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Jumpin' Joe! Always trust your instincts, something I should have done when pulling this hunk of you-know-what from the depths of the screener pool. But, oh, those screeners are so tempting! Shakma however, should NEVER BE CONSIDERED TEMPTING, a fact I already knew full well, in light of the fact that I never once bit the bullet to rent it, despite the fact that I'd seen it sitting on many a video merchant's shelf over the last 30 years, oft-times offered at the rate of 50 cents for a three-night rental. Yep, Shakma is bad, no matter how you look at it.
So yeah, I guess Shakma features a group of '80s med-students playing a bit of a madcap, after-hours, sub-curriculum, team building exercise in the form of a building-wide Dungeons and Dragons-style live-action role-playing game. Professor Roddy McDowell sanctions the whole thing, but only on the down low. He especially doesn't want the game discussed while cutting open a monkey skull for a group of interns. However more typically, once the kids commence to goofing around in the dark, they're tormented by a hopped-up genetic mutant maniac baboon.
Look, I get paid to make this crap sound good, and if the above isn't the best Shakma will ever sound, then I'm Jane Goodall. Really, Shakma is the stupidest, most-tiresome '80s horror movie I've seen in many a year. At its core a slasher movie with an amazingly well groomed trained monkey as the killer, Shakma really never had a chance at all. One wonders what combination of producers needing a tax loss and cocaine laced with PCP caused anyone to green light the notion in the first place.
I'm sure getting McDowell and hero Christopher Atkins (The Blue Lagoon) for 5 grand apiece helped, but otherwise the movie is mind-bogglingly wrong headed in conception and execution. Starting off like a more camp version of Scrubs, Shakma immediately tanks with an uneven tone. Is it a college comedy, or a terrifying ordeal supplemented by shots of a really cheap baboon-hand-puppet reaching through slats in a cage? Suffice it to say, Shakma lacks suspense, is bereft of a sense of peril, and stints on the gore, which is lame for a movie which features a psycho monkey that could easily rip an izod-wearing-fool's face off. Rest easy, it doesn't happen.
It might sound delightfully bad, but Shakma pisses on the line between so-bad-it's-good and downright insulting with willful disobedience. In honor of the late Hunter S. Thompson, the remainder of this review comes almost straight from my unedited notes: Slasher is a stupid monkey. Some sorta brain-power monkey. Rent It, but don't come looking for me later.
The box announces this as coming in 'Horrifying HD', and horrifying it is! The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is actually ok, the source, something else. In all, instances of noticeable, sometimes heavy film damage and heavy grain remind you you're watching an old, low-budget '80s movie. However, many other instances reveal a crisp image with good details. Colors are rich, whatever the case, and the image is free of digital artifacts. I hate to hear myself saying it's too bad they couldn't find better source materials.
English Mono Audio is generally OK. No serious distortion or other defects are noticeable, not even what could easily have been an unbearable '80s-sounding soundtrack. Dynamic range centers on the middle and high end, and quiet sequences of whispering - followed by an incredibly loud shrieking primate - will test your desire to ride the volume control, but in all you get about the best you could expect for such a movie.
You can watch in Katarina's Bucketlist Mode, meaning you can watch a four-minute introduction by Katarina (Late of Katarina's Nightmare Theater) before the movie commences. This might actually make you think the movie you're about to watch is entertaining, so be warned. Katarina, meanwhile, seems to have dumped whatever mojo she had going in the Nightmare Theater, for an awkward series of almost-dance-moves and an icy, detached demeanor. I may be misinterpreting. That's it for the extras.
While it might sound delightfully bad, Shakma's tale of a murderous monkey knocking off role-playing med-students pisses on the line between so-bad-it's-good and downright insulting with willful disobedience. It's not funny, scary, or much of anything more than bewildering and tiresome. To wit: Slasher is a stupid monkey. Some sorta brain-power monkey. Rent It, but don't come looking for me later.