Jul 17, 2023

Monkey Telepathy and Parasitic Twins

A Tribute To George A. Romero
Monkey Shines and The Dark Half
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
Iconic horror director George A. Romero is best known for his zombie flicks, but his body of work is not limited to the undead.  Tonight's double feature was a celebration of two of his film adaptations of horror novels.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern

The 1988 film Monkey Shines was adapted from the Michael Stewart novel of the same name that was published five years earlier, and 1993's The Dark Half is based on Stephen King's 1989 book which was inspired by the discovery of his pen name, Richard Bachman.  I've seen the first movie and part of the second one before (though I didn't really remember too much about either of them), but I haven't read either of the books that they were based on.  Looking back on it, these might have been good subjects for the Mahoning Book Club to tackle because they both look pretty interesting.

On paper, the elements that make up Monkey Shines don't look like they could work.  It's the story of a man named Allan who was hit by a truck and became a quadriplegic.  His law school ambitions were thrown into chaos, his years as a collegiate athlete came to a screeching halt, his girlfriend left him for the surgeon who botched his operation, and his mother moved in to "help" in his recovery.  It's pretty safe to say that his life has become a living hell.

One of the only good things to come into his life is a small Capuchin monkey named Ella who was trained as a service animal and then given to him by his best friend.  However, Ella isn't just any ordinary monkey.  She was part of an experiment at the college where she was given numerous injections of an intelligence-boosting drug that just so happens to have a side-effect that allows her to telepathically link to Allan.  How or why this happens is never explained, but it brings out Allan's animal aggression and leads to the monkey committing acts of violence for him that get out of hand.  By the time Allan, his best friend and his new girlfriend realize what's happening, Ella has decided that she will be the master and that Allan will serve her.

Monkey Shines bombed at the box office but it found its audience on home video.  For as batshit crazy as the plot is, it really does all come together to make an enjoyable movie.  If you're a fan of horror flicks, this is definitely worth your time.  It's available to stream it for free on Tubi and Pluto, and it's a solid addition to any 80's horror night.

The fog rolled in during intermission, and it made the light coming out of the projection booth look other-worldly.  It wasn't bad enough to negatively affect the second half of the double feature, but it gave the movie a dream-like quality that was pretty cool to experience.

The second movie of the night was The Dark Half, based on Stephen King's 1989 novel of the same name.  He wrote a very similar story the following year called Secret Window, Secret Garden that was adapted into a movie called Secret Window in 2004.  I got to see it during its first run in theaters, ironically, on the same night as the remake of Romero's Dawn Of The Dead.  If I'm being totally honest, I enjoyed Secret Window more than The Dark Half, but it's still a pretty darn good flick.  I especially enjoyed the performances of Michael Rooker as Sheriff Pangborn and Amy Madigan as Liz Beaumont.

Double features on a Sunday night really come back to haunt me on Monday morning at work, but it's nothing a few cups of coffee can't take care of.  I'm glad we didn't miss out on this one.