I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Link

tn_linkLINK is a really unusual horror picture that starts out like a normal monster movie (POV of unknown beast crawls into a little girl’s room at night) but succeeds by avoiding any of the obvious formulas. Terence THE LIMEY Stamp plays Dr. Phillip, an eccentric professor at London College known for his books and lectures about primates. Academy Award nominee Elizabeth Shue (PIRANHA 3D, THE HOLLOW MAN) plays Jane, an American student who wants to learn from him and manages to become his assistant, staying at his remote property where he does IQ experiments with his apes Imp, Voodoo and Link.

In my opinion there have already been too many experiments in terror. Come on scientists, I'm sure there are other areas worth exploring sometimes besides terror.
In my opinion there have already been too many experiments in terror. Come on scientists, I’m sure there are other areas worth exploring sometimes besides just terror.

Link is the biggest, he’s a former circus ape who wears clothes and smokes cigars. When Jane first shows up he pretends to be the butler and shows her to her room.

Oh, I get it. Jane like Tarzan and Jane. It’s all coming together now.

I don’t want to explain the plot in too much detail. It’s just kind of an unfolding of weird events and circumstances with this poor girl never being instructed what she’s expected to do. I don’t think anybody is evil here, but they’re not trustworthy either. The professor doesn’t mean bad but he’s a shitty boss and host, never really explaining to her what he’s up to, so when he disappears she (and we) can’t be totally sure if he just took off or if something happened to him. I mean, we got an idea. But by not giving us the definitive answer it keeps us on our toes.

Remember when I reviewed FROZEN recently I complained about the wolves being more like monsters than just animals? That’s pretty common in horror movies and often a mistake because it seems dishonest. We in the audience know that’s not a normal animal behavior so we feel like we’re being bullshitted a little and that makes it less scary. I like that LINK doesn’t do that. Link is a potential threat but he’s also as much of a goofball as Clyde in ANY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE. He does as many funny things as threatening things. Luckily he doesn’t talk so he’s not going around making wisecracks and puns.

So he’s not a monster, but he is a brat. Jane can’t even take a bath because he comes in and stares at her and refuses to leave. He locks Imp in a well. He gets jealous. He cooks the phone in the microwave. We also know he’s ten times as strong as a man, so all the little things he does have an implicit threat to them. But also he becomes protective of her and that’s a threat in its own way because she doesn’t want him hurting somebody on her behalf. All this is why Michael Jackson had to give away Bubbles. He probly saw this movie, actually.

When Shue is (sort of) being told what the job entails she says she can handle it because “I used to babysit.” I thought that was a little joke about her starring in ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING, but then I found out this came first. So I guess ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING is a prequel meant to show what she went through that made her strong enough to handle Link.

At first I thought Shue was a little stiff in the role, a little too goodie-goodie to be likable. Early on there’s some banter with the professor that seems like it was written as funny but not performed that way. But she’s so good interacting with the apes that she really grew on me. You might expect this to be the kind of girl who’s gonna do alot of running around screaming, but actually she stays pretty in control. It had to be a tough role for Shue because about half of it is just interacting with apes, no people. And she picks them up and talks to them like kids, scolds them, reasons with them. I mean, just doing the movie must’ve been in some ways like having the job her character has. She coulda had her face eaten off if she pissed them off somehow.

The apes in the movie have been trained to communicate by pushing buttons that represent a small selection of words. One creepy part is when Imp writes “LINK DIRTY BUG.” You get the basic idea of what he’s trying to say (“Link is a fuckin asshole”, maybe), but what exactly is he trying to say? What does he know about Link to make him dislike him so much? And what does it mean to him to call an ape a bug? In my opinion LINK is in the upper echelon of movies that exploit the mystery of how well apes comprehend metaphor.

