Monkey Shines (1988) starring Jason Beghe, John Pankow, Kate McNeal, Boo
reviewed by: The masked reviewer
When promising athlete Allan Mann (Jason Beghe) is involved in an accident his world changes forever. He goes from top athlete to quadriplegic in an instant, and he’s not taking it well. His over-dramatic, overbearing mother Dorothy Mann (Joyce Van Patten) tries her best to make him comfortable by hiring a patronizing, lazy nurse Maryanne Hodges (Christine Forrest) to take care of him. Time passes, and Allan’s a shadow of himself, until his friend Geoffrey Fisher (John Pankow) brings Allan a trained monkey named Ella (Boo) to help him.
Allan beings to act more like himself, and decides to go back to school. Ella begins to become more possessive of Allan, which puts a damper on his budding relationship with Ella’s trainer Melanie Parker (Kate McNeal). When strange events begin to happen to Allan’s friends, and family. He’s left wondering is it Ella, or am I losing my mind? I won’t spoil this film. You must see Monkey Shines for yourself.
- Allan Mann (Jason Beghe): He goes from suicidal, to lively, to a man trapped in his own home by his mother, and nurse. He is filled with impotent rage, at his terrible situation, and people in his life.
- Dorothy Mann (Joyce Van Patten): A selfish, manipulative woman that wants to control her son in every area of his life.
- Maryanne Hodge (Christine Forrest): She is an incompetent Nurse Ratched type of character. She doesn’t care for her patients, only for her annoying little bird Bogey.
- Geoffrey Fisher (John Pankow): The seemingly helpful best friend of Allan. He has his own hidden selfish motivations.
- Melanie Parker (Kate McNeil): One of the few people that try to help Allan without any selfish motivation. She is a master in her fields of study, and a professional in nearly all circumstances.
- Ella (Boo): The lively, caring trained monkey that brings Allan back to life. Ella is also a very protective, and jealous of Allan. Ella is the best character in Monkey Shines; that isn’t a slight against the actors, and actresses. Boo is just that interesting, and entertaining to watch.
- Dr. John Wiseman (Stanley Tucci): A young, confident doctor with very low morals.
- Linda Aikman (Janine Turner): Allan’s former girlfriend. A thoughtless, emotionally immature woman.
This is some of Tom Savini most incredible work in my opinion. The special effects are flawless until the very end of the film. Jason Beghe plays a realistic quadriplegic by only moving his head, and emoting through his face. Monkey Shines is well paced, and keeps you on the edge of your seat. The setting is Allan’s personal prison his home. HIs home looks warm, and inviting, but as the the film goes on it becomes more claustrophobic, and unbearable.
This is George Romero’s first studio film, and he hated the studio heads sticking their noses into his film, and adding unneeded jump-scares into it. Don’t compare Monkey Shines to any other George A. Romero films. Most of his other films are great, but so is Monkey Shines in its own special way. He was asked to make a creature feature, but he made an incredible story about a toxic friendship.
The only problem I have with the film is the jump scare near the end. It isn’t needed, and the studio only added it to startle the audience. But other than that this is an excellent film. I can’t recommend Monkey Shines enough.
I rate Monkey Shines 5/5 stars
Product Description of Monkey Shines
From writer/director George Romero, the man who unleashed Night of the Living Dead, comes a ‘terrific psychological thriller (L.A. Weekly) that delivers a disturbing message about messing with Mother Nature. Starring Jason Beghe ( Melrose Place ) and Janine Turner ( Northern Exposure ), this riveting tale is a white-knuckle triumph [that doesn’t] let up (Newsweek)! Allan Mann (Beghe) is a bitter, angry and vengeful man ever since an accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. He’s fed up with himself and everyone around him. All that changes when he’s given Ella, a monkey trained to meet his every need. But when Ella begins anticipating Allan’s thoughts, strange and deadly things start happening. And as she stalks and wreaks havoc on Allan’s fair-weather girlfriend (Turner), incompetent doctor and meddling mother, Allan realizes he must stop the cunning maniacal creature…before she takes over his mind!
Editorial review of Monkey Shines courtesy of Amazon.com
George A. Romero monkeys with nature in this gripping and fearful tale based on the novel by Michael Stewart. Allan Mann (John Beghe) is a law student who’s hit by a truck while jogging, leaving him a quadriplegic. Luckily, his scientist friend Geoffrey (John Pankow) is experimenting with Capuchin monkeys, making them smarter with injections of human genetic material. Geoffrey arranges with Melanie (Kate McNeil)–who’s working on an experimental program that matches monkeys with paraplegics to perform guide-dog functions–to train his prize subject, Ella (Boo), to act as Allan’s helper. Allan is paralyzed from the neck down, confined to a wheelchair he moves by working a lever with his mouth. He’s really vulnerable. Ella can fetch things and do errands, and a real emotional bond develops between Mann and monkey. Too strong a bond, it turns out, as Allan begins to experience dreams from the monkey’s-eye view (capuchin-cam), Ella’s boosted intelligence giving her the residual benefit of a telepathic ability in which the monkey begins to act out Allan’s subconscious rage. Allan’s nurse, former girlfriend, doctor, even his mother are terrorized by the creepy capuchin, leading to a showdown between Ella and Allan himself. With Allan trapped in a house, alone with a super-intelligent and malevolent monkey, there is plenty of suspense to make you rip holes in your upholstery. But perhaps even more tension could have been wrung out of this story if Ella had been more sympathetic (being as she was the victim of a scientific experiment gone bad), her wicked antics the acts of a kind of exterminating angel. Performances are brilliant by both Ella and Jason Beghe, who turns in one of cinema’s most accurate and intelligent depictions of a high-level quadriplegic character. –Jim Gay