Sometimes no matter how obvious the play is, you simply decide to go for it and this is the case with Shakma. You can hear them brainstorming titles for this movie and settling with an exotic and ominous-sounding one. Like that nineties series of Sega commercials all ending with someone screaming SEGA! Oddly enough, the trailer features a similar ending. This is a story about a bunch of students trapped in a building and stalked by a murderous baboon. Yep, you read it right, a vicious baboon in all his glorious red-assness.
I have a thing for killer animal movies and the weirder the animal the better. Feel free to check out Rabbit Reviews Lists featuring movies about sharks, crocodiles, bats, cockroaches and other animals. And while baboons were overshadowed by gorillas and monkeys when it comes to movies, Shakma is here to bring the balance. This is a pure B movie, mindless cheesy fun featuring one hell of a killer.
Just two years earlier we had the opportunity to check out Romero’s Monkey Shines, a really good psychological horror based on a book. Shakma decided to take a more direct route. I think they were incredibly lucky with their star, a baboon called Typhoon whose performance here pushed the movie from a so bad that it’s good category to straight-up horror. This is something from Joe Rogan’s worst nightmares. There’s one scene where Shakma is pounding on this door that felt so scary and unnerving that I totally forgot I was watching the same movie. Although released in 1990, Shakma screams eighties. From mullets to clothing and even the main theme of the movie, a live version of Dungeons and Dragons, the eighties live through this movie.
Professor Sorensen is on a quest to find the compound that would inhibit aggression in primates. He’s currently experimenting on hamadryas baboons and one such experiment goes wrong as he triggers the opposite effect and makes the baboon extremely aggressive. Unfortunately, this means that they must kill the test subject, a burden that falls on one of his students. However, Sam decides to leave him unconscious, at least until tomorrow because tonight is their scheduled game night. Professor Sorensen organized an elaborate role-playing game in the entire building of the university with a couple of other students. None of them know what horrors are about to follow…
Starring Christopher Atkins from The Blue Lagoon and Roddy McDowall whom you might remember from eighties cult-classic Fright Night, the acting was pretty wobbly. Even Roddy, who was in a tone of Planet of the Apes movies was off at times and not nearly as funny as in Cutting Class for example. However, it wasn’t distractingly bad and the movie had a pretty good and entertaining vibe to it. There are a lot of missed opportunities here, especially with the editing and this “escape building” game they were playing.
What I liked about it were some pretty bold choices when it comes to the story and the incredible animal footage. What’s best about it is that it slowly ramps up the intensity and the juiciest and most fucked up scenes take place towards the end of the movie. This should keep you engaged for just over nineties minutes which is the runtime of this underrated horror. And while the intro was pretty gory, the rest of the movie is pretty standard-issue slasher without much blood and guts. Released on Blu-Ray, the picture quality is pretty good, unlike some of these B movies.
Directors: Hugh Parks, Tom Logan
Writer: Roger Engle
Cast: Christopher Atkins, Amanda Wyss, Ari Meyers, Roddy McDowall, Robb Edward Morris, Tre Laughlin, Greg Flowers
Fun Facts: There were no female baboons on the set. Typhoon had an Alpha and a Beta trainer. The beta trainer was on the opposite side of the door whispering Typhoon’s name which angered him.