It’s these little ambiguities that make me really like the movie. There are hints that Dr. Phillip is using experimental drugs on the apes that could be the cause of anything bad they do. But I feel like most of this could happen without any mad science being involved, so I like that they don’t push it on you too hard. And there are unanswered questions at the end. For example the opening scene – when you go back and think about it it’s probly not what you assumed at the time. And how much did Dr. Phillip know? Does he know one of his apes is sneaking out into civilization, killing birds, etc.?

The story is credited to Lee David Zlotoff (creator of MACGUYVER) and Tom Ackermann, script credited to Everett De Roche (RAZORBACK, THE LONG WEEKEND, ROAD GAMES). Richard Franklin is the director. He was the Hitchcock-obsessed Australian who gave us the excellent PSYCHO 2 and even better ROAD GAMES. LINK is looser and weirder than those two but Franklin still has a strong sense of suspense and a cleverness about setting up the pieces and moving them around: the property is out in the middle of nowhere, there are attack dogs over here, the phone doesn’t work, her boyfriend is worried, the doctor called a guy about meeting him, Link likes to play with matches, etc. Our brains try to store away these various pieces of information and they slowly move toward and weave through each other until they all plug in.

During all this Jane doesn’t react like she knows she’s in a horror movie. She doesn’t panic. She just tries to do her job. We’re more scared than she is. In fact, if she needs this for a letter of recommendation I give her permission to use it. She deserves a better job.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 at 12:32 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

34 Responses to “Link”

  1. I mentioned it before, but I really hate Jerry Goldsmith’s score in this movie. It is technically seriously great, but often, especially during the main theme, it sounds like either nobody told him that “that killer monkey butler movie” wasn’t supposed to be a comedy, or some suits were always standing behind him, constantly yelling “More like Gremlins!” in his ear.

  2. I’m glad you followed up your last monkey movie with this one. It shows that sometimes monkeys have perfectly good reasons for going on a rampage, like they just want to take a bath with Elizabeth Shue and Terrance Stamp is standing in their way. I think we can all relate to that. I’m saying what Link did was right, but would any of us have behaved differently?

    I do think it’s funny how naked Link looks in that scene when he takes off his suit. The whole situation is positively obscene.

  3. CJ – I think the music was circusy because of Link’s past in the circus. It’s a played out style but I didn’t think it was too bad in this movie.

    Majestyk – Yeah, I should’ve mentioned that. Because he wears clothes normally it makes his natural state seem unnatural. In fact I really wondered how much fellow Australian George Miller thought about this with that similar (but less psychotic) character in Babe 2: The Crackdown.

  4. I thought that was BABE 2: WILD HOG.

  5. I was convinced you had already reviewed this one, Vern, but I guess not.

    Anyways, what’s cool about LINK is how silly the premise seems (adorable superintelligent ape/butler goes on murderous rampage), yet Franklin crafted a fun but essentially serious thriller out of it.

  6. I thought it was THE EXTERMINATOR 2: PIG IN THE CITY.

  7. I love this movie. Although I agree with CJ, the wonky circus score is almost intolerable and totally kills some of the creepiness in certain scenes. Dan is right, the premise “killer ape butler goes on rampage” makes it sound like a comedy, so you’re not expecting the well-crafted thriller that it is. In fact I used this film on a friend who refuses to watch horror movies because it’s impossible to make it sound like a horror movie when you describe it.

    After watching the amazing ROADGAMES the other night I’m curious if I should be checking out any other Richard Franklin joints besides PSYCHO 2, which was better than it had any right to be. I think I saw F/X2 when I was really young but I don’t remember a thing about it. PATRICK sounds pretty good?

  8. I haven’t seen PATRICK (which surprises me, honestly) but I can say that CLOAK & DAGGER is way more serious and suspenseful than a movie where the kid from ET gets into a spy adventure with the help of his imaginary friend Dabney Coleman has any right to be.

    FX2 is not as good as FX1 but it does have an animatronic clown that blows up a helicopter so it’s not a total loss.

