[Hanksgiving] Big (1988)

Director: Penny Marshall

Cast: Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia, John Heard

Screenplay: Gary Ross, Anne Spielberg

104 mins. Rated PG.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Tom Hanks)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

 

Happy Hanksgiving to all, and a glorious Hanksgiving especially to you. What’s Hanksgiving you ask? Well, it’s the tradition of celebrating America’s favorite actor and performer on the last Thursday of November. That’s right, Tom Hanks (Cast Away, Toy Story 4) No one else was using the day, so why not right? This Hanksgiving, let’s talk Big. It’s weird, so let’s jump right in.

Josh is a young man in desperate need of a confidence boost. He likes a girl, and he’s working up the strength to go talk to her, but he finds that he’s just not big enough to make an impression. So when he comes across an old carnival fortune teller machine called Zoltar, he wishes he were big…and the wish comes true. Josh wakes up the next morning with a thirty-year old body, having magically grown bigger overnight. His mother doesn’t recognize or believe him, and the only person he can go to is buddy Billy, who helps set him up with a job working for the MacMillan Toy Company and living in low cost lodging in New York City until they can figure out how to make him normal again. Soon enough, Josh’s childlike knowledge of toys rockets him up the MacMillan Toy Company ladder, attracting the eyes of the beautiful but joyless Susan (Elizabeth Perkins, Sharp Objects, Ghostbusters: Answer the Call) and angering the competitive and cruel Paul (John Heard, The Guardian, Home Alone), but is Josh ever going to get things back to normal, and if he can’t, how long can he keep the charade up?

We’ll start with the big things here. Tom Hanks plays adult Josh, and damn, he is phenomenal as a child living in a grown man’s body. He just gets it so perfectly, and Big is a tremendous showcase for Hanks’s comedic stylings. We all know Hanks now for his serious roles but we forget that he started as a comic actor in things like Bosom Buddies and Bachelor Party. We forget that Tom Hanks can literally do anything. For this film, I’ve read that scenes were performed by David Moscow, who plays younger Josh, first, and them mimicked by Hanks. It’s a brilliant idea that adds layers to a performance and it’s pretty damn easy to pull off.

The supporting cast is fine, from Perkins to Heard, and I should give special recognition to Robert Loggia (Independence Day, Scarface) as Mr. MacMillan, the head of the toy company that employs Josh. The way he connects with Josh on a personal level and sees him like a son is something truly special. We always look at Robert Loggia as a cranky old serious actor but he’s got some nice comedic timing, and it’s on display here.

Now, let’s cover the most batshit element of this movie: the script. Written by Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg, Big’s screenplay is very good but it’s the kind of screenplay that I’m flat-out surprised that it ever got made. I know there were several filmmakers attached to this film over time until Penny Marshall (Awakenings, A League of Their Own) came onboard, and there were several actors poised to play Josh, but the fact that this movie happened is a shock all its own. There’s some very controversial stuff happening in this movie, particularly with the conflict/connection between adult Josh and Susan. I like the risks that the film takes in pursuing the true character choices that would be made, but these are script choices that would never happen today. Who would’ve thought that a movie like Big could actually made some risqué choices?

Big is a fabulous movie that maybe runs a little long near the end of its third act, but it’s fascinatingly put together with a star-making performance from Tom Hanks as he continued to dominate the field as a performer. It’s a not-always-comfortable but very funny look at the absurd situation seen through the guise of relatable and likable characters. This is one that I was very happy to revisit, and I would recommend the same for you. Happy Hanksgiving, and Thanks T. Hanks.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 2 – Return of the Killer Tomatoes! (1988)

Director: John DeBello

Cast: Anthony Starke, George Clooney, Karen Mistal, Steve Lundquist, John Astin, Michael Villani

Screenplay: Stephen F. Andrich, John DeBello, Costa Dillon, J. Stephen Peace

98 mins. Rated PG.

 

The Killer Tomatoes series is almost a fantasy. Most people have at least heard of the films, but there are a select few that have actively sought them out to see that they are, in fact, real. Not only that, there was even a Saturday morning cartoon series that this writer has been searching out…glutton for punishment and all that, but these films are cultural landmarks in a lot of ways. Okay, not a lot of ways. A few ways. For example, the second film contains something major that people don’t really talk about it. I’m referring to the greatest post-credits scene in history. Oh yeah, and George Clooney (Michael Clayton, Hail, Caesar!) too.

