Link

1986
dir. Richard Franklin

I have a theory that the most successful ape-centric movies, such as Monkey Trouble or any entry in the MVP: Most Valuable Primate series, are not movies at all, but documentaries. Or perhaps more specifically, documentaries with hack scripts and sad actors crowded around them to make them look like movies. While most would wrongfully argue that Dunston Checks In is not a documentary, how else would you classify a movie in which the lead actor doesn’t even know it’s being filmed? When Dunston squirts perfume in his mouth or punches Pee Wee Herman’s face he isn’t doing so out of some obligation to move the plot forward or illustrate a character trait, to him it’s simply what he felt like doing at that moment in his life. That shit was real to him, regardless of the fact that the camera happened to be documenting it for my entertainment.

Admittedly, this theory falls apart when, using the above logic, you realize that every post-motorcycle accident Gary Busey movie would have to be a documentary, too. I’m not sure if the world is ready to move Surviving the Game to the documentary section just yet.

Tossing aside any questions of classification, Link, like the ones mentioned before, is a movie with a hack script and sad actors that happens to have a monkey doing some shit in it. The sad actors this time are Terence Stamp, who plays a British professor studying the relationship between humans and primates, and Elisabeth Shue, who plays an American student who takes a job looking after the professor’s massive home. The actors aren’t completely horrible, and they are kind of fun to watch as their depression becomes almost visually rendered onscreen after awhile.

As far as the hack script goes, it’s not entirely awful and there are one or two fun twists, but it’s far too boring to have been written by Australian horror master Everett De Roche (Patrick, Long Weekend). Every animal-horror cliché is covered as Link, a forty-year-old orangutan and the professor’s main subject, goes on a primal rager when he discovers he’s about to be put down. When the professor goes missing, his young student must find a way off the massive estate before Link murders her too. Two of De Roche’s previous collaborations with director Richard Franklin included the amazing Road Games and the undervalued Psycho II, and it’s unfortunate that Link contains none of the storytelling wit or imagination found in either of those films.

What it all comes down to, though, is the fact that monkeys aren’t really scary. As proven by Dunston and MVP, a monkey’s natural state is usually high hilarity. Perhaps if viewed as a nature documentary, with some intrusive actors pretending he’s some sort of horrible beast and handlers trying to get him to make the scariest faces possible, serious humor could be found. Link as a horror movie, though, is pretty dull.

Bonus: Be prepared for the most literal use of “Apeman” by The Kinks ever.

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