Friday, May 24, 2013

The Cinema File #184: "Flying Monkeys" Review

It suddenly occurs to me that the sentence I am about to write might be the first time this sequence of words has ever been formed in this exact way: “This movie about killer flying monkeys was a complete waste of the talents of Vincent Ventresca.” Oh, yeah, and after Chupacabra Vs. The Alamo, I've decided to introduce a new segment for every time I review a Syfy Channel Original movie, highlighting my favorite stupid line of dialogue. This movie's winner: “I don't know where you get them wings, but I do know, it's dying time my friend.” Anyway, I just watched Flying Monkeys, and it was a thing.

The story follows a busy father who makes up for missing his daughter's graduation by buying her a pet Capuchin monkey that turns out to be a shape shifting monster that sprouts wings at night and feasts on human flesh. Since I recently started watching this year's Syfy Originals following my surprise enjoyment of Tasmanian Devils and Battle Dogs, they've gotten progressively worse, though so far, this is the first that just barely strains the bare minimum standard of being watchable. I can't say I didn't expect to get to this point eventually, but I guess I just hoped against hope that I would get a few more diamonds in the rough before I got here.

My first big problem is that through a majority of the movie, the titular Flying Monkeys are in fact just one Flying Monkey, the last of his kind until a rather novel twist is revealed concerning its capacity to reproduce. As weird as it is to say it, I actually think this movie could have taken a queue from Chupacabra Vs. The Alamo, by starting out with a swarm of the creatures instead of taking so long to establish a convoluted series of events in which one monkey becomes many. I mean, if like me you're the kind of person who gets excited at the prospect of a movie called Flying Monkeys, does it really matter what they are or where they came from, or would that explanation simply be a distraction from the thing you came to see?

I mentioned the flying monkeys' process for reproduction, and this is the one legitimately fun element of the story that kept me engaged. Evidently, these monster monkeys are magical in origin, and unless killed by very specific enchanted weaponry, they duplicate every time they are slain by any other means. This would only be mildly interesting if not for the explicit mention of America's gun culture as naturally exacerbating the problem as every hillbilly with a gun rack only does more harm then good when they start shooting. I certainly wasn't expecting the social commentary, and that it came so far out of nowhere made me laugh quite a bit. And I loved that as a result of this wrinkle in the story, everyone in this small town is apparently an expert marksman, including a feeble old man who gets off three head shots in a row only to be felled by the now six pack of creatures.

Though perhaps not a great one, this is at the very least an okay concept for a movie, but just really poorly executed. Much of the build up, and pretty much everything in the movie that isn't monkeys killing people, seems like filler when it doesn't have to be. When we find out that the original monkey and leader of the horde has imprinted on one of the main characters and is protective of her, it seemed like a good segue way into a more original story as those she feels threatened by are killed by the creature one by one. Why not go all the way with this bonding and have this troubled teenage girl start exploiting the monster as a weapon against her enemies? Instead this element is as pointless as everything else not having to do with sweet monkey carnage.

I've liked Vincent Ventresca as an actor ever since the underrated Syfy series The Invisible Man, and he occasionally shows up in these Syfy Originals, perhaps most notably in Mammoth, always making them slightly better than they otherwise would be. He's not given enough to do here, and the movie suffers for it. Maybe if they'd made him a bad ass monkey hunter like Corin Nemic in Dragon Wasps, only with monkeys instead of wasps, it might have worked out better. It's only one of several casting mistakes in the movie, as many of the other actors are incredibly wooden even by Syfy standards, especially one of the actual monkey hunters, who is obviously dubbed over when he speaks.

Overall, Flying Monkeys is probably close to the very bottom of the list of Syfy Original Movies I would still recommend to die hard fans, just above the ones that are downright unwatchable. There's just barely enough here to justify the effort, and only if you're already inclined to like movies like this. If the title alone or the pedigree of the network throws you off, you should probably stay away.

Anyway, next up is either the Abominable Snowman movie, or something called Heebie Jeebies. I haven't decided yet. See you next time.

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