Directed by Brett Simmons
No strangers to the horror genre, Chiller Films (yes, in association with the Chiller TV channel) put together a new adaptation of The Monkey’s Paw. One quick IMDb search will show the multiple times the W.W. Jacobs short story has been retold. However, I don’t think it’s ever been done quite like Chiller Films did it. This is the first time I’ve seen The Monkey’s Paw feature an undead slasher, but hey, you’ve gotta think outside the box, right?
I’m sure you all know the basic gist of the tale. An unsuspecting rube comes into possession of a withered monkey’s paw and said rube is told it will grant three wishes. Of course what he doesn’t know is the wishes will be granted in the most devastating way possible. He might wish for $1 million dollars, then his beloved wife dies and he collects a $1 million insurance policy. Our rube in this version of The Monkey’s Paw is named Jake (CJ Thomason) and he’s given the paw by a former co-worker, Gillespie, played by Daniel Hugh Kelly. (That’s right “Hardcastle and McCormick” fans, Skid McCormick is back!)
As is normally the case, Jake’s first wish is for a concrete, material thing, and his second is to try to right a tragic wrong created by the first wish. However, without giving too much away, Jake’s best friend, Tony Cobb (played very entertainingly by Stephen Lang), becomes a soulless, seemingly undead killing machine. I honestly did not see that one coming. The problem is that Tony Cobb was the most interesting character in the film, so to turn him into a robotic monster really took away from the movie.
The thing that really doesn’t work with this version of The Monkey’s Paw is that Jake didn’t get those big, gut-punching moments when he made his wishes. Traditionally, when someone makes a wish on this disgusting, old artifact and the wish comes true, there is an immediate tragedy or something horrible happens that tells the wisher he made a huge mistake by toying with fate. Jake’s life certainly got very bad once zombie Tony Cobb got on the warpath, but it was missing that sense of Fate taking Jake’s balls and squeezing them for toying with destiny.
It’s at this point in The Monkey’s Paw, as all the set-up has been done and the action is in full swing, that I started to formulate my opinion on it. It’s okay, nothing great, but not that terrible either. I found myself not loving it, but not really able to put a finger on what was keeping it from being a better picture. Yes, the whole approach to the legend of the paw was a little off the mark, but we did have a pretty cool killer in high gear on the screen, and even with the fact that this was a made-for-television project, the F/X weren’t too bad. The Monkey’s Paw just never grabs the viewer.
You’ll enjoy the acting performances of some recognizable faces like the aforementioned Daniel Hugh Kelly and Stephen Lang (Avatar). There’s even a “Roc” sighting as Charles S. Dutton shows up in one of his obligatory law enforcement officer roles, and a High School Musical alum grows up when Corbin Bleu appears as a chain-smoking gun lover. Thomason (who previously worked with director Brett Simmons on Husk) is serviceable, as is his love interest played by Michelle Pierce.
The Monkey’s Paw is just about as middle-of-the-road as you can get. Nothing terribly bad, but nothing outstandingly good either. A mostly effective, if somewhat leaky, story held together by okay performances and decent F/X. It’s nothing to rush right out and see, but if you’re just channel surfing and Chiller is running it, give it a look. It’s also currently available on VOD and will be hitting Blu-ray/DVD on June 17, 2014.
2 1/2 out of 5