You'd think that a movie about Roddy McDowell tampering in God's domain while LARP'ing med students are stalked by a chemically-altered baboon would be a midnight movie slam dunk. I know *I* thought that, right up until the third act of "Shakma," which is when I realized that movie was an irredeemable mess that committed that most unforgivable of genre film sins: that of BEING BORING. The best I can say for this flick is that there will never be a more thorough cinematic statement on people hiding from a baboon behind a startling variety of office building doors.
Ordinarily, this is where I'd say I was getting ahead of myself, but I'm not getting ahead of myself. That's really all there is to this movie.
Except for seemingly endless scenes of people on walkie-talkies.
You see, the most popular students in Dr. Sorenson's (Roddy McDowell) Monkey Torture 101 class have been playing a Dungeons and Dragons-inspired game called (logically enough) The Game. The Game takes place after hours in the Polytech Institute where medical classes are held* and consists of a bunch of students wandering the halls with walkie-talkies while Sorenson gives direction from his office. All this walkie-talkie-ing makes "Shakma" an extremely efficient drinking game vehicle--you would die if you took a shot every time someone says "over" into a hand-held device.
*Do they even have medical classes at polytechnic institutes? I mean, I guess they could be bioengineering students, but I think medical school was specifically mentioned. Honestly, this is least of my questions about this film, but it obsesses me nevertheless.
You get a bunch of this:
Followed by some lengthy seconds of this:
And a little bit of this for flavor:
Which makes you feel like this:
But then you see this:
And you're just like this:
Of course, life isn't all walkie-talkie conversations and bad computer game graphics! There's danger afoot in the form of Shakma, a baboon who has been made ultra-aggressive after some sort of failed brain experiment. This leads us to why I sought out this movie in the first place--our titular monkey is played by none other than Typhoon, who played Mr. Boon in "Unmasking the Idol" and "Order of the Black Eagle." Having seen the full range of Typhoon's acting abilities, I felt that he was tragically under-used in his role here. Hell, he doesn't even get to wear any pants--that's messed up! What Typhoon does get to do is hurl himself against a series of doors. Hard. Like, to the point where I was kinda worried for the furry little dude. Typhoon does make some amazing facial expressions throughout, which have more of a comedic effect than anything. Oh, and he's sporting... let's call it... Red Rocket throughout. Makes you miss the pants, doesn't it?
All of this means that the REST of the movie looks like this:
As fully as Typhoon commits to his ultra-violent role, his supporting cast plays characters that range from "Fairly Annoying" to "Embarrassing" to "OH MY GOD I'LL KILL YOU MYSELF." Christopher Atkins' portrayal of male lead Sam is particularly grating, but I don't fault the "Blue Lagoon" star. The script calls for him to get bitchy with his girlfriend for wanting to have a career instead of bearing him a legion of "Little Sams," all while he creepily flirts with the underage sister of one of his classmates. He also does a lot of screaming, whining, and slamming of female characters into walls. I know, Sam--bitches just won't listen, will they?
We play jerks in this movie!
I love monkeys in movies--be they chimps, gorillas, men in monkey suits, capuchins--whatev'. I really don't ask a lot from my monkey-related movies. It's easy for me to analyze *how* "Shakma" went so very, very wrong, but it's impossible for me to understand *why* it got made into such a boring waste of time. Seriously--just having a monkey puts you halfway to excellent. Maybe watching Typhoon throw himself bodily into doors is a little like watching Lon Chaney, Jr. in "Dracula vs. Frankenstein"--you loved his earlier efforts and associate him with better days, so watching him be exploited is just a little tummy-churney.
I'm trying to find a silver lining to this particular little black raincloud of an opinion, but I'm coming up empty. Perhaps one could view "Shakma" as a critique on the way technology drives us further apart. Or a statement on how the breakdown of communication--and therefore culture--makes us no better than beasts. But I'm pretty sure it's just a not-good thriller about a very angry baboon and a bunch of 30-something-year-old kids with walkie-talkies.