Director: Brett Simmons.
Starring: Stephen Lang , CJ Thomason, Michelle Pierce. USA. 1h 31m
I love when an old classic story gets a boost into a modern film, although there is always a need to be sensitive in the approach of modernising any aged tale, some stories seem to thrive as costume dramas, being so heavily strung in their own time that it’s almost impossible to shift elsewhere, such as Witchfinder General, while it could be updated, it relies on the mass hysteria of the age to really boil up some trouble. Timeless classics can be shifted back and forwards through time effortlessly, Lifepod by Alfred Hitchcock became a pretty interesting Sci Fi piece in 1993 by the talented Ron Silver (RIP) a ship lost at sea can easily become a ship lost in space.
The Monkey’s Paw was a story which filled me with marvel as a child, the moralistic side is deeply devastating but the horror aspect usually boils down to the concept of the evil dead returning, in the original story they simply come knocking but this presence has been resurrected many times now and death takes a gory step closer each time. The charming segment “Wish you were here” of Tales from the Crypt, the screaming dead are resurrected at the wrong time and face an everlasting life of pain.. ooops!
The biggest difference with this modern rendition of W.W. Jacobs story is that where the story is usually cut short this begins to pick up, which is incredibly exciting or is it…
One Wish. A thousand Regrets.
A group of friends who work at Trident Supply in Louisiana chance upon a strange curio in a bar. Jake Tilton (Thomason) and Cobb (Lang) are really close, and while discussing Cobbs drinking problem and marital woes, they notice a withered monkey paw in the possession of a random man called Gillespie who tells them about the tale of how the paw grants wishes, he temps Jake to make a wish, Jake wants a Mustang parked outside the bar, Gillespie tells him to take the paw and that he’s the paws new owner. On the way home he finds the keys to the car in his pocket, without too many questions, he and Cobb get in and while driving home a terrible accident sparks a chain of disturbing events.
Having the paramount part of the story happens in the first act the film has all the time in the world to play with what could happen next, there’s lots of unfinished business for the dead, like Stephen Kings Pet Cemetery (1989) there’s always a family connection. A wife that needs to be straightened out and a kid that needs to be reunited with his father, but what about all the other slights and misdemeanors can they really go without punishment? There does seem to be this reoccurring theme of the dead coming back for revenge or to straighten everything out, no matter if it’s a burial ground or bad taxidermy the theme is nearly universal in modern cinema.
Stephen Lang is really awesome in this production, probably one of the bigger names, and certainly one of the more active and precise roles within the film, he spends a lot of it looking like he’s been on a big weekend bender, but it’s all part of the fun and it certainly looks like he had a blast making this wild new classic and he definitely out stages Thomason in most scenes that they share.
You still drinking that beer?
Hey Man does a frog scratch his ass before he farts?
Generally the film really works, there’s a ton of screenwriting from Macron Blair who’s always on top of his game but I felt that something wasn’t lignin up within the film. The style of horror from the original story isn’t something that would terrify anyone from 2013 onwards, but the film couldn’t make up it’s mind if it wanted to be a gore fest or something more haunting and spine chilling. In all fairness it just felt like a slightly dark and murky drama. There’s some a stalking and a touch of fighting and arguing between the two main friends, most of the gore is off screen so it doesn’t distract from.. well more drama…
Despite the gleaming acting and appealing adaptation of a classic story, the film failed to be all that scary, it’s enjoyable to watch but it didn’t keep me up all night cowering in fear, and don’t get wrong, some movies still do that to me (I am always looking for the next fear ride) but could such an old story really do that to anyone, well yes, The Thing (1982) did that for a lot of people so a trick was missed here.
Somewhere between the Louisiana heat, a wonderfully creepy Black fortune teller and the boys will be boys antics, there’s a lot to keep you occupied until the slightly predictable ending takes place and we all learn that you need to be careful for what you wish for..
R: Tales from the Crypt (1972),
L: Monkey Paw adaptations
5s: Stephen Lang