It’s been ten years since the Great Tomato War, and tomatoes have been outlawed across the land, making pizza and pasta very strangely altered. Chad Finletter (Anthony Starke, License to Kill, TV’s Hand of God) is a delivery boy working out of his uncle’s tomato-less pizzeria, and he’s infatuated with the beautiful woman who lives with the odd and potentially villainous Professor Gangreen (John Astin, The Frighteners, What the Bleep!?: Down the Rabbit Hole), and through this mutual attraction Chad comes upon a horrifying-ish truth: Professor Gangreen, who may have been responsible for the Great Tomato War ten years ago, has a new device capable of using music to transform regular tomatoes into human henchmen and henchwomen, and it’s up to Chad and his roommate Matt (Clooney) to stop him before it’s too late!

This sequel shares some commonalities with its predecessor. Mainly, they are both shoestring-budget cheap. Secondly, they are both terribly stupid. Third, they know that, and they use it to their advantage. All that being said, I actually prefer the second film, which I felt nailed the comedy and satire much better, but Return of the Killer Tomatoes tries really hard to do something unique with the narrative, something I can commend them on, but the whole story of turning tomatoes into humans for world domination just didn’t do it for me. I much preferred the simplicity of sentient killer tomatoes from the first film.

There’s a lot of comedy to this sequel, and it mostly works, although a lot of it had been borrowed from better spoofs like Airplane! and used to better effect in films like the Wayne’s World movies, but that’s not to completely punish it. I think Starke and Clooney play off each other quite well. I’ll always know Starke from his episode of the hit series Seinfeld, in which he played the third-person speaking Jimmy, and his deadpan serious attempt to play up Chad is pretty funny. People tend to forget that Clooney has some comedic chops because he doesn’t use them often, but he’s pretty funny as Matt.

The strongest and strangest performance of the film has to go to Astin, who perfectly captures the cheese required to play a character named Professor Gangreen. He isn’t given much to do, but when he’s onscreen, he’s a lot of fun. His exchanges with his assistant Igor (Steve Lundquist, Earth Girls Are Easy, The Sleeping Car) are hilariously goofy.

Return of the Killer Tomatoes is not as strongly and consistently stupid-funny as I would have liked, and some of you may not appreciate the film’s humor at all, but I found something likably dumb about the 80s-sequel. As I said, this film fits its time frame much like the first film captured the 70s, and there’s a lot of silliness to take in, but not all of it works. It’s dumb. It’s goofy. But it’s still somehow enjoyable enough.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of John DeBello’s Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, click here.

[Friday the 13th] Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)

Director: John Carl Buechler

Cast: Lar Park Lincoln, Terry Kiser, Kevin Blair, Kane Hodder

Screenplay: Daryl Haney, Manuel Fidello

88 mins. Rated R.

 

You’d think people would just start avoiding Camp Crystal Lake on Friday the 13th by this point. I mean, it doesn’t happen that often, right?

Tina Shepherd (Lar Park Lincoln, From the Dark, TV’s Knot’s Landing) has bad memories of her lake home, which is located near Camp Crystal Lake. When she was younger, her father drowned in the lake, and Tina blames herself. Tina was born with mental gifts, and she’s returned to the lake home with her mother and Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser, Weekend at Bernie’s, The Kingsbury Run) in order to come to terms with her abilities and her guilt, and while there, she inadvertently awakens a sleeping Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder, Daredevil, An Accidental Zombie (Named Ted)), who is waiting at the bottom of the lake for his chance to return. Now, Jason is back and unleashed upon a group of youths that have congregated in a nearby cabin for their mutual friend’s birthday, and Tina may be the only one who can stop the hockey-masked killer.

