This review was originally written for and posted on Letterboxd.
A pretty fun, cool little flick that combines LARPing and a bloodthirsty lab baboon.
Some med students (and their professor) play an after-hours live action role playing game in the medical building where they practice/study (hey, why not?) This is also the facility that houses all the monkeys they do testing on, including Shakma, their most recent testee. Whatever they did to ol’ Shakma has made him (her?) super aggressive and looking to tear some faces off. Shaks gets loose and hunts our clueless students down one by one.
The film loses some points for not using Peter Gabriel’s “Shock the Monkey” in any way. Shakma the Monkey, “Shock the Monkey”? C’mon people!
Despite having that foggy, made-for-television look so many TV movies had in the late 80s and early 90s, this was actually a major studio film; George Romero’s first, to be exact…and his last. He was apparently so disheartened with the reception of the film that he resigned himself to making only independent films from there on out (and a thousand trite zombie sequels later, he’s stuck to his word. Thanks, George.)
Personally, I really like the film. There’s little blood and little violence; it’s almost Hitchcockian in it’s delivery. The story goes like this: a young, athletic man named Alan is paralyzed from the neck down in a freak accident. To help assist him at home — and to lift him out of his depression — one of his scientist buddies gets a hold of a super-smart Capuchin monkey named Ella. Soon, Alan and Ella develop a super strong bond that borders on telepathic. Ella senses Alan’s rage and starts to act on it. Eventually Alan realizes what’s going on, but at that point it’s too late — Ella has become too smart for her own good and won’t listen to anyone, not even Alan himself.
Like I said, it’s fairly bloodless, though SFX wizard Tom Savini did provide some unsettlingly realistic surgery scenes. I’m not usually a fan of animal horror, but watching Ella go from sweet and unassuming to relentlessly evil, torturing her quadriplegic owner is pretty terrifying. She puts King Kong and Mighty Joe Young to shame. And she’s a lady, to boot.