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John’s Horror Corner: The Monkey’s Paw (2013), a cautionary tale warning us to be careful what we wish and even more caution if considering watching this movie.

December 10, 2014

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MY CALL: My greatest cautionary advice would be to skip this cautionary tale and watch something else instead. After all, this theme has been executed much better in the past. WHAT TO WATCH INSTEAD OF The Monkey’s Paw: Movies like Wishmaster (1997) and Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies (1999) come to mind. They’re gory and zany and tons of silly fun. I’d skip Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell (2001) and Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled (2002), though. Also try Tales from the Crypt (1972). Stephen King’s Thinner (1996) distorts in a similar vein using a curse.

Based on the classic horror story and cautionary tale based on the short story by W.W. Jacobs, The Monkey’s Paw tests the waters of mixing distorted wish-granting with “be careful what you wish for” notions. In this iteration Jake (C. J. Thomason; Husk, Sutures) comes into possession of the ill-fated magical talisman at a local watering hole from his embittered ex-boss who seems a little too glad (in almost a vindictive way) to be rid of the fate-twisting trinket.

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It’s a little silly, but not necessarily unrealistically approached with the wish-making. The first (rather skeptically made) wish was for a car: “I wish for that bitchin’ GT outside.” The second saves the life of Jake’s rough-around-the-edges co-worker Tony (Stephen Lang; Conan the Barbarian, Avatar, Salem). And if Pet Sematary (1989) has taught us anything, it’s that people who are magically saved from death tend to continue life as a homicidal husk of what they once were. In this case, that husk of a man also really wants the last wish from the Monkey’s Paw.

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The weakest point of this movie is that it relies on a homicidal pseudo-zombie for its kills instead of several uniquely distorted and gorily treated wishes. It makes the story about Tony, as if he were a motivated killer instead of one of many victims of a Monkey’s Paw. This fails; we don’t care, Tony isn’t interesting, and we’re looking for more creative death scenes.

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At one point Jake goes to see a fortune teller. That, of course, is melodramatically treated and to no satisfaction of us viewers. Jake tries to rationally explain his situation to people…that NEVER goes well in these movies either. Then we get the explanation of how the paw works from the former owner. Again, none of these storytelling or harbingering devices work remotely well for us. Triple storytelling fail. But, hey, that’s okay because the acting is great…no, scratch that…wrong word…appalling is what I meant. Yup. That’s it. The acting is appalling.

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Yeah, that was MY face throughout much of this movie.

Normally direct-to-DVD flicks like this will at least possess the saving grace of an effort towards excessive gore. Negative again! Evidently the filmmakers were relying on their heavily flawed, soap operatic storytelling to sell DVDs. I wonder if they sold enough DVDs to buy a tank of gas yet.

The fun of these “wishes gone wrong” flicks is all in how the gory, funny, ironic deaths are handled and how creative the wish distortions are. We see neither such redeeming quality for even a moment. Contrastingly, clever writing can make these supernatural stories feel feasible when the ancillary characters of course disbelieve the magic and find the protagonist crazy (if even dumb eough to try to explain their story to, say, a police officer). No clever writing either. Nope. This flick was crappy through and through.

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This is the bulk of our gory fun. It’s very “meh” in quality.

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All of this was gleaned after 60 minutes of the movie. Just imagine how bad then the final 30 minutes must have been. NOT GOOD, folks. Let’s skip this movie. Don’t buy it, rent it, on-demand it, Netflix…don’t even watch this on the Scy-Fy channel at 2pm laying on the couch on a rainy sick day half asleep from cold medicine. Yeah, it’s that kind of lame.

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