Somewhere out there is an old VHS cassette tape that contains the unrated cut of The New Blood, but it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a version of this film from before the MPAA and the studio tore it to pieces, which is too bad because there’s a lot to love about this installment of the franchise. John Carl Buechler (Saurian, The Eden Formula) was an inspired choice as a director as he understood both how to use effects and how to create tension and shocking horror in his films. The idea of finding someone more on equal ground with Jason works pretty well, and though there’s been some calls for the silliness of a Carrie White-style character, I would argue that you’ve seen Jason drown as a child, almost decapitated, and rise from the dead due to a lightning bolt; if this is what loses you, that’s pretty strange.

Lar Park Lincoln doesn’t do so well as Tina, as she just kind of spazzes a lot and shakes. There’s not a lot of depth to the character, and the screenplay from Daryl Haney and Manuel Fidello doesn’t give her a lot to do outside of reacting. If anything, the most interesting character is Dr. Crews, played menacingly by Terry Kiser. Crews is a scumbag to end all scumbags, the prime example of a character you want to see mercilessly ripped to pieces by Voorhees.

Speaking of Jason Voorhees, this installment is the first appearance by the man who became synonymous with the machete-wielding psycho, Kane Hodder. Hodder would go on to play Jason three more times before he was unceremoniously tossed aside for being too big to play Jason Voorhees. Hodder’s Jason is the first time I remember feeling like Voorhees was an actual person at one point, and that he’s an actual character. He’s a presence on film with a performance, one that is not dissimilar to a hungry shark. There’s a hunter mentality to Jason here instead of a generic boogeyman. It’s the best Jason performance to date.

Alas, the studio had a bit too much hand in this one, as well as a producer who didn’t have a handle for what the film was aiming for and didn’t take time to work with the filmmaker on helping his vision, and The New Blood, for all its campy fun, struggles to reach the level of Jason Lives. It’s still one of the better installments, but most of its characters are not well-performed, well-written, or even likable. There’s also a building of expectation that we are headed towards an incredible and intense finale unlike anything we’ve seen before in the franchise, and what we get is a bit middling. Sure, it’s unique, but having studied the film, I can see the way it was supposed to end up in my head, and it’s not what we ended up getting.

The New Blood is good but it should have been incredible and jaw-dropping and a success in forever changing the landscape of Jason Voorhees and the Friday the 13th series, but director John Carl Buechler was almost set up to fail. As frustrating as that is, it features a solid performance from Terry Kiser and an incredibly nuanced Jason as played by Kane Hodder. This one will still please genre and franchise fans, but we’re left with the wonder of what could have been.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th, click here.

For my review of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part 2, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part III, click here.

For my review of Joseph Zito’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, click here.

For my review of Jack Sholder’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, click here.

For my review of Danny Steinmann’s Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning, click here.

For my review of Chuck Russell’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, click here.

For my review of Tom McLoughlin’s Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI, click here.

[Freddy Krueger Day] A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

Director: Renny Harlin

Cast: Robert Englund

Screenplay: Brian Helgeland, Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat

93 mins. Rated R.

 

1988 was when the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise hit peak Cool Freddy status. That’s why there’s only one name on the poster. At this point, he was like James Bond, spouting off killer one-liners while maliciously murdering teams. It’s no wonder the fourth film feels like a music video.

It’s been a year since Kristen, Kincaid, and Joey did battle with Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund, Nightworld: Door of Hell, The Midnight Man) at Westin Hills, and the three teens are enjoying life outside of the hospital, now as functioning members of society. Kristen has a problem, though; she’s still afraid that Freddy’s going to come back, and she keeps pulling Kincaid and Joey into her dream world while they’re trying to move past it. Kristen’s trying to live her life. She has a boyfriend, Rick, and she’s very close to his sister, Alice. One night, though, Kincaid falls asleep and ends up in a dream-version of the junkyard where Krueger’s remains were put to rest, and thanks to some dog urine, Freddy is now back and ready to finish off the Elm Street kids once and for all.

The Dream Master is probably the least-grounded entry in the main series, especially up to that point. There are some strengths in that way, as the film is able to expand the limits of the dream world and how Freddy is able to manipulate it. The film leans into its Alice in Wonderland homage, and all that works pretty well. At the same time, how is Freddy brought back? Dog urine that lights on fire or something like that? It’s very stupid. I don’t even understand the idea behind it.

