George A. Romero (director)
08 October 2018 (released)
23 October 2018
This clever horror-thriller is really not your usual fare, which is why MONKEY SHINES must rank as one of George A. Romero’s most original works… and not a single zombie in sight!
When athlete Allan Mann (Jason Beghe) is struck by an oncoming truck while cycling on the road, his injuries leave him quadriplegic. This is truly devastating news not only for him but also for his girlfriend Linda (Janine Turner) and his domineering mother Dorothy (Joyce Van Patten) who has the nerve to hold a party in honour of John Wiseman (Stanley Tucci), the ‘brilliant’ surgeon who saved Allan’s life. Little does she – and indeed Allan – know that Wiseman is having it off with Linda and that it’s thanks to his incompetence during the operation, deliberate or not, Allan ended up a quadriplegic. No wonder the poor man soon turns bitter and suicidal but help waits around the corner when Geoffrey Fisher (John Pankow), a scientist researcher and good friend of Allan’s, suggests something that might help his increasingly despairing friend: Geoffrey is currently experimenting with injecting human brain tissue into Capuchin monkeys to turn them into ‘helper monkeys’. Before he knows it Allan has a new helper in ‘Ella’ (Boo) - a specially trained and, as it turns out, dedicated monkey who is more than just company and all-round help. Indeed, the initial bond between Allan and Ella is so strong that the monkey appears to be an extension of Allan, sharing everything from music to taking meals together. Soon though, Ella becomes a telepathic channel for Allan’s frustration and anger which he feels towards certain people, first resulting in the killing of a pet budgie belonging to Allan’s uncaring live-in nurse, before Ella begins to run amok in earnest and sets a hut on fire in which Linda and her now beau, surgeon John Wiseman, share a night of passion – killing both of them in the process. Next up is Allan’s mother who finds her end in the bathtub when Ella throws a plugged-in hairdryer in the water.
Ella and Allan’s mind is now completely out of control though a new female carer and specialist in helper monkeys, Melanie Parker (Kate McNeil), seems to have a soothing effect on Allan, even awaking romantic feelings in him. But Ella, who displays a possessive and jealous behaviour pattern, is anything but happy about another ‘female’ in the Mann household. Can Geoffrey reverse the damage he created with injecting Ella or is it too late? The ending will upset monkey lovers even though obviously an animated dummy was used for that particularly disturbing scene.
MONKEY SHINES is not only a tense thriller but throws some serious questions about highly unorthodox animal experiments at the viewer, as demonstrated in the ‘Alternative ending’ sequence. Jason Beghe is perfect casting as the tormented quadriplegic while John Pankow gets his deserved comeuppance for using monkeys as lab rats. That said, the real star of the movie is ‘Ella’ the Capuchin monkey.