Shakma (1990) Movie Review
Written By: Angela DiLella
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Directors: Hugh Parks and Tom Logan
Producer: Hugh Parks
Writer: Roger Engle
Date Released: October 5, 1990
Christopher Atkins as Sam
Amanda Wyss as Tracy
Ari Meyers as Kim
Roddy McDowell as Sorenson
Rating = 3/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
Shakma the baboon is injected with an experimental drug that drives him mad and gives him an insatiable taste for violence. When a few residents organize a live-action role playing game, they have a bigger challenge than expected as Shakma breaks free from his lab room on game night!
This movie is surprisingly gory at times: it starts with baboon brain surgery, and it does not skimp on showing the aftermath of Shakma’s attacks. Some effects are a bit cheesy, but some are look alarmingly realistic. Of course, animal lovers may want to avoid this one for a variety of reasons.
The Grave Review
The story is pretty straightforward: a baboon has a serum injected into his brain that drives him violently mad. That night, the students and faculty get set for their annual LARPing (live-action role-playing) game in the facility, not knowing that Shakma has gotten loose. Now bloodthirsty, he begins ripping through the LARPers in no time at all. I admit that I have a lot of respect for this movie for not bothering with too much context: what I’ve described is pretty much all the detail that you will receive in Shakma, and you either go with it or not.
There was some flat acting here and there, but for a straight-to-video movie, the cast was overall surprisingly good. I have to admit that I was impressed by the baboon’s acting; I often hear the adage in television and film that you should never work with children and animals. The baboon was either a very good actor or really trying to kill the cast and crew. I don’t know if he was difficult to work with, but I could believe either of those possibilities completely.
I was pleasantly surprised by Shakma. Although it can get a little goofy and there’s some weakness in both effects and plot points at times, I found it legitimately frightening. As it turns out, I am terrified of baboons! They’re kind of creepy to begin with, combining very human gestures with an animal’s behavior in general, never mind when you’ve got one showing its fangs and ripping people apart. There are a lot of great shots of the baboon running down corridors to attack someone or trying to break down doors that, while cliché, are extremely effective. Some standout scenes are when Shakma is slipping under a toilet stall to attack a LARPer (admittedly because I was thinking about how a cameraman had to be in a stall with him) and main character Sam (Christopher Atkins) finding the body of his professor stuck in the threshold of the elevator, jamming the automatic doors. I’m not sure if Shakma is a movie I’d watch again and again, but I understand why it has a cult following and why it has had so many hard copy rereleases.
If you are scared of monkeys, this is the horror movie for you, if you are not scared of them, I would recommend giving it a whirl anyways, though you may be more distracted by some of the faker looking gore effects and occasional puppet hands.
For the foregoing reasons, Grave Reviews gives Shakma (1990) three graves out of five graves.
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