Five Favorite Things:: Monkey Shines (1988) By Unk

I Hate Meddlers!

MONKEY SHINES is about an easy on the eyes dude named Allan Mann who thanks to a barking dog, jogs into a truck and becomes paraplegic. He is given a monkey by a so-called friend to help him out and the two hit it off fantastically and it is such a beautiful and heartwarming thing (and reminds me of my relationship with my cats). Things aren’t quite as they seem though and soon people are coming out of the woodwork to destroy their cozy symbiotic love-fest. A movie about protecting your hearth from garbage people really appeals to me! Maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a nesting homebody but I now understand that “Home ruining meddler” movies may be my personal horror sub-genre fetish. Movies like THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE, BAD RONALD and WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE always seem to scratch exactly where I I’m itching and MONKEY SHINES covertly walks a similar path (and of course sings similar tunes as WILLARD & BEN). It may always inevitably end in tragedy but there’s a bubble of snug contentment within these movies that I can’t resist.

No Monkeys Harmed!

MONKEY SHINES graciously delivers a statement before the movie begins to explain that although scenes may suggest monkeys were put through traumatic episodes; in reality, no dear monkey was harmed. I really appreciate this information before the movie rather than after so that I can better concentrate on the film and more easily lose myself within it. This would be a smart idea for any movie that has scenes depicting simulated cruelty to animals. It’s a great way to prevent (at least) me from prematurely pushing my “seat eject” button. Happily too, the effects in this movie rely heavily on less than convincing monkey dummies and puppets, so it’s easy to remember it’s all make believe in the more violent moments (particularly the climax). Director George A Romero (who adapted the screenplay from a novel by Michael Stewart) showcases a deft hand with material that could have been exploitative and uncomfortable in less sensitive hands. His straightforward, non-gimmicky approach helps the more fantastic elements register as believable.

Damn Fine Cast.

Whoever did the casting for MONKEY SHINES deserves a medal of some sort because there is not one single person present who isn’t perfect for their part. Jason Beghe is the quintessential grounded everyman who is able to reveal great levels of rage and still garner a hundred percent sympathy. Kate McNeil (who is also stellar in THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW) is as earthy and emotionally intelligent as they come (and in a perfect world would have played Amy Steel’s sister in something; preferably a F13 flick). Joyce Van Patten is almost too believable as a mother who seems to almost enjoy her son’s vulnerable state and frequent Romero cohort Christine Forrest is deliciously hate-able as a cranky nurse. Incredibly, three future legendary character actors are also on hand to play assholes of varying degrees, Stephen Root, John Pankow and Stanley Frickin’ Tucci! As far as the femme fatales go, Janine Turner is flawless as a garden- variety weasel who you’re likely to see next Tuesday and it’s impossible not to fall in love with Boo (the monkey) as adorable Ella (yes, I root for her to deliver well earned comeuppances). Wow, there are only two decent humans who don’t have ignoble agendas in this entire movie and so I’ll throw another laurel at it for accurately depicting humanity.

I Love Ella

Ella the monkey is not evil. She’s a neutral trickster who, for better or worse, falls in love with her human companion. Although she’s the ultimate threat that must be hurdled in our heroes’ journey, she in every way advances Allan to a superior position than the one she found him in. By connecting him with his rage she actually makes him a stronger person, one who is capable of taking back control of his life from those who exploit his condition. For me, Ella is of the hero of the story who can’t stay forever but improves the life of the human she adores. Aw, I wish I had a friend who would discreetly take care of the horrible instigators that kill my buzz so that I might keep my hands clean! I’m sure I could find a way for us to live happily ever after.

That Poster

C’mon, MONKEY SHINES had one of the coolest posters ever! What a piece of art! Sure, it has virtually nothing to do with the actual movie besides featuring a monkey but I sez I need it on a T-shirt yesterday!

Name That Trauma:: Rob M. on a Dark Tunnel & a Bedridden Investigator

I’m trying to remember the name of a film.

An investigator makes some rounds talking to various people about the disappearance or death of a woman… maybe? He begins questioning a man in a bar about a mishap in an abandoned warehouse. Some weird room there and power loss. The second interview is with a kid that sketches weird stuff and pretty much keeps to his room. The third is a rich dude that ultimately winds up killing himself. Something about a child or ghost. Ultimately, there is something about a deep dark tunnel that a kid with fear of confined spaces gets lured into… We arrive at a conclusion where the investigator is bedridden in a hospital. The people he has interviewed are all hospital workers.

Thanks,
Rob M.

Five Favorite Things:: Martin (1977) By Ghastly1

George Romero, or as I like to call him: “the people’s horror auteur” -insert clip of Rick from The Young Ones here- you’re a very cool, switched on, hepcat if you get that reference, daddy-o- great guy, right? we all love him, don’t we? Well, I am going to commit horror heresy here and state plainly that I don’t care for him nor do I like many of the films considered cornerstones in horror made by the man. I like some of his films purely as entertainment. Overall, I don’t think his oeuvre is deserving of the high regard and widespread lauding it receives; I believe that is a function of ideology, not merit. Gasp, shock and horror. 

