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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Monkey Shines: An Experiment In Fear (1988)



Reviews and Comments

Monkey Shines is a minor, moderately entertaining horror effort. It follows a familiar formula: a horrible incident is followed by an unconventional and rarely seen treatment method -- and then things go horribly wrong. In this case, a man gets in a car accident and is paralyzed from the neck down. To help him out around the house, he is given a trained monkey, who is smart enough to do a number of household tasks. The only problem is, the monkey was donated by a friend who is using him for paranormal scientific research. If this sounds a little loony, your perceptions are correct. I think it's supposed to be, which makes it all the more admirable when the movie builds up suspense toward the end.

But it's a miss. The movie continually resorts to horror cliches and manipulative tactics to propel the audience along its preconceived emotional roller coaster. The thing is, it doesn't need to. The raw materials for an honest character-driven horror story are all here. The central character is interesting; his road to recovery is compelling in and of itself. His mad scientist friend's conflicting goals would have also made a compelling story element. It doesn't quite gel here, as his thought processes are never quite evident enough, but it could have had the character gotten the attention it deserved. Instead, a disposal girlfriend is thrown in as well as the stereotypically over-protective mother. As far as I can tell, the girlfriend is thrown in purely as a suspense device for the end; the mother is thrown in just because the standard horror formulas require a bystanding "mean" character. And that isn't even the end of it. There's more that Monkey Shines throws in, and they all distract from what's interesting about the movie. The sheer lunacy inherent in the plot therefore becomes all the more conspicuous amidst the conventional cliches; the conflict sinks the film.