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STUDIO: RHI Entertainment
RATED: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 88 Minutes
• Shrink wrap
• Amaray case
• Buyer’s remorse
“It’s like that movie Congo, except… okay, it’s exactly like that movie Congo.”
F. Murray Abraham, Matt Ryan, Amy Hanson, Freishia Bomanbehram, Matt Reeves
Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham continues his lifelong ambition to discredit the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
“Dear diary: I speak for all mediocrities in the world. I am their champion. I am their patron saint.”
If you read my review of Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion a few weeks ago, you might remember that I was so bored by the movie that I was forced to turn to that disc’s promotional materials for some modicum of entertainment. After forcing myself to sit through three hours of that dreary, turgid melodrama, watching the trailers of flicks with titles like “Pandemic” and “Killer Wave” was a breath of fresh air. But there was one particular piece of advertising that piqued my interest:
“There’s also a paper advertisement in the DVD case for a movie called Blood Monkey starring F. Murray Abraham. No, not ‘Blood Money’. Blood Monkey. Consider me sold.”
I really was, too. You mean to tell me there’s a movie out there in which Omar Suarez battles bloodthirsty primates in the African jungle? Count me in. Based on the concept alone, Blood Monkey seemed like a slam dunk. It even has one of the most hilariously nonsensical taglines in the history of motion pictures (“In the jungle, no one can hear you scream.”) It might not be high art, but I figured at least it would be fun. How wrong I was. Blood Monkey is not fun. It’s not scary*. It’s not even humorous, intentionally or otherwise. This movie is so bad, it really makes me wonder if the producers of this movie have finally put the “million monkeys with a million typewriters” theory to the test. Hey, they say write what you know.
If it seems like I’m being unnecessarily harsh towards a low budget made-for-TV movie, you’ll have to trust me when I say that Blood Monkey is terrible even by TV movie standards. It was produced for the Sci-Fi Channel, and it’s worth noting that as of today, the movie has only been available on Comcast On-Demand, and the Sci-Fi Channel doesn’t seem to have any plans to air the film. Consider that for a moment: The channel that brought you Mansquito feels that this movie doesn’t meet its standards. I can’t say I blame them. By any measure this has to be one of the most insipid films I’ve ever seen. Its screenplay is not only poorly written, it’s completely nonsensical: To give you an idea, there’s a moment where a character tries to treat a sprained ankle by pouring water on it, as if it’s the most natural thing to do:
Unless that’s holy water, your ankle is still sprained.
But never mind the individual moments of stupidity; let me give you the big picture: F. Murray Abraham plays Professor Hamilton, a brilliant but eccentric anthropologist who has recently stumbled across a previously undiscovered valley in the jungle of some unnamed nation. He finds evidence that within this valley lives a species of ape more mentally advanced than any known animal – even greater than man. However, because of their great intellect Professor Hamilton isn’t able to catch, kill, or even photograph one of the creatures. So he brings in a team of six anthropology students to help him… Or perhaps to act as bait? It’s a notion that the movie introduces early on, and then suddenly tries to be coy about – never mind the fact that F. Murray Abraham is in mustache-twirling mode from the moment he appears onscreen. It’s a twist that doesn’t exactly blindside an audience. At one point, one of the students actually finds incontrovertible proof that the professor is using his underlings as monkey chow, but the kid keeps this information to himself until late in the movie. Why? We’re never given an explanation. He waits until two more of his friends are dead before finally confronting the professor. “How could you?” he incredulously asks him. “Science!” the professor shouts back. “That’s how!” Checkmate, kid.
The characters are as stock as they come: The jock, the nerd, the bimbo, the stoic hero, the love interest, the mad scientist… Nobody is given a single personality trait outside of these broad parameters. On top of that, the movie actually points out these stereotypes in the dialogue: “Oh look! What a surprise! The jock beating up the nerd!” It’s not done in a deconstructive or ironic way; this is actually the movie’s idea of character development. It’s as if the screenwriters don’t trust us to recognize simple archetypes, so they feel the need to incessantly point them out to us. If they had all been wearing nametags with “slut” and “hero”, it wouldn’t have been any less subtle.
“…And that’s why you always leave a note!”
The performances all range somewhere between mediocre and terrible, although it’s not as if the actors had much to work with here. F. Murray Abraham is particularly bad as Hamilton, hamming it up so much he ought to be receiving a subsidies check. The direction is equally awful, as director Robert Young manages to deflate every scare by cutting around the creatures rather than showing them. You never once get the feeling that our characters are under an ape assault: They’re simply whisked out of frame by unseen forces. A more apt title might be “Attack of the Non-Union Grips”. I understand this is a low-budget film, but you simply can’t make a monster movie and then not show the monster until the very last shot. It’s inexcusable.
Speaking of that last shot… In the interest of not giving away the surprise I’ll forgo the screenshot, but let’s just say that given the choice between bad CGI and a man in a costume, I’ll take the costume every time. Once we finally get a good look at the Blood Monkey, this creature that has terrorized our characters for the previous ninety minutes, it looks so absurdly cartoonish that it’s hard to imagine anyone being remotely frightened. It’s a bowler hat and suspenders away from being Magilla Gorilla.
There are two kinds of bad movies as far as I’m concerned: ones you can enjoy on an ironic level, and ones you can’t. Blood Monkey definitely falls in the latter category. It is the very definition of unwatchable.
Don’t be fooled by the DVD cover, or the awesome tagline. They might not hear you scream in the jungle, but they will hear you in your living room: scream in frustration for wasting your time with this piece of crap.
Zero special features here, not even trailers for other RHI products to momentarily distract me from my misery. I didn’t know how good I had it the last time.
That cliff face must be jelly, ’cause jam don’t shake like that!
1.4 out of 10
*May not apply to teenage girls.