blame?

The plot sounds silly and the climax is even sillier, with Geoff and Allan chasing round the house after the syringe-wielding Ella. However, I have to say that it does work despite this. Romero proves that he doesn’t need Savini’s splattery effects to produce an interesting film – even if parts of it do drag a little, there is a continual gradual build-up of tension that makes the whole thing seem very plausible. Pankow turns in a sterling performance as the half-mad Geoff, who shoots up with drugs to avoid going to sleep and is a much more interesting character than Beghe, who is tall (Boring!), athletic (yawn!) and blond (Zzzzz…). This film provided the highlight of the festival for me – there is one moment of sheer shock in it which, cliched though it undoubtedly is, managed to make every single person I could see jump. You have been warned!