Saturday, January 8, 2011

SHAKMA (1990)

There once was a time when you could completely trust the community of people responsible for lifting something toward cult status. Sadly, the popularity of "Shakma" represents a gaping chink in my faith toward connoisseurs of trash culture. I am completely baffled by this film’s popularity. The plot is actually pretty great: a bunch of D&D-loving med students are LARPing in a campus building after hours when an experimental baboon gets loose and makes the game very real. It even has Roddy McDowall. How could this not work out? Well, compare it to similar successful films about killer apes and it’s pretty apparent. Take the 1986 Orang-amuk classic "Link" for example, which takes the necessary time to develop relationships between the main characters and the animals. The Link character for instance is sort of sad and sympathetic, and his intelligence makes him incredibly likable. So, when the beast ultimately turn on his keepers, you feel entirely invested. Plus, it had a naked Elisabeth Shue. The problem with Shakma is the total absence of exposition or character development. The film’s hero, Sam (played by Chris Atkins of "The Blue Lagoon" fame), apparently has some sort of connection with the baboon, but they don't give us anything to chew on, whereas Shue's character in Link has a great deal of compassion for an animal she feels is being treated inhumanely. Ella, from "Monkey Shines" is seemingly motivated by jealousy and possessiveness. The Shakma character is just a huge asshole. The nature of the experimentation that Shakma is subjected to is also pretty vague. We just know he’s made to be a super aggressive creature for reasons unknown. Why the fuck would you augment an already aggressive animal with SUPER AGGRESSION? For this movie to mean anything they really needed more story behind it. Instead, what we get amounts to a shitty slasher movie with a monkey. Bottom line, I didn't give a fuck about anything going on in this movie.

Another huge problem is that baboons are butt-fuckingly ugly. They are probably the least cute of all monkeys. Ella and Link's cuteness counter balances their viciousness. Shakma on the other hand is hideous and his wang is flapping around for the entire movie, which is pretty distracting. Like they couldn’t have gotten him a diaper or something?

The ending is pretty clever, but it's impossible to extract any sense of gratification or sadness for man or beast from it. The one thing that actually pisses me off about the movie is how dumb the characters are in spite of the fact that they're in med school. Seriously, they expect you to believe that people who are typically acing killer exams are suddenly dumbasses. And yet somehow they couldn't have shoe-horned some titties into this thing? There are some nonsensical things I am perfectly willing to believe in, such as breasts in unlikely places. There's a difference between a movie that is ridiculous and one that relies on flat-out stupidity. Respectively, one is colorful and the other is boring. Shakma is just stupid and plodding. Lastly it just has that awful 90s feel to it. Check out the trailer.

Seriously, "Shakma" is an incredible disappointment. As a film, it's not worth the money you'll shell out for the tape itself. See the severely underrated "Link" instead. Here's a list of reasons as to why this is some good advice:

1) Strong script and actual characterization.

2) Terrence Stamp kicks ass.

3) Elisabeth Shue is all like, "TA-DOW!" I imagine she smells like angel food cake, and being in her arms would seem like sleeping in the womb of a cloud that popped out of god's ass. Whenever I see her, I just want to lay my weary head against her bossoms, which I imagine are totems full of sweet, sweet dreams.

4) No distracting monkey wang.

5) Link is adorable.

6) It's Cannon.

7) It’s ridiculous, but not dumbed down, and therefore fun.

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