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Monkey Shines (1988)



All great masters must occasionally fall to the Studio Compromise. George A. Romero is no exception. Monkey Shines is his first studio picture that looks like a studio picture. Though well directed, well written, and well performed, there's something missing from it, a dark heart, that would make it leap out like so many other films in the director's filmography.

Allen (Jason Beghe) recently had an accident that has left him a quadriplegic. Then little things in his life start falling apart, as if he didn't have enough trouble. His girlfriend (Janine Turner) leaves him for the surgeon (Stanley Tucci) who saved his life. His nurse is a grade-A bitch. His mother is playing passive-aggressive games with him. Then, his scientist friend Geoffery brings him a present: Ella, a monkey who helps Allen out with everything. What Allen doesn't know, however, is that Ella has been infused with an intelligence-increasing concoction made up of human brain cells. Soon, the limber beast and her master form a symbiotic relationship that grows increasingly more violent and dangerous... especially for anyone who pisses Allen off.

Romero's camera is more than competent, building suspense and playing all the right emotional chords. No single performance is bad...most are actually pretty good, up to and including the monkey. The script (though obviously tampered with by the studio) is fine, though it has a fairly incongruous ending. There's nothing inherently wrong with the film...you just get the feeling that maybe it was made for the money. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I expect more from Romero. It's not a bad scare, though, and worth the price of a rental.