REVIEW: MONKEY BOY / DIRECTOR: ANTONIO MONTI / SCREENPLAY: ANTONIO MONTI, CHIARA PARODI, DAVIDE ZAGNOLI / STARRING: GIAMPIERO BARTOLINI, GIANNA FANTONI / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (R1 ONLY)
When an old woman dies suddenly, the mutant monster who lives in her cellar is free to explore the world and harass the innocent young women in it. Like Texas Chainsaw 3D crossed with Castle Freak, with a fairytale twist, Monkey Boy is the most dreamlike horror story this side of a Guillermo del Toro, complete with princesses, dice and... you know, a Monkey Boy.
Del Toro is the obvious frame of reference for Monkey Boy, which is so much concerned with its visuals that it frequently forgets about the story. That's fine for the likes of the great Guillermo, but when your budget can only just stretch to a semi-decent monkey costume (think Buffy the Vampire Slayer), you have a bit of a problem.
Thankfully, it's just about intriguing enough to retain viewer interest throughout. Dialogue is sparing, leaving it feeling almost like a silent movie at times. It has that in common with its heroine – the film's would-be heroine, a teenage mute girl, traumatised by the death of her mother, obsessing over a pair of dice. The other characters (split up into their own 'chapters') consist of a cop, a prostitute, the princess' dad and Monkey Boy himself. Writer and director Antonio Monti pushes the fairytale element a little too hard (one character is even dressed like Snow White) but it's an interesting touch that you don't get too much in mainstream horror, outside of the likes of del Toro and chums. There's an almost Lovecraftian element to it too, although that could just be a hangover from the similarities to Castle Freak.
Monkey Boy is another interesting acquisition by Chemical Burn, who are slowly gathering a catalogue of odd horror from around the world. Granted, the quality can vary and the budgets are barely higher than your average back garden epic, but at least they try hard – most of the time, anyway. Detractors of low-budget horror will be unimpressed by the resolutely dingy, cheap Monkey Boy, but the more adventurous should find something to appreciate in its creepy, dreamlike atmosphere and surrealist overtones.