Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Monkey's Paw (2013)

Not a slavish retelling of the dope W.W. Jacobs short story, but The Monkey's Paw sure preserves the heart of that cautionary tale, despite what angry IMDB nerds would have you believe.  This is hardly just a slasher movie or routine American horror rubbish.  It's not atrocious!  It's exquisitely filmed and tries (sometimes not successfully) to give us convincing characters and situations.  I sure wish people would learn to rate movies correctly!

Jake receives a mean-spirited gift from a fired coworker: a monkey's paw that allegedly grants its owner three wishes.  You're all literate and know the story, so you know that said wishes will be granted, but with evil twists.  One wish comes true right away, but the bulk of the film concerns the fallout from Wish #2.  

There's a lot to like about the movie.  Look at these screenshots and tell me that effort was not put into lighting and framing, you liar.  I love the sepia tone and washed-out color palette, and the frequent use of chiaroscuros.  The acting is also generally excellent, which we all know is seldom the case with these films.

Plus I was very charmed by the killing behavior of the main monster/heavy.  He's nasty, brutish, and short-tempered, and we get shockingly rapid kill scenes, not prolonged stalks.  He also doesn't muck things up with quips or stick around to serenade the corpse with "hilarious" couplets like the Leprechaun.  And he has a compelling motive for most of his behavior in the last third or so of the film.

There are a few weak threads to be found.  The distribution of wishes/consequences is a little disjointed and the post-second wish portion is a little too bloated to merit the running time it gets.  This would have been stronger if it had been pruned a little more thoroughly.  Plus there's one scene that jars with the serious nature of our antagonist.  It's brief, so when you start feeling like the movie is trying to be funny, just go to the bathroom or something—when you return, everything will be just fine again.  Despite these few flaws, this is worth a watch. 


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