October 17, 2013

The Monkey's Paw (2013)

"Jake is given a monkey's paw that grants three wishes. After the first two wishes leave his friend Cobb undead, Cobb pushes Jake to make a final wish."

Oh great! A generic re-imagining of W.W. Jacobs' classic short story—a more horrific re-imagining of "The Three Wishes" by the Brothers Grimm—which has very little to do with the original other than having a wish-granting monkey's paw in it. If you think you've seen it all before, you probably have, especially as the first movie version of "The Monkey's Paw" was made way back in 1915 and remade more than a dozen times since.

"The Monkey's Paw" has also been used as a theme so many times that it's hard to keep track of. Just off the top of my head, the "Wish You Were Here" segment from "Tales from the Crypt" (1972) is one of the more well known variants, "Deathdream" or "Dead of Night" (1972) puts a Vietnam war spin on things, and even "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" reworked the core of the story into an episode called "Forever". Thus, it's only logical that, sooner or later, someone else would realise that "The Monkey's Paw" contains a certain element which is very popular at the moment, and decided to make another bloody zombie movie out of it!

In fairness, the resurrection of an already decomposing corpse is the scariest part of W.W. Jacob's story, and Stephen King also ran amok with its idea of the dead coming back wrong for "Pet Sematary", but did something which you can read in under 10 minutes really have to be dragged out for another feature length movie?

With the first two wishes granted in less than 25 minutes, this Chiller Films version of "The Monkey's Paw" takes far too long to tell a story which could be wrapped up in 5 more. In fact, around 50 minutes in, Gillespie (Daniel Hugh Kelly), the previous owner of the paw, retells the original story as exposition in a lot less time than that!

"I wish I was still on Harper's Island."

Apart from a ton of padding (including a police investigation which only exists to give Charles S. Dutton from "Halloween H20" a cameo), the plot of "The Monkey's Paw" is mostly "Ugh, I'm a psycho-zombie, look at what you've done to me! Give me my wish or I'll kill everybody you know!" for over an hour, and it soon gets pretty boring. It's one cliché after another, and towards the end, it almost becomes another "Friday the 13th"-style slasher to make sure that the machete kills homage absolutely everything in the horror genre which director Brett Simmons has watched.

The cookie-cutter eyecandy provided by C.J. Thomason from "Harper's Island" (for the girls) and Michelle Pierce from "NCIS" (for the boys) does nothing to redress the balance after turning Stephen Lang (a real actor) into a soulless zombie, but I suppose that's Chiller for you. As usual, there's no nudity or swearing because Chiller are hypocrites and those things are far worse than showing violence. Oh, and they just had to set the story in New Orleans because everybody (including "American Horror Story") is trying to make Louisiana the cool place to be creepy again this year.

While the acting is okay, and the gore effects aren't bad for a sanitised TV movie, there's no "oomph" to this: There are no scares and no chance whatsoever of a memorable punchline. Well, not when you already know exactly what that punchline will be anyway. Watch the 1948 version instead.

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