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Friday, August 3, 2018

Link


Link
1986
Richard Franklin

Jane Chase (Elisabeth Shue) is a graduate student looking to do some work with Professor Steven Philip (Terence Stamp), who has made a life studying the behavior of primates. Dr. Philip brings Jane to his house as an assistant to him and his three chimps. One of them, Link, takes a sinister interest in Jane. Soon, Dr. Phillips vanishes and Jane finds herself trapped in the house with Link.

Link gives us a trio of apes, a young chimp named Imp, an older one named Voodoo, and Link, who is played by an orangutan with dyed fur and prosthetic ears to make him appear to be more chimp-like. It is a decision that could have been disastrous but I think it makes Link appear even more uncanny and threatening. If nothing else about this movie really works, the animals are excellently trained, and some careful editing gives them a wide range of facial reactions to the various turns of the plot.

Eat your heart out, Lancelot Link
The human cast is relatively small, we spend the majority of the film with Jane. Shue seems comfortable around the apes, even during her infamous nude scene with Link. Her character is innocent to the point of being dense, when Dr. Phillip vanishes she seems completely unsuspecting of any foul play until Imp practically gives her all the clues. Terence Stamp is having a lot of fun as the idiosyncratic Dr. Phillip. His scenes ranting about the nature of humanity and his rapport with his test subjects (human and ape) really livens up the first half of the movie but it also means things slow down considerably once he vanishes. There a few more characters who show up later in the film to give Link someone to kill, but they really aren’t memorable in any significant way.

So, the animals are good, the cast is fun, and even the premise sounds like it could be a good time, what goes wrong? The pacing is an issue, we spend a lot of time getting to know our characters but the film forgets to let the rising threat of Link lurk in the background. Even when Link strikes and takes out Dr. Philip, the entire event is off-screen, the impetus being to cast doubt in the viewer's mind that he’s actually killed, but we know he’s dead. The movie has to set up the central conflict of Jane vs. Link so it is wasting time being coy. There is also the question of tone. I feel like the movie was aiming for black comedy, but there’s nothing here that is particularly funny. I am only basing this assumption on Jerry Goldsmith’s Gremlins-esque theme that gets cranked up every time the movie needs to generate some energy, often to no avail.

Terence Stamp isn't the only one who chew the scenery.
Link is a great premise that never feels focused enough to deliver on its promise. There are separate elements here that can be viewed on their own but the whole thing never blends together into a good film. Consistency is the missing link of Link.

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