I feel he is vastly overrated, and I give the examples of unwatchable crap like There’s Always Vanilla and Season of the Witch, and nearly unwatchable crap like The Crazies, Bruiser and the later Dead films as evidence. Maybe you agree with me, maybe you don’t; maybe you just need someone to say it for you. All that being said, there is one Romero film which does hold a great deal of interest for me and that film is, you guessed it, Martin.

Martin is a masterpiece of horror, not because it superficially treats of supernatural concepts like vampires or because it has murder sequences or what have you; all of that is incidental. It is a masterpiece because it is rooted in the fount from which springs horror, the true core of all horror, the horror of horrors; to put it in somewhat Lovecraftian terms, “the madness at the core of existence.”

1. Martin is an example of something pretty rare; a horror character study.

Character studies I feel are something largely missing from film in general and horror in particular. I like slower paced films which focus on one character whom we get to know and care about, despite their actions.

Martin tells the story of a boy named Martin that has presumably been reared in an environment of utter insanity, to believe he is an 84-year-old vampire. Having been raised this way has not unsurprisingly resulted in pretty severe derangement on the part of Martin, who lacking fangs drugs women and slits their wrists in order to satisfy his sanguine addiction (pronounced in an exaggeratedly theatrical Peter Steele way- again if you know what I’m talking about, you’re pretty cool, let’s hang out).

2. Martin, ain’t we all. There but for the grace of God, go I.

Now comes the Sturm und Drang. My fondness for Martin stems primarily from recognizing in the character of Martin, states I have experienced personally and I suspect others have as well; namely extremely intense feelings of fear, loneliness, isolation, alienation, hopelessness, despair and dread, as well as suffering familial abandonment, abuse, and interpersonal social rejection.

In my weaker moments, I feel exactly like him, hopelessly confused and introverted; barely able to function. John Amplas gives one of the most authentic portrayals of a uniquely modern human type that I have come across and I have to wonder how much of it was actually acting.

3. Hit me in the feels. Much sad. J’ai une ame solitaire.

The film is relentlessly bleak and sad to me, even cruelly so. Cruelty gets to me and as such the hints of past cruelty in Martin’s life in little scenes and moments throughout, such as when Christina gets Martin the phone, are among the saddest and most effective that I have ever seen. The hopeful slightly confused and yet grateful look on his face at what is probably the first and only kindness ever shown to him on the part of another bring up things in me too terrible and wrenching to recall.

Christina leaving Martin alone in the house with Cuda is another because at that moment, Martin’s fate is sealed, things can only turn out one way. They leave a desolate, sinking feeling in my stomach which I have never been able to shake. It is the crushing knowledge that despite any hopeful outlook one may adopt toward a reformation of one’s life, however briefly, it is futile in the face of fate.

Martin is decidedly not a “happy film”, to my mind it is an example of what is sometimes termed “depressive realism” and perhaps only depressives will appreciate, understand and connect with it fully. In that regard it is a big middle finger to the Hollywood happy ending cliché. I believe a key to understanding the movie is, when he said “There’s no real magic…ever” he was talking more about happy endings than he was even supernatural powers.

4. Imagine a brotherhood of man… or some such happy horse shit.

It-rather unintentionally I feel- showcases the pernicious effects of the post-Vietnam, post-Great Society, Marxist “human love-in experiment” of the 1960’s. The film shows the fallout of a total breakdown of what were once considered normal human interactions and connections. Through a gradual but steady erosion and retrogression, interpersonal, familial, societal and kulchur bonds are shown to become utterly deranged.

The characters are all depressed, lonely and restless, conditions I dare say more people experience, than are willing to admit. Conditions which persist and have descended to an even more acute stage, today.

Shot in a gritty, quasi neo-realist style the film also puts the effects of the deindustrialization of the so-called “rustbelt” on show, the town of Braddock becomes another character in itself and is shown to be another victim, suffering death and decay complementary to its human inhabitants.   America is dead, folks…

… and

5. Oh, Tainted Love.

It inspired my favorite Soft Cell song.

Name That Trauma:: Auto on a Porcelain Doll PSA

Hi,

I’d like to let you guys know about a weird PSA from the early to mid 90s (perhaps made in the 80s, since these things often have an odd shelf life) which aired in upstate NY.

Now, I’d like to preface by saying that I’ve not seen this myself but I’m hell-bent on tracking this down based on the anecdotes I’ve heard. I was wondering if you or your readerbase might be of assistance?

