The Monkey’s Paw (2013) d. Brett Simmons (USA)
Kicking off with a bleaker version of the original tale’s finale, this adaptation by screenwriter Macon Blair acts as a both a sequel to and an updating of W.W. Jacobs’ classic short story of twisted wish fulfillment. C.J. Thomason stars as a New Orleans blue collar worker with minimal prospects and even fewer aspirations, content to grind out the hours then drown sorrows at the local watering hole with co-workers Stephen Lang and Corbin Bleu. But one night, former supervisor Daniel Hugh Kelly brings out the titular wrinkled keepsake from his youth, gives it to Thomason and before you can say “Deadtime for Bonzo,” the ill-advised wishes start a-flyin’.
After this summer’s dead-in-the-water giant fish movie, Beneath (an unexpected stinker from indie godfather Larry Fessenden), Chiller Films rebounds nicely with this swiftly paced offering just in time for the Halloween season. Granted, Blair could have taken a little more time coming up with a better twist to granting Thomason’s first request: in the original story, a wish for 200 pounds sterling is awarded to an old couple, but at the cost of their son’s life; here our hero wishes for the impressive muscle car in the bar's parking lot...and finds the keys in the ignition. That’s not a twist of fate, that’s simple larceny, and the ensuing auto accident carries no irony to it at all.
But it is from the wreck that the main thrust of the story emerges after a casualty, wished back to life, returns as a soulless monster with no morals or reservations about killing anyone that gets in his way. The rising body count and Thomason’s skittish behavior arouse the suspicions of former lady love Michelle Pierce and lawman Charles S. Dutton, and the race is on to see if Thomason can undo the damage with his final wish before being either arrested or murdered by his now undead friend.
The characters are admittedly thin, but their behavior is not so arbitrary as to distract from the fun of watching them get bumped off – this is essentially a zombie slasher, after all – and the performances more than serve the turn. (Stage and screen veteran Lang, who many probably recognize as Avatar’s merciless Col. Miles Quaritch, comes away with top honors.)
The kills aren’t excessively splattery, but don’t shy away from showing the red stuff either. Director Brett Simmons does an admirable job propelling the action from one set piece to another, highlighting some snazzy New Orleans locations along the way.
The Monkey’s Paw may not quite live up to it literary namesake, but it’s an enjoyable slice of TV terror from Chiller, available VOD starting October 8. And if you are lucky enough to live in one of the select cities below, you can also catch it on the big screen this month. Visit Chillertv.com for more info!
New York City – Cinema Village, Oct 8-13
Pittsburgh, PA – The Hollywood Theater, Oct 8-9
Alpharetta, GA – Studio Movie Grill Holcomb Bridge, Oct 8, Oct 10
Charlotte, NC – Studio Movie Grill EpiCentre, Oct 8, Oct 10
Arlington, TX – Studio Movie Grill Arlington, Oct 8, Oct 10
Dallas, TX – Studio Movie Grill Spring Valley, Oct 8, Oct 10
Houston, TX – Studio Movie Grill CityCentre, Oct 8, Oct 10
Scottsdale, AZ – Studio Movie Grill Scottsdale, Oct 8, Oct 10
Columbus, OH – Gateway Film Center, Oct 8, 11, 12
Rosemont, IL – Muvico Rosemont 18, Oct 11-12, Oct 18-19, Oct 25-26
Pelham, NY – Pelham Picture House, Oct 11
Torrington, CT – Warner Theatre, Oct 11
--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine