Holy shit, Shakma! Where have you been all my life?

I was first drawn to this little gem while rooting around the dirty corners of YouTube, and uncovered one of the best trailers out there. Please take 2:35 minutes to watch it to the right of this review.

Finished? Let us proceed. How in the hell do you NOT want to watch this? Did you hear the awesomeness in the velvety baritone voice?

I must state that I am a sucker for wild primate films, only because I am so in awe of them. Not only are they our closest relative on the evolutionary scale, but they have the ability to tear you to ribbons using only their face.

I can recall during my early video viewing days being awestruck by a scene in a film called In the Shadows of Kilimanjaro, in which a troop of baboons descend down a mountainside to attack villagers below. The swarm of slobbering, biting beasts burned into my young brain.

The threat in Shakma only comes from one nasty teeth-gnasher, but he’s been genetically modified more than nature intended. He’s about 50 pound of lean, mean red-assed furry fury that doesn’t give a hoot what you think or feel. He just wants to unwrap your face like a kid at Christmas.

The story is of no consequence (apparently for the film’s writer Roger Engle, too, since it’s the only film credit listed). A bunch of med students are trapped in a towering hospital with the simian summarily plucking them off one by one. Golden-haired heartthrob Christopher Atkins (“Two-time recipient of National Theater Owners ‘Star of the Year’ Award,” according to the trailer … oh the parties that must occur after that night!) stars as Sam, a hunky doc-to-be who’s conflicted about the animal testing being conducted as he’s taken a shine to Shakma.

He’s joined by 80s staple Amanda Wyss (Nightmare on Elm Street, Better Off Dead, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and the TV series The Powers of Matthew Star), Ari Meyers (try to sex it up after her Kate & Allie days), a slew of no-names who will just become monkey meat, and a cameo from a man who’s no stranger to simians, Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes).

Someone must have tested that Dungeons & Dragons was all the rage, as there is a tangential subplot involving all the students getting psyched to play a role-playing game at the day’s end. But that little tidbit falls by the wayside when Shakma (actually a baboon appropriately named Typhoon) starts trashing the joint. From there on out, it’s every living human for his or herself against the two-foot-tall terror.

I shall try not to oversell this little flick, suffice it to say that if I had witnessed it in my gore-hungry youth, I would have clung to my time-worn VHS copy. It’s certainly aged in its fashions (Meyers alone looks as though the 80s just projectile vomited on her), but there’s no denying the primal primate thrills of this vicious little demon. Scene of his sprinting to just-closed doors and attacking with ferocity is every bit as potent today, and the oh-so-bleak ending sets it far apart from the typical horror of its time.

It’s currently available for streaming on Netflix, Amazon and YouTube (if you don’t mind Spanish subtitles), and, to paraphrase the immortal Simpsons, it’s a solid horror throwback from Chimpan-A to Chimpanzee.

Article by Rob Rector, Film Critic