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John’s Horror Corner: Shakma (1990), another killer monkey movie.

January 10, 2021

MY CALL: Riding the coattails of Monkey Shines (1988), Shakma is the much more basic (and more violent) approach to cash in on another killer monkey movie. MORE MOVIES LIKE Shakma: Monkey Shines (1988) is the obvious double feature choice, and far superior to Shakma albeit more of a thriller than horror.

Well, Monkey Shines (1988) did well with a killer monkey; Shivers (1975), Poltergeist III (1988) and The Dark Tower (1989) brought horror to tall buildings; and Mazes and Monsters (1982) had fun with live-action roleplaying games. So why not do a mach-up of all three?

Playing a computer-modulated live-action game in their building, Sam (Christopher Atkins; Beaks: The Movie) and his med school classmates wander the hallways after hours with the lights out, armed with flashlights, trying to locate clues to make their way to “save the princess” and win the game. The only problem is that there is one more player they weren’t aware of… after a surgical procedure to control aggression in their test baboon Shakma, the animal went berserk and had to be put down. But no one had the heart to do it. Now loose and super-angry, Shakma prowls the halls with a violent score to settle.

Their medical school professor Dr. Sorenson (Roddy McDowall; Fright Night I-II, Mirror Mirror 2) is in charge of the game and in touch with his players via walkie-talkies. When some players stop answering, he knows something is wrong and (of course) wanders out in the dark to investigate.

When the cast of victims is co-starring with an actual baboon, we don’t expect much on screen violence. That’s the problem with animals in filmmaking—especially larger and more dangerous animals. It’s not like dealing with a well-trained undangerous capuchin in Monkey Shines (1988). So Shakma runs at his victims, maybe jumps at them, and then there’s a body after the fact with its face torn up or throat ripped out. But the gore is good, and Shakma’s raging attempts to open doors is surprisingly intense. It happens often and it’s actually really entertaining.

The acting is okay, the writing is middle-of-the-road for the genre and the time. But it’s fun enough. I certainly giggled every time Shakma sprinted and jumped towards the camera.

I’ll call this just entertaining enough for me not to regret this one-time-watch. The premise sounds fun, and it’s not horrible, but there are too many better movies out there for me to recommend this. This would be best enjoyed with a group of B-movie fans.

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