Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Blood Monkey, That Funky Monkey

Ever go to a party where no one had fun but the host? The food is exotically inedible. The music, a demo CD of someone’s boyfriend’s struggling band. A guest falls asleep or starts a vomitfest in the bathroom just when that weak drink has reached your urinary tract. There’s no place to sit and no one to have an intelligent conversation with regarding the controversial finale of America’s Next Top Model and just when you’ve summoned the strength to hasten an exit, you discover someone has mistakenly grabbed your winter coat, leaving you with an ill-fitting loaner that your still sickenly energetic host has kindly dug up from the basement to put over your shoulders.

If Blood Monkey is that party, then bless dear old Academy Award winner F. Murray Abraham for having a ridiculously good time hosting it, even if it’s at the expense of the rest of the cast, crew, and more importantly, the baffled audience who really just want more blood monkeys.

Quick Plot: Abraham plays Professor Hamilton, the typical Col. Kurtz-esque genius living deep in the jungles of Thailand with his badass female bodyguard Chenne. The pair are soon joined by a jeep-ful of attractive and annoying anthropology graduate students taking a semester to study with one of the preeminent minds in the field.

Also, to be eaten by blood monkeys.

Who are these young brainiacs with charming accents, you might ask? Or you might not, since like virtually any movie made today starring twentysomethings, the twentysomethings are the least interesting things onscreen. There’s a blond who carries the most luggage (cause she’s blond, duh), a nerd identified as such because he wears glasses, a screamy girl with a video camera, a good-looking guy who seems to make the most decisions, his dull love interest who seems smart because she’s a brunette, and in a feat of screenwriting superiority, the guy who introduces himself as such:

“I’m Greg. The good-looking one. And I’m also like a genius in anthropology.”

You gotta love when a script is fully aware that its audience identifies characters by their rating on an Are You Hot scale. Greg—or Craig, I don’t really care—also gets the fun job of sexually harassing every female  in sight in that charming manner that only happens in movies and would be sue-able in real life. I actually found myself pitying poor actor Matt Reeves for having to say some of the Neil LeBute-ish dialogue about that silly but sexy child-bearing gender.

You know who else I pitied? Me. That’s right, when I queue up a film called Blood Monkey, I expect little more than what its title promised. You know what it promised? A blood monkey.

It’s not that Blood Monkey didn’t have blood monkeys. Throughout its 90 minute running time, we see various evidence that blood monkeys—a separate branch of evolution—are well and good in Thailand. And that their point of view is very orange. And that they set the kind of traps you’d find on Endor and that their brains are really big. That’s all fine and dandy but WHERE ARE THE BLOOD MONKEYS?

I asked that question a thirty minutes into the film. I asked again at the hour mark. Do you want to know when director Robert Vampire Circus Young answered? In the very. Last. Shot.

That’s a lot of time to waste when one could be filling it with blood monkeys.

High Points
I joke about F. Murray Abraham’s role here—especially when he opens up a can of whoop tush—but it’s actually nice to see such a celebrated actor having fun in the boonies of SyFyVille. Never does Abraham show the slightest sign of being too good for this material, and his clear enjoyment at such a villainous and physical role is ultimately the only REAL reason to watch this blood monkey-less Blood Monkey movie.

In a similar vein, the only character who comes close to matching Abraham’s enthusiasm is his bodyguard/maybe lady love Chenne, played with such angry violence by Prapimporn Karnchada. Watching her smack nerdy anthropologist students or drop-kick their makeup caboodles is oddly wonderful

Low Points
Is it really THAT HARD to write and direct young people as likable, interesting creatures? As movies like Blood Monkey and Grizzly Park seem to suggest, the answer is yes, yes it really is that hard

Lessons Learned
Chekhov’s rule of handheld video cameras: if the feature ‘night vision’ is referenced, you can bet a barrel of blood monkeys that we’ll be seeing green in the final reel

Most idiots can’t resist taking a ride on the baggage carousel, especially the self-proclaimed good-looking ones

The jungle is not good for the complexion

Blood Monkey wasn’t originally made for the SyFy Channel, but that’s where it ended up and really, that’s where it belongs. The location is gorgeous, the characters dull, action not terrible and script generally more funny than it ever meant to be. What makes it mildly recommendable is the energy and talent of F. Murray Abraham, coupled, of course, with the fact that he’s actually in this movie. So while it might not satisfy your taste for blood monkeys, it will quench your Salieri salivation and hey, I suppose that’s more than King Kong can say.


