The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Monkey's Paw

The Monkey's Paw is a Southern Gothic horror film that was made for the Chiller cable channel. It comes to Blu-Ray on June 17 from Scream Factory. C.J. Thomason plays Jake Tilton, a young man whose life has fallen apart from a series of bad decisions. He works a dead-end job and lost the love of his life, Olivia (Michelle Pierce), to his loutish boss. One night, he shares a few beers (and a few sorrows) with a couple co-workers. During this time, he is given a decrepit old monkey paw, supposedly infused with magical powers to grant three wishes. Jake thinks it's baloney until he jokingly makes a wish and has it come true. Then catastrophe strikes, as his friend Tony Cobb (Avatar's Stephen Lang) is killed in a car accident. Jake wishes for Cobb to come back to life – which he does. But he comes back deeply unhinged, and he wants that monkey paw for himself.

The theme of The Monkey's Paw is “be careful what you wish for.” Much of the horror comes from seeing Jake realize that what he wanted is coming true in all the wrong ways. The rest of the horror comes from what happens when Cobb is revitalized. While never needlessly gory, the film does have some suitably gruesome moments scattered throughout. They're effectively done, with very good practical effects that are squirm-inducingly real. The performances are good, too. C.J. Thomason has a nice everyman quality, while Stephen Lang proves to be a menacing villain. Lang does something interesting, in that he plays Cobb with an almost confused, clueless quality that abruptly turns to ruthlessness in key moments. It's as though the character is confused about what's happening to him and why he's killing people. The choice works, because it's so different than what we typically see in the horror genre.

The screenplay was written by Macon Blair, who stars in one of this year's best films, Blue Ruin. It's in his script that The Monkey's Paw stumbles a bit. Adapted from W.W. Jacobs' short story, it has a fairly compelling plot, but the characters could have been more developed. This is especially true of Jake. If we knew him better, the stuff that happens to him might have been even creepier or more disturbing. Also, the relationship between Jake and Olivia becomes central to the story in the third act, but because it's treated only at a surface level, the intended impact falls a bit short.

In the end, The Monkey's Paw is a mixed bag. It's got some good horror elements and strong performances, but it needed more development of the characters to reach its fullest potential for scares. This is a half-decent watch, but it probably won't blow you away.

Scream Factory's Blu-Ray comes with a 5-minute making-of that is comprised of interviews with the stars, plus the trailer.

For more information on this title, please visit the Scream Factory website.

The Monkey's Paw is unrated, but contains graphic violence and language. The running time is 1 hour and 28 minutes.

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