Monkey Shines by Michael Stewart

(No Series)
Horror, Suspense

While cramming for finals, wheelchair-bound quadriplegic Allan Mann takes some pills intended to increase the learning ability of his primate companion, and soon the man and his monkey begin having overlapping dreams.

I'm going to be out of the norm with this already -- the movie is better than the book. Yes, the unusual phenomenon here is completely true. I loved the George Romero movie, it was incredible. Ironically a lot of horror fans who love Romero and his zombie stuff disliked the film. It was serious, well-done, artsy, emotional. I was walking by an aisle one day and saw this...after letting out a small squeal, it was mine. A movie I had grown up on in book form, excitement reigns.  In a way loving the movie enhanced my experiences with this one, while in other ways it diminished them.

Instantly I fell into the writers comforting, casual style which grabbed my mental cells and held them willing prisoners. Clearly the beginning setup was longer and more drawn-out than the film (nothing unsual), and I was completely digging the set-up. You get into Allan's mind, and his friend Geoffreys. Same with the flick, but more indepth here, especially on Geoffreys side.

Usually in reviews I don't go over the plot much - I mean, that's what the synopsis is for that I post at the beginning, and I'm always hesitant to spoil with spoilers. Since the plot details here are scarce, I'll quickly go over the basics to highlight the madness behind this story.  The story stands as a uniquely twisted piece delving into the scientific link of memory; here Allan is a paralyzed man who has become dependent on a small primate who has been injected with a powerful drug. Together taking the pills they start to live through each other, ultimately creating a dangerous situation. As the monkey is by nature gentle and not revenge filled, and by himself Allan would never act on his buried subconscious hatred, together the primitive impulses were unleashed.

That's a simplistic way of putting things, but you get the drift. While the book was well-written and the story fascinating, I felt it lost luster once the monkey and Allan met. While in the movie there was much emotional depth that made sense and it was more detailed (believe it or not), here I didn't feel it as much. The monkey had less personality on paper, the bond didn't ring quite as true, and because of all this sadness wasn't as heightened when the ending rolled around.

Pace-wise things are always happening, but it's a heavily psychological ride so there's plenty of introspective moments, and the power of this is focused more on intellectual powerplays, morals, and slower story-building. Character-wise I dug Geoffrey a lot in the book, he seemed fresher and fiercer than his friend, aiming to be as much of a main character as Allan.

So while the tale was as clever as always and something interesting kept popping up, there were flaws. The movie expressed more emotion, more angst, more passion, while the feelings of some of the characters felt a bit more flat and dry on page form. The subject and theme? Award-winning stuff.

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