Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jason Beghe, John Pankow, Kate McNeil, Joyce Van Patten, Christine Forrest, Stephen Root, Stanley Tucci, Janine Turner, William Newman, Tudi Wiggins, Tom Quinn
Written by: George A. Romero, based on a novel by Michael Stewart
Directed by: George A. Romero
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 114
Date: 07/29/1988

Monkey Shines (1988)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Chimp Coctail

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

George A. Romero's non-zombie movies generally open to indifference or outright scorn, but this intelligent, effective thriller is one of his best films. After an accident, a law student, Allan (Jason Beghe), becomes a quadriplegic. His best friend Geoffrey (John Pankow) has been experimenting on monkeys by injecting human brain tissue, and he decides to have the smartest of the bunch, Ella, trained as a helper for Allan. Unfortunately, Allan and Ella become very attached and she begins acting out Allan's innermost desires, usually having something to do with competitive females. His former girlfriend (Janine Turner), who leaves him for his doctor (Stanley Tucci), a nasty nurse (Christine Forrest), an overbearing mother (Joyce Van Patten) and the cute monkey trainer (Kate McNeil) all become targets for Ella's fangs. In one striking shot, Allan bites through his own lip and Ella licks the blood off; Romero frames it in a two shot with each occupying a half of the screen (and half the same persona). I could have done without the silly epilogue, and the picture doesn't really have any bone-chilling scares, but it's a tense, clever nail-biter nonetheless. Stephen Root co-stars as an evil scientist, and Geoffrey's nemesis.

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