There’s also the focus on its characters. There are so many characters in this film, and so many of them are not developed well outside of tropes and clichés. Patricia Arquette has been replaced by Tuesday Knight, who just doesn’t have chemistry with Rodney Eastman or Ken Sagoes, and she doesn’t really embody the character in any way that feels like the Kristen we know from Dream Warriors. Eastman and Sagoes, as Joey and Kincaid, aren’t given anything really cool to do. The only reason for all these new characters is as fresh meat for Freddy.

The Dream Master is a super clunky but mostly enjoyable horror entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street saga. It isn’t the worst film in this franchise but it’s a significant drop in quality from the third film. Having a strong introduction for new Freddy foe Alice worked pretty well, but it betrays a lot of the characters carried over from the predecessor. It’s damn fun and enjoyable to watch, but there’s a lot of problems. Thank goodness that the film’s cheese factor works.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th, click here.

For my review of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part 2, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part III, click here.

For my review of Joseph Zito’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, click here.

For my review of Jack Sholder’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, click here.

For my review of Danny Steinmann’s Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning, click here.

For my review of Chuck Russell’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, click here.

For my review of Tom McLoughlin’s Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 14 – [Happy 30th Birthday!] Pumpkinhead (1988)

Director: Stan Winston

Cast: Lance Henriksen, John DiAquino, Kerry Remsen, Jeff East

Screenplay: Mark Patrick Carducci, Gary Gerani

86 mins. Rated R.

 

Pumpkinhead felt like it was going to be a bigger thing. It felt like a franchise starter, and yet, the first sequel was more shoehorned in, and we didn’t get any other films until the SciFi Network released two sequels in the mid-aughts. Now, the franchise lays dormant, a mistake to be sure, even if the first film, which celebrates 30 years since its release today, has some issues to be sure.

When Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen, Hard Target, Mom and Dad) experiences a horrific personal loss due to an accident involving some teenagers on vacation, his anger and rage fuel him to search out a supposed witch in the forest by his shop. When Harley begs her for vengeance, the witch helps him call forth Pumpkinhead, a boogeyman of sorts who goes after the teenagers one by one.

First-time feature director Stan Winston (A Gnome Named Gnorm), known for his special effects work, capably directs this film with some nice cinematography and editing to hold it all together. One area where Winston fails is with pulling strong performances from most of his cast. Lance Henriksen is an exception here, and with his strong dedication to his character (he actually got fake dentures and designed the look of Ed Harley), he stands out here as a broken man looking for vengeance, and then, eventually redemption.

No, where acting fails is with these teenagers. I refuse to believe that anyone would hang out with Joel (John DiAquino, No Way Out, The 60 Yard Line) in public. This character, even before the reveal that he is a criminal, is just all-around an awful human being, and very out of place with the rest of the teens. The other performances from our teenage biker gang just do not work.

There’s some issues with pacing here, as it takes half the film to really get going. Once it does, it moves along quite nicely, but it just trudges along the first half. Editing saves it here as the film is a tight 86 minutes, but I feel like it can only do so much.

The visual look of the film is quite impressive. I felt while watching that I was a part of the world that Winston puts before the camera. The design and visual flair of the cinematography is quite special, and I cannot fail to mention the extremely unnerving titular creature, a demon personifying vengeance. The creature really helps expand the lore of the film quite nicely.

Pumpkinhead is flawed but still worthy of a nice trick-or-treat Halloween experience. The film is easily accessible and aided by some nice technical work. If you can get past some of the cringe-worthy acting, I think you can have a lot of fun here. Henriksen leads the pack here with an emotionally resonant performance that’s well worth your time.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 22 – Night of the Demons (1988)

Director: Kevin Tenney

Cast: William Gallo, Hal Havins, Amelia Kinkade, Cathy Podewell, Linnea Quigley, Alvin Alexis

Screenplay: Joe Augustyn

90 mins. Rated R.

 

There are so many “Night of” films. Night of the Living Dead, The Night of the Iguana, The Night of the Hunter, Night of the Creeps, Night of the Comet. It can get confusing trying to remember which night we are all in. Night of the Demons slipped by me for some time because of it. Now, here we are.

