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Monkey Shines (1988) The 'Un-Undead' side of George A. Romero

As Allan creates a bond with his helpful primate, more than a mere friendly connection develops as their thoughts and emotions begin to intertwine. Feeling hatred toward his girlfriend and surgeon, who purposely did not complete the spinal cord surgery that would have him walking again, Allan’s sentiments are telepathically linked to Ella and deadly misfortunes ensue.

For a near two-hour duration, the film’s pace actually moves along nicely with character development in its first-third and suspense building between Allan and Ella gradually increases the film’s tenon. Beghe does a fine job portraying his character with emotional outbursts resulting from his condition, as well as his thought process through osmos with Ella. Romero steers clear of any cheesy dialogue or over-the-top acting, although the finale is quite far-fetched. Added to this well-done storyline, macabre imagery such as arson and electrocution in a bath tub give the film an edge in its morbid factor.

Fans of Romero looking for a film related to his precursors may be somewhat disappointed as he places more emphas on story building. But if viewers closely follow its synops and not constantly think about when the next gruesome scene will pop up (which there is an absence of), one may actually feel for the characters and experience a bit of unease throughout.

Romero would eventually return to independent filmmaking following this production as Orion Pictures heavily cut the film against the veteran director’s wishes. As a result, with a budget set for approximately $7 million, a box office failure of about $5.3 million tarnished Romero’s trust in studio productions.
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