  9. Awesome, two deadly monkey movie reviews in a row! May I suggest PHENOMENA by Dario Argento as a follow up. It may not be as monkey centric as your past 2 reviews but it is a great horror movie that features a real life chimp as one the central characters. It also has a star studded heavy metal soundtrack and stars Jennifer Connelly in her first leading role. On top of that Donald Pleasence plays a wheelchair bound scientist who the monkey acts as a care giver for. It is crazy great stuff!

  10. Somebody please tell me that somewhere in the world PHENOMENA was released as PRIMATE AVENGER.

    You can lie to me. It’s okay.

  11. I just remember that I also reviewed LINK once. Here’s what I had to say about the late Mr. Franklin:

    Link is directed by Richard Franklin, the underrated director of the underrated Psycho II. He’s one of those Hitchcock acolytes whose movies ape (See what I did there?) the wry aloofness and sharp visual storytelling of the master. I don’t know if they make guys like him anymore who know the best way to create an exciting sequence of events using as few shots as possible. Most directors nowadays just shoot miles and miles of footage and then figure it out later, but you can tell that Franklin economically designed his sequences like puzzles, so that every individual part both provided crucial visual information and fit seamlessly into the whole. That’s what being a director used to mean. He was the guy who figured out the best way to tell the story that was in the script, not the guy high-fiving the stunt coordinator about that awesome shot of the hero’s trenchcoat billowing behind him after the Hummer exploded. Nothing against exploding Hummers, but a guy like Franklin could keep you enthralled with just a shot of some feet walking up some stairs. And if those feet belong to a cigar-smoking monkey, even better.

  12. Mr. Majestyk, it also works as PHENOMENA: PRIMATE AVENGER. I love Argento movies, and PRIMATE AVENGER (as I will refer to it going forward) has many of the motifs you expect from him but he ups the level of crazy. At the same time there is a fairy tale quality to the film that is not in his other work. It is my second favorite movie of his behind DEEP RED, and my favorite movie staring a monkey of all time.

  13. So wait a second, does Link want to harm Jane of is he trying to force himself on her? Is this some sort of Bestiality horror film?

  14. I’m sorry to derail the ape-movie appreciation here, but I thought you should know that Bruce Willis is in the latest episode of Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis. (If this information is already well-known around here, I apologize.)

    Here’s the link:
    http://bit.ly/afyYti

    Cheers,
    Mike V.

  15. I actually find PHENOMENA to be less engrossing than much of Argento’s work, but that ending with the chimp avenger totally makes up for it ( in part because I watched the film in two parts and had completely forgotten about him until he comes back out of the blue to GLORY). Plus, it makes a handy yin to that bastard monkey from MOTHER OF TEARS’ yang. Maybe Argento’s next film can have the two of them fight it out?

  16. I sure hope the next one is “Monkey Shines”. If I remember right there’s a POV shot in that one too. But , if you’re in a more giant monster mood , Vern , there’s always APE :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lH-fNG9GH5E

  17. i’m gonna put this in my ‘flix qeue. anything wif Shue naked in it is good.

  18. Oh Vern, too little too late! That letter of recommendation could’ve saved her from having to slum it in Dreamer: Inspired By A True Story (Distinguishing it from A Nightmare on Elm Street: Sodomizing the corpse of a much better movie).

    On the other hand, it’s not too late to stop her signing up for CSI:Tennessee or some shit like that.

  19. Oh, a reboot of LANCELOT LINK, SECRET CHIMP. Nice.

    I assume next on the docket is George Romero’s MONKEY SHINES: AN EXPERIMENT IN FEAR, which was only recently eclipsed in awkward subtitles by PRECIOUS: BASED ON A NOVEL WE’RE ATTEMPTING TO PUSH ON YOU. What the hell is the, uh, link between “monkey” and “experiment” in movie advertising? They didn’t use that shit for GORILLAS IN THE MIST. Or PROJECT X, even though that one WAS about experiments and monkeys. Anyway.

  20. Gwai Lo and Majestic: Patrick is well worth watching. More than that I cannot say because more than that I cannot remember. I was very indisposed when I watched it last year, but I recall it being very effective and neat.

