Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring F. Murray Abraham, Matt Ryan, Amy Manson, Matt Reeves, Laura Aikman, Prapimporn Karnchanda
Directed by Robert Young
Distributed by Genius Products, LLC.
Bart: “How would I go about creating a half-man, half-monkey-type creature?”
Mrs. Krabapple: “I’m sorry, that would be playing God.”
Bart: “God shmod! I want my monkey-man!”
That little exchange between Bart Simpson and his teacher is one of my all-time favorite Simpsons quotes. I’m guess it’s also a favorite of the crazed anthropologist played by F. Murray Abraham in Blood Monkey; he too will do anything to get himself a monkey-man, whether it be lying, manipulating, and even sacrificing the lives of others. It’s his discovery and he wants all the glory for himself, dammit!
Six graduate students of varying international accents head off into a Thailand rainforest to work with the esteemed Professor Hamilton (Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham, far removed from his Amadeus glory days). The first sign of trouble comes when they find themselves seemingly stranded in the middle of nowhere, left to wander about and fend for themselves in the jungle as they seek out Professor Hamilton’s base camp. This went on for so long I began wondering if perhaps maybe the movie really had ditched the actors.
Their eventual reception consists of several grandiose speeches from the Professor about how they’re going to be exploring a previously uncharted section of the jungle containing an untold number new species. Then his less-than-friendly Thai henchlady confiscates their cellular phones; the Professor justifies this as his way of protecting his find by not allowing them any means by which to tip-off the outside world as to what he’s discovered.
I couldn’t help but watch this scene, think back to the countless number of horror movies in which I’ve seen characters get stranded in the middle of nowhere in North America and find themselves unable to get a cell signal, and yet here’s this brilliant professor deeply concerned that someone might be able to make a phone call in the middle of a remote Thailand rainforest? Then again, this same Professor also issued them all makeshift Medic Alert bracelets with all their vital health information on it, which he justified as being necessary to saving their lives in case something were to happen to any of them, and none of them bother asking him exactly what the point of this is since they’re all alone in the middle of a freakin’ rainforest with any chance of emergency rescue seemingly non-existent.
Their Spidey-Sense’s finally begin tingling when they happen upon abandoned tents and gear in a section of the rainforest the Professor had insisted was previously unexplored. Fortunately, they’re denser than the rainforest, thus he’s able to bullshit his way out of that one. Even after he abducts one to sacrifice as bait for the man-apes, he’s still able to string them along with a bogus explanation about their whereabouts. Even after a mortally wounded member of the Professor’s previous research team stumbles into camp, again, he’s able to string them along.
All of the actors here are surprisingly capable; F. Murray Abraham in particular proves quite a skilled hand at playing a mad scientist with a one-track mind oblivious to the reality of their peril without turning the role into a cartoon caricature. Alas, the grad students are practically written to be just that. The script does them all a disservice by portraying these perpetually bickering grad students as awfully dumb and remarkably immature given their level of education and preferred vocation.
Blood Monkey is one in a line of such flicks produced by RHI Entertainment for the Sci-Fi Channel; Maneater, In the Spider’s Web, and Grizzly Rage are just a couple of the other killer animal titles from them to come along already, most of which Sci-Fi has trotted out for Sunday night premieres with considerably less hoopla than the films that usually get the coveted Saturday night premiere slot. Don’t know why that is, but then I also don’t know why Blood Monkey has yet to appear on Sci-Fi at all. When I first heard of this one hitting DVD shelves in November on the same day as another one that already aired, I naturally assumed a Sci-Fi premiere was in the cards before the DVD came out. Nope.
Exactly why Blood Monkey didn’t premiere on the Sci-Fi Channel is anyone’s guess. My guess would be because – knowing what the Sci-Fi Channel prefers in terms of pacing and story beats and such – that the film simply didn’t fit the mold they generally demand of their filmmakers. Outside of the opening sequence, the first attack scene doesn’t occur until 50-minutes in, a major Sci-Fi no-no. There really isn’t a whole lot of action going on in this one during the first hour. The structure of the film is quite old fashioned compared to the typically rushed nature of most Sci-Fi Channel flicks; in this case, that’s not necessarily a good thing given that when the creatures do attack most of the action takes place off-camera or cuts away really quick.
That’s because we never even get to see the beasts in all their glory until, literally, the very last scene of the movie. That’s more than a little problematic given that the big reveal isn’t all that. Also, when we finally get a glimpse of these Sasquatch-looking creatures, I know I had a hard time believing these were the same animals that had been striking at lightning speed even when up in the tree tops.
But at least the film does have one original moment. I know I can’t say I’ve ever seen a movie where the monsters send a warning to their potential prey by mass pissing on their tents from up in the trees. When the highlight of a movie involves urine you know you got problems.
And speaking of bodily fluids, despite the title, there’s not much blood on display in Blood Monkey. Not enough monkey either.
2 out of 5
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