Night of the Demons is classic 80s rock horror from director Kevin Tenney (Witchboard, Bigfoot). In it, several friends and acquaintances gather at an abandoned funeral parlor on Halloween to party with host Angela (Amelia Kinkade, My Best Friend is a Vampire, Girls Just Want to Have Fun). But when evil and demonic forces begin possessing some of the teens, it is clear that there will be some serious fatalities and not all of them will make it to November.

As before, this is prime time cheese 80s horror. It is easy to tell with Linnea Quigley (The Return of the Living Dead, The Barn) appearing, but director Tenney and screenwriter Joe Augustyn (Exit, Night Angel) crafted a seriously goofy and strange horror film. There’s an odd framing subplot involving an old man purchasing apples and razor blades that feels oddly out of place, and the enjoyment level is very hit or miss throughout.

Night of the Demons was enjoyable enough, but it wasn’t really all that good. Genre fans may find something to love, but this movie doesn’t have a lot of appeal and hasn’t aged as well as other similar fare. Maybe the sequel is better, but I doubt it.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 17 – Beetlejuice (1988)

 beetlejuice1988b

Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder

Screenplay: Michael McDowell, Warren Skaaren

92 mins. Rated PG for adult situations/language and violence.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Makeup

 

I remember really enjoying the animated Beetlejuice television series as a kid. When my mother finally introduced me to the idea that it was preceded by a live-action film, I just about went crazy. When she told me that it was going to be on television that night, I lost it. I saw it. I loved it. I still love it.

beetlejuice1988d

Meet the Maitlands: Adam (Alec Baldwin, The Departed, Aloha) and Barbara (Geena Davis, Thelma & Louise, In a World…). They just died and now confined to an afterlife in their home. But when Charles (Jeffrey Jones, Sleepy Hollow, 10.0 Earthquake) and Delia (Catherine O’Hara, The Nightmare Before Christmas, A.C.O.D.) Deetz move in, accompanied by outcast daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder, Black Swan, Homefront), they are forced to go to extreme situations to haunt the Deetzes into moving out. In steps Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton, Birdman, Minions), a bioexorcist who specializes in getting people to move out of their dwellings, but the self-described “ghost with the most” has an agenda of his own, and the Maitlands have just gotten in too deep.

Beetlejuice came after director Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Big Eyes) greated great success as director of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and used his clout to reveal his true genius with the visual medium as a gothic director of merit. Beetlejuice is an excellent exercise in tone, cinematography, storytelling, and excitement.

It seems as though everyone knows their place in this film, from Baldwin and Davis playing the timless Maitlands to the big city quirky Deetzes, and especially an often overlooked performance from Glenn Shaddix, who plays the smug and cynical Otho (after Shaddix’s death in 2010, the famous Day-O from the film played at the end of the funeral). Otho’s role in driving the plot with his hubris-filled attempts at showing his wide array of skills gives the story so much flavor.

beetlejuice1988c

From a storytelling perspective, Beetlejuice proves that you don’t have to explain away the mysteries of your film. The script from Michael McDowell and Warren Skaaren was rewritten from being a straight horror film with several cliché plot points into the afterlife character study that it is today. It is arguably one of Tim Burton’s finest works, and is easily viewable to any audience in any time, even if some of the effects have not dated well.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Batman, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 14 [Bottom 100 Wednesday] – #24: Hobgoblins (1988)

hobgoblins1988a 

Director: Rick Sloane

Cast: Tom Bartlett, Paige Sullivan, Steven Boggs, Kelley Palmer, Billy Frank, Daran Norris

Screenplay: Rick Sloane

88 mins. Rated R.

IMDb Bottom 100: #24 (as of 10/14/2015)

 

Man, I really though Hobgoblins would be better.

hobgoblins1988b

In Hobgoblins, from writer/director Rick Sloane (Blood Theatre, Vice Academy Part 6), we meet Kevin (Tom Bartlett), a new night security guard keeping watch over a movie studio containing several forbidden hallways. However, one of the halls leads to a vault which has been opened, and out have spilled dozens little hobgoblins, creature that kill while making you believe that your innermost dreams are coming true. Now, Kevin is off to stop the little creatures from taking over his small town and steal his girlfriend (who doesn’t even appear to actually like him, just a thought).