  21. Under the related posts Charles—Phenomena is the number 2 review.

    It’s called Creepers in the States. When I was 10 I was sick and asked my dad to rent Creepers for me.
    Instead he rented Creeper, some low-rent horror flick that was boring even for a 10 year old.
    I remember being pissed despite his nice gesture-what a brat!

  22. I discovered this movie in a DVD pack between Tourist Trap and The Prpwler. It was an awful copy, but an interesting movie.

  23. Every Which Way But Lose was a scary film from the point of view of anyone who got a slap from Clyde. Same those poor guys in Cannon Ball Run 2.

  24. Babe 2: Port of call Sydney

  25. billydeethrilliams

    October 27th, 2010 at 5:56 am

    We’ve had killer monkeys, tigers, assorted reptiles, dogs, cats, sheep, insects, etc.

    My idea: March of the Undead Penguins.

    Some motherfucker probably came up with that already but I’m too lazy to check.

  26. Babe 2> Pig Trouble In Little China.

  27. Pork of Call New Orleans

  28. Vern, you are weirdly in sync with the LA revival houses. They showed The Sentinel last weekend, and tonight the Cinefamily is showing Link. Only catch is that it’s going to have open mics during the show for a comic and some of the folks from the movie. Don’t know if it winds up like a DVD commentary or MST3k.

  29. Wait… this movie really exists? It was released? And it’s actually GOOD!?

    I bought the soundtrack on tape back in college (early 90s), when I was in a Goldsmith collection jag, and there were an untold number of cassettes of this particular music being sold cheap as remainders. I loved the music (very Gremlinish as someone else has mentioned) so out of respect for the music (but not much hope for the film, based on the cover of the music) I looked around out of curiosity, but never found any evidence over the years that this movie was ever actually produced, much less released. By the time the internet came around, I had forgotten to ever check.

    So I eventually came up with my own story for the soundtrack, jettisoning the ape and anything suggested by the track titles. The new story was a riff on low budget Disney live-action kid-animal fantasies, by mixing it with a Wolfen-ish plot: a newly evolved super-intelligent leopard loses its (also newly involved super-intelligent) kittens to big-game hunters, who treat them as disposable bait for trapping and killing the leopard’s mate. The leopard tracks the humans back to the cruise ship that ought to be taking them home to New York (this takes place roughly in the 1930s, about the same time as the Wisemuller version of “Tarzan Goes To New York”), and murders them, but can’t get off the ship before it sails. Nearly starving on board, on a diet of rats, but unwilling to reveal his presence by killing other humans, the leopard makes it back to New York and quickly flees into the dockyards, where he starts hunting dockhands. However, when he runs into some adorable human orphan scamps, he decides (due to missing his own newborn children) to unofficially adopt them as his own kids. (Who in turn adopt this nifty big cat, naming him Pox.) The dock union, the mafia and the city police are meanwhile looking for this new killer on the docks. The kids get in trouble; there’s a circus involved (with a new, more normal female leopard to be freed and courted); hjinks ensue. Eventually Pox has to leave the kids behind, escaping into the wild with his new mate, to breed a new race of super-intelligent leopards (the next link in feline evolution to humanoid form) in North America. Where humans are both the most numerous prey, and the other most highly evolved super-predator threat.

    But I like what I’ve heard of Vern’s review of the real movie, too. {g} So I’m not too disappointed to hear that it’s real after all.

  30. {{also newly involved}}

    also newly evolved, of course.

    (The other way sounds like the kittens were already “involved” with other leopards, spreading the genes… {g})

  31. Working with those apes probably helped Shue prepare for working with Nick Cage. ;)

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  33. I think there are a lot of people who have written a lot of words about movies who are good at what they do. I think many of them are working currently, and many of them have worked in the past. But as far as critics whose work I will seek out and read for the sheer pleasure of reading, no matter what they’re reviewing?

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