  1. I was really annoyed by the lack of Apes too. Why bother with that title?

    If you want real, real disappointment though, check out a Bollywood film called 'Agyaat.' It features a Jungle, a movie being shot and a monster of unknown origin. How unknown? They never freaking show it- EVER!!! You don't even get a limb or a silhouette.

    Oh and it ends with the line 'To Be Continued in Agyaat 2.'

  2. UGH! That sounds TERRIBLE! I hope the song-and-dance routines are least ape-like...

  3. Thank you so much for this! I've been trying very hard to dissuade someone from forcing me to watch this. Now I can tell him: no blood monkeys, no dice!

    Also, apes aren't monkeys. Anthropologists, even the good-looking ones, should know this.


    So what do you think is more dissapointing, this or Frogs? From what I've heard about this movie, I guess that the BLOOD MONKEYS! at least kill people, unlike those ribbiting amphibians who couldn't even kill Reb Brown in Ssssssssssss.

  5. DM, My job here is done!

    Whoa Chris, whoa: Frogs is Game of Thrones to Blood Monkey's Twilight. Or not. I don't know, I've just been watching a lot of Game of Thrones lately. My point being: Frogs is amazingly awful. Sure, there are no actual frogs (the killers are more toadish) but there IS Sam Elliot, there IS a death by pipe cleaner spiders, there IS a poisoned butterfly attack, and it IS all so much more wonderful than words could possibly express!

  6. 'Frogs' has lizards killing a guy by poisoning him with bottles they knock over.

    One man dies after he shoots himself in the leg and spiders just kind of drop webbing on him.

    A woman is chased by spiders and snakes until she randomly gets bitten.

    'Frogs' = win.

  7. Oh gosh, I completely forgot about the guy shooting himself! And the poison that was just LAYING AROUND IN THE GREENHOUSE FOR NO REASON!

    And I had to reread my review from a few years back (bam: to remember the fact that a woman gets killed by a mudtha fuhckin' TORTOISE! And that the black characters have this weird black power speech and then are discovered dead, but not shown dead, as if their deaths didn't really matter because they were black.

    Oh goodness. Now I have to go home and rewatch Frogs...

  8. So, it's kind of like going to see Big Country and they don't perform...oh I don't know, say..."Big Country?" And for the record, I consider Big Country to be the SyFy Original Movie of 80's bands.

  9. I have no idea what that is, but the comparison seems absolutely apt!

  10. Oh dear... I should have warned you off of this one. We suffered through it some time ago. Most disappointing title ever? Possibly. I mean, it's hard to make a film called "Blood Monkey" and have it NOT be at least entertaining or at least contain a monkey. For more enjoyable evil simians, I suggest George Romero's "Monkey Shines", also on streaming. Ella the capuchin is the cutest little devil monkey you'll ever see, and it's a wonder to watch her just for her acting performance.

  11. You know, people HAD told me to not expect Blood Monkeys, but with that title AND F. Murray Abraham, how could I not try?

    And I saw Monkey Shines in the theater when I was a wee lass (my parents were strange) and fell asleep. Can't remember a thing about it save for a cute monkey. Maybe I should give it another go...

  12. Monkey Shines is slow, relaxed, and not really a horror movie per se, until the last act. It's easy to see why people went into it expecting George Romero OTT horror and gore, but really it's a fascinating look at a man who becomes paralyzed and has a trained Capuchin assigned to help him manage basic household tasks. The monkey is *amazing* - Whoever trained her did an awesome job because her "acting" is really something. It's not a case where the monkey becomes horrible and mutated and evil, she just becomes... a little obsessive. It's more a movie about the tiny devious things a Capuchin monkey can do to drive people crazy than it is a scary-scary horror film.

    Anyway, my wife and I enjoyed it. YMMV! I would say it is worth watching just for the monkey alone, though - Her facial expressions, reactions, tricks, etc. If nothing else, Ella would totally qualify for your Shortening list of memorable tiny movie villains.

  13. Hmmm. That definitely explains why the 7 year old in me couldn't stay focused!

    And ooooh! I will DEFINITELY put Ella on the short list for next year. I think another reason I've been so reluctant to rewatch it is my silly womanly nervousness with the whole 'oh no! Animal in danger!' thing. I know the monkey is the villain, but I'm almost positive that I'll end up liking her more than anyone else!