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  Shakma Shrieky Monkey
Year: 1990
Director: Tom Logan, Hugh Parks
Stars: Christopher Atkins, Amanda Wyss, Ari Meyers, Roddy McDowall, Rob Edward Morris, Tre Laughlin, Greg Flowers, Ann Kymberlie, Donna Jarrett
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: In this campus laboratory building, an operation is being conducted on one of the animals kept there to inject it in the brain with a newly developed serum; this in theory should moderate its aggression, for that animal is one of the most ferocious baboons of its kind, named Shakma. But while the operation is going on, one of the students, Richard (Greg Flowers), keeps asking head surgeon Dr Sorenson (Roddy McDowall) about tonight's game which is being held at this location, a variant on Dungeons & Dragons which has been augmented with a computer and walkie talkies. It's sure to be a memorable evening...

There were a handful of killer primate movies released around the mid eighties to the early nineties, titles like Link, Monkeyshines and In the Shadow of Kilimanjaro which really shoud have been taking their cue from the classic Edgar Allan Poe story The Murders in the Rue Morgue, but more often than not were more inspired by a need to find yet more versions of the slasher movie concept. What better way to do that than with a villain who cannot be reasoned with by dint of the fact they're an animal, and thus not on the same wavelength as we humans given that they have nothing to lose once the killing began? And so a bunch of monkeys and apes were pressed into service.

In Shakma's case, the bad guy, not a bloke in a costume but an actual baboon named Typhoon, was the best part of the movie, probably because it didn't look as if it knew it was supposed to be acting at all. It gets a stay of execution after blowing up at its experimenters in teeth-baring fashion, for they think it's been put to sleep and is awaiting a post mortem before ending up in the incinerator - but it hasn't, and when it awakes there will be hell to pay. Quite how you felt about that may have depended on how you felt about vivisection: once these dummies posing as scientists wind up getting torn apart by Shakma, the animal rights protestor in you could be thinking it was poetic justice.

Before the action began, we had to establish the premise, which you may have been under the impression had been achieved in the first ten minutes, but then you reckoned without a full half hour being devoted to the ins and outs of the characters' role playing game which is depicted in pitiless detail, perhaps to encourage you to anticipate the stage where they start getting slaughtered, or perhaps because they wanted the movie to run to feature length. McDowall is the host, orchestrating the japes from inside the now locked up building - that's right, there's no way out which wouldn't have been a problem except for, you know, the killer baboon roaming the corridors, and picking off the players one by one, leaving heroic eighties hunk Christopher Atkins to try and rally the diminishing survivors.

Mix in some computer graphics which placed this squarely in 1990 and you had a collection of supposed men and women of science who are letting their hair down by goofing around, another indication that the writer didn't much respect them until they could prove themselves capable of pitting their wits against the animal kingdom which in some views they were abusing: take it as one of those revenge of nature movies as much as it was a souped up slasher movie. In practice, this unfolded as a lot of running down corridors, then hiding in the same rooms again and again as Shakma flung himself at the doors which was only effective because the beast was employing a degree of method acting in that he appeared quite prepared to tear the cast limb from limb. Of course this grew repetitive, with pretty much the sole point of interest other than the mad monkey being the ruthlessness of paring down the cardboard characters at its ravening jaws. Music by David C. Williams.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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