Wednesday, February 24, 2010

GREAT MOMENTS IN SIMIAN VIOLENCE #3: MONKEY SHINES


Neither Hope nor I have seen the 1988 George Romero thriller Monkey Shines, but I remember the commercials on TV. There was a paralyzed guy and a helper monkey and some creepy ambience. Today, without even having looked at IMDB except to get the year and accidentally see that it was actually made by a director of some pedigree, I will recreate the entire plot of the film using only the power of my mind.

Max (Bill Pullman) was a fast-living, cocaine-addicted Hollywood agent whose work-hard/play-hard lifestyle led him straight to a late-night six-car pileup on the L.A. freeway. When he wakes up, his doctor (a strangely mild-mannered Christopher Walken, before the first of his multiple comebacks) advises him that he’ll never walk again, and that use of his upper limbs is confined to the ability to flip his right middle finger with significant effort. The doctor advises his despondent patient – who has no non-estranged family members to wipe his ass for him – to purchase an experimentally trained monkey named Bobo who can undertake cleaning and grooming tasks on his behalf, such as shaving him with the old-fashioned straight-razor that’s always been one of Max’s expensive quirks.

So Bobo, who starts out all cute and shit, is gradually corrupted by Max’s abiding guilt and misanthropy into becoming a vessel of pure evil. While Max sleeps, Bobo takes his razor and goes out to slit the throats of Max’s enemies – the owner of the high-powered agency that laid him off after his accident (David Paymer), his estranged mother (Mamie Van Doren) and the high-school bully who used to beat him up (a weirdly miscast Tony Shalhoub). Max himself only slowly becomes aware of his connection to these crimes through the ministrations of Gwen (Lori Petty), a spunky reporter who befriends Max and tries to show him, despite her tender years, that the way to redemption is through the confrontation of his darker emotions.

This being a Romero film, of course, they both die during a grisly climax in which Gwen, after one final attempt to reform Max, tries to call the police and is killed when he can’t bring himself to call off Bobo. His self-loathing anguish at his own inaction – even a paralyzed man has the potential to take action – channels through his intimate psychic bond with Bobo and causes the monkey to turn on him and slit Max's own throat. Ironic! Christopher Walken shows up to identify the body and says something cryptic.

Anybody out there ever seen the movie? How did I do?

Rest assured that the monkey violence in Craven Monkey and the Mountain of Fury is less psychological and more kind of awesome. Buy your tickets today!

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