Friday, August 7, 2020

The Blue Monkey

Blue Monkey
William Fruet

A man injures himself on a strange exotic and plant is taken to the hospital. He goes into cardiac arrest in the ER and a giant white larva grows from his throat. At that same time, a cop brings in his injured partner. The larva is removed and accidentally exposed to a chemical by some kids messing around in a lab. The larva matures into a bug and starts to grow huge. Everyone is trapped in the hospital as the military arrives to ensure that the biohazard within does not escape.

The Blue Monkey is out to evoke an updated take on 1950s horror. It brings along elements of the giant atomic bug craze heralded by Them (1954) and the infectious horror of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). Since this is a late 1980s production it makes sure to include plenty of slime and a little gore. The late 1980s saw the rise of the horror-comedy, and while The Blue Monkey does have some broad comedy moments, the horror is never played for laughs. When the film brings all its influences together, it is a fun mix of monsters and medical horror. The problem is that it takes a long time to get there.

"Don't panic, but I think we're Canada."

The human cast is unfortunately bland. We are given a stereotypical cop played by Steve Railsback and an ER Doctor played by Gwynyth Walsh. Perhaps it is an ode to 1950s SF to make these characters so flat but it doesn’t make for engaging storytelling. Couple this fact with a sagging middle section and several uninteresting side characters and you can see why the bulk of this film can be such an endurance test.

The Blue Monkey’s most glaring issue is its pacing. I can understand why a small budget film with elaborate special effects would want to save most of its spectacle for the 3rd act, but The Blue Monkey never brings across the rising tension of everyone being trapped in the hospital with the army outside and the bugs inside. Things feel too spread out and there are too many characters of little consequence. We have various lab technicians who just want to smoke weed or have sex, we have an overly prepared pregnant couple, and we have the irritating kids who only exist to be cute/make the whole problem even worse than it is. Tightening up the entire middle portion of the film and eliminating many of these characters would help the pacing considerably.

Still less menacing than the roaches in my first apartment.

The killer bugs themselves are great. A combination of puppetry and costuming brings them to life and thankfully they very insect-like as opposed to being humanoid, which would have been the far easier produce. The creatures aren’t entirely successful often coming across as rather stiff but there is real care and craftsmanship behind their realization and it gives them an old school charm. Some of the body horror is effective with larva bubbling out of mouths and heads being torn off, but I did find myself wishing they would push the gore and slime just a bit more after such a long wait to get to the monster action.

The Blue Monkey is deeply flawed with some serious pacing and tonal issues but if you’re a big fan of big bugs the third act does deliver some fun horror action and creepy insects. 

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