I kind of thought that Hobgoblins would be better. Not that I don’t get that it isn’t universally enjoyed. I just thought the tiny creature feature would be a bit of hyper-fun. It still was mildly enjoyable for being such an awful movie, but I wanted more.

Firstly, the performances are terrible. None of these actors ever went on to anything worthwhile and there’s a reason for that: they aren’t any good. Now, they play very well to the horrendous tone of the film. I enjoyed watching them struggle throughout the film, especially Steven Boggs who plays Kyle, a phone sex addict.

Rick Sloane has made many films, and Hobgoblins surprisingly isn’t the worst one. But it isn’t very good either. I’m not entirely sure it belongs on this list.

 

But is it Good?

Not good, no. But it isn’t the worst film you’ll ever see. Just close.

 

Can it be Fun?

I think the film is mild fun, but I would suggest viewing it in the MST3K edition.

 hobgoblins1988c.jpg

Hobgoblins is one bonkers film. Bonkers in the sense of bad. There’s little more I can say to sway you on this matter.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

200 Posts! Many thanks!

Hey everyone!

Earlier this week, I crossed the 200 post mark, and I just wanted to take a minute to thank all my faithful readers for tuning in for all the craziness as I get used to this again. Below, you will see links to my Top 10 Posts of the last 200 posts. Thanks again! Keep reading and I’ll keep writing!

  1. No Xenomorphs in Prometheus 2? What has all this been for?
  2. Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
  3. Horrible Bosses (2011)
  4. Leprechaun (1993)
  5. 2012 (2009)
  6. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
  7. Monkey Shines (1988)
  8. The Lego Movie (2014)
  9. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
  10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

 

Lastly, I want to hear some feedback from my readers. Let me know what you want to see. I’m always looking for new ways to spark discussion!

31 Days of Horror: Day 22 – Monkey Shines (1988)

monkeyshine1988a

Director: George A. Romero

Cast: Jason Beghe, John Pankow, Kate McNeil, Joyce Van Patten, Christine Forrest, Stephen Root, Stanley Tucci, Janine Turner, William Newman

Screenplay: George A. Romero

113 mins. Rated R.

 

George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Bruiser) has tackled zombies. I think we all attest to that. He has mastered camp horror (please check out his work with Stephen King in Creepshow, awesome film). There are a lot of things he can do with a horror film. Maybe a killer monkey just isn’t one of those things.

monkeyshines1988b

I recently discovered Monkey Shines, a film I had been looking for since I saw the VHS cover some years back at a rental store (remember all those things?) and I was finally able to watch it.

Allan Mann (Jason Beghe, TV’s Chicago P.D., Thelma & Louise) is a successful athlete who is run down in a traffic collision and becomes a quadriplegic. Suffering from depression and the inability to cope with this new life, Allan is gifted with a monkey from his friend Geoffrey (John Pankow, TV’s Mad About You, Morning Glory). The monkey, named Ella, has been trained by gifted support animal trainer Melanie (Kate McNeil, The House on Sorority Row, Glitter). Unfortunately, Ella forms an obsessive and violent bond with Allan and begins to kill those around him. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie.

I think the major flaw with Monkey Shines is exactly what doomed it from the start. It is a horror film that lacks horror. Here is a film with an animal that doesn’t seem all that dangerous, and it doesn’t convince me that Ella is. It isn’t easy to convince us that an animal with such an affectionate bond with a human can alter that love so quickly. We have stories that have succeeded where Monkey Shines failed. We have Stephen King’s novel Cujo, an excellent little exercise in creative horror about a dog who becomes the embodiment of fear when rabies (or as King hints at, pure evil) inhabits its body. Cujo (the book, not the movie) was an achievement. Monkey Shines was not. It just plain isn’t scary. Some of it just comes off as funny.

We don’t have any horrible performances. We get some early work from Stephen Root (TV’s King of the Hill, The Lone Ranger) and Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games, Transformers: Age of Extinction) here, but little more.

Although it feels tough to fully blame writer/director Romero, who had his finished film taken away from him multiple times and finally after being completed, the studio put a different ending in that makes it feel very un-Romero.

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Monkey Shines was taglined as “An Experiment in Fear.” I had my hypothesis. I had my conclusion. This is one experiment we need not try again.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

 

For my review of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, click here.

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