Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Monkey's Paw (Scream Factory Blu-ray) - WW Jacobs Comes to Chiller Films

The word on the street is that Scream Factory fans, in general, are not thrilled with some of the Chiller films releases that occasionally find their way through the cult horror maze onto Blu-ray with a heroes welcome whether deserved or not. I have found a couple that I personally enjoy, but none has garnered quite the sense of dread as the Monkey's Paw solely based on word of mouth. Now I am familiar with the tale of the Monkey's Paw. You make three wishes on the paw, and they come true but maybe not the way you had planned. My favorite retelling of this story is in the Amicus Tales from the Crypt rendition from 1972 in the tale Wish You Were Here followed by Wishmaster which loosely follows a similar arc.  When I was a kid I used to take out W.W. Jacobs books at the library, the author of the original story around which so many tales have been spun to various moral ends. Does Brett Simmons version of this classic cautionary tale stay true enough to the original story while exploring new ground?

Synopsis from Scream Factory:

After Jake Tilton (C.J.Thomason, Sutures) acquires a mystical monkey's paw talisman that grants its possessor three wishes, he finds his world turned upside-down after his first two wishes result in his malevolent coworker, Tony Cobb (Stephen Lang, Avatar), being resurrected from the dead. When Cobb pressures Jake into using the final wish to reunite Cobb with his son, his intimidation quickly escalates into relentless murder: forcing Jake to outwit his psychotic friend and save his remaining loved ones. Also starring Corbin Bleu (High School Musical, Nurse 3D), Charles S. Dutton (Legion), Michelle Pierce (NCIS) and Daniel Hugh Kelley (Cujo), The Monkey’s Paw is adapted from the renowned short story by W.W. Jacobs, and picks up where the short story left off.

I expected to dislike The Monkey's Paw, but actually, I didn't. I rather enjoyed the story which was familiar and yet had had a bayou makeover. Any time a group of blue collar workers sit around a bar, bitch about their boss and drink Abita, I'm game. I think I actually lived that movie for awhile. While it may not be the cult classic film of my childhood and certainly doesn't hold up to a retelling of Monkey's Paw a la Amicus, it holds its own and manages to find its way to the end of the movie with some lighthearted moments, some clever and enjoyable violence and a bad guy that really fit the bill. Stephen Lang is a born bad guy and plays the undead friend of our protagonist well with great care taken to feel as real as possible.

I don't want you to think that I am unaware of The Monkey's Paw's flaws as well. Some of the acting is completely overdone and melodramatic, it lacks enough gore or violence and doesn't take advantage of a truly magnificent industrial press in a more visual sense. The music is tired. The end, is obvious, and while this may seem like enough to kill a movie, we must remember that this is the horror genre; horror folk forgive nearly anything for an evil lead worth watching. 

The disc itself looks pretty good though you can tell that the production was on a rather low budget. Extras include an audio commentary with the director, cinematographer and lead actor, CJ Thomason (monkey paw owner... good guy). There's a behind the scenes piece and the obligatory trailer. The outside cover features a great big monkey paw and the reverse is a still from the movie. 1080p HD HD 5.1 audio. 1.78:1 AR.  Remember that this is a newly produced movie so it looks proper in this higher definition without the threat of an atrocious transfer. 

You may be hearing some overtly negative things about The Monkey's Paw, but I'm going to say give it a shot. It may feel slightly watered down, but the story is one with which you are familiar and the movie isn't boring. It holds it's own. Sure I'd love to see some truly gritty shit on screen or maybe a few more wishes than we get in  the picture, but at least it doesn't cop out and try to play Wishmaster when it really could. Scream Factory's relationship with Chiller continues to interest me creating opportunities to see a movie that I might not otherwise care about. I'd love to know what you guys think. Any merit to The Monkey's Paw?

You can preorder The Monkey's Paw now. The Summer of Fear continues with this interesting selection from Scream Factory. Available June 17th.

-Dr. Terror

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