Here’s a description from someone who has seen the ad, Reddit user Necrosynthetic:

“When I was about 6 or 7, there used to be a lupus PSA I’d see usually early in the morning around 6. I’d see it before jack Hannah’s animal adventures came on and it always creeped me out. It would be this very rusty wall in the background of a room in what seemed like an abandoned factory and a woman in a doll dress with an oversized babydoll head, and she was on a swing kind if half swinging in the foreground. The movements of the woman were twitchy sort of like the ghosts in the house on haunted hill remake which came out years later. Her mask was all cracked and aged like a doll left to the elements. Then her arms start flailing around and wrapping around the mask. And then she slumps over in the swing lifeless at the end. I to this day don’t know wtf this has to do with lupus at all. I don’t remember any of what was said during the PSA because I was too scared to pay attention. But I remember there being something about lupus at the end. Maybe it was about lupus and pregnancy? Now I’m in my 30s and I love horror movies and I’ve been trying to find this forever to show my wife and other people but I’ve never been able to find it anywhere. I know it wasn’t a dream either because I saw this EVERY Saturday morning for about a year and then once in a while until I was about 8 or 9. SOMEONE has to remember this besides me. If someone has a link to what I’m talking about please please please let me know”

I’m a massive fan of obscure PSAs, the creepier the better, and tracking down oddities is a hobby of mine. This one, however, seems highly elusive despite being right up my nightmare-fuelled alley. I hope this is of interest!

Thanks,
Auto

Name That Trauma:: Martin F. on a Dominatrix in a British Castle

I’d first like to say I love this website! My childhood trauma is this:
1) a British film that at least takes place in a British castle.
2) guy staying in said castle for a night.
3) he rings a bell and a dominatrix walks in accompanied by a little girl.
4). the little girl walks over to a bar and says “Would daddy like a drinky?”
5) The girl’s costume looks exactly like Rhoda from The Bad Seed, blonde pigtails etc.

Any help is much appreciated, I’ve never been able to find this film. Nobody I know knows the title. Please help!

Name That Trauma:: Update on Carol & PSA Mannequin

Hi guys!

About six years ago (HERE) I sent in a Kindertrauma about a PSA that discussed hearing loss, to find out if anyone else experienced it and also got the creeps!

I found it by accident today, in a compilation of WPIX Channel 11 promos and commercials uploaded just a year ago. I thought I should share it so the post can be updated AND for others to tell me if I was exaggerating too much!

(HERE IT IS) time stamped for your nightmares.

Sincerely,
Carol

The Amusement Park (1973) By Mickster

George Romero’s long lost educational film commissioned by the Lutheran Society in 1973 has been found and restored. Upon viewing the finished product in 1973, the Lutheran Society found it too disturbing to be seen. I guess the truth of how the elderly are treated was too much to bear. Luckily for us, the George A. Romeo Foundation restored this lost film, so it can be viewed by the public, if you dare to watch it. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a horror film per se, but it is a highly upsetting and depressing depiction of the mistreatment of the elderly. This depiction comes in the form of a surreal, dreamlike (nightmare) experience Lincoln Maazel’s unnamed character has at “The Amusement Park.” Many will remember Maazel’s performance in another Romero film, Martin (1977). He is the only “real” actor in the movie. All the other “actors” were volunteers, which makes this all the more impressive.

Maazel introduces the film and speaks again at the end. He implores viewers to have empathy and also be cognizant of the fact that they too will be old one day. What happens in between is something everyone should watch and consider. It is quite powerful, and I wish the Lutheran Society had been brave enough to use it back in the day.

Maazel starts his day in the park by encountering himself in a room of white. The beaten down version of himself warns that there is nothing out there, but the freshly dressed and hopeful version wants to see for himself. And boy, does he ever see! Each portion of The Amusement Park has vignettes illustrating how the elderly are systematically degraded. The only exception to this rule comes in the form of a wealthy older man who is treated with great respect because of his wealth. Sound like real life? Yeah, I thought so too. There is even a sequence where a young couple goes to the fortune teller’s tent to see if they will be together forever…the vision is NOT what they were expecting! Elders losing the right to drive, check! See the bummer car sequence! There is even a part with two carnival barkers that made me think of “reverse” mortgages! Romero was ahead of his time! Throughout, a masked “grim reaper” can be seen lurking in the background. For the most part, all the the elderly people in this film are ignored and at worst, pushed around by the younger people at the park, but there is one exception. This exception is the breaking point for Maazel’s character. A young girl is kind to him and wants him to read to her (she even shares a piece of fried chicken with him), but as this sweet exchange is taking place, viewers can see the cruel action that is about to befall Maazel. After this, he is utterly defeated, and as a viewer, I was too.

At 54 minutes, this educational film is a heartbreaking critique on aging in America. The Lutheran Society picked the right person to critique society, but they just didn’t have to guts to let this scathing examination see the light of day. It is sad to me that this film remained lost until Romero, who has a cameo in the bumper car sequence, was deceased. I wonder what he would think of his “lost” educational film finally seeing the light of day?