says: don't trust this monkey
SIMON MANGIARACINA - COLUMNIST
I had a choice to make, and unfortunately, I chose poorly.
In retrospect, it was really a no-brainer, but I must have had a lapse
of reason and simple decision making skills. The choice was this: I could
either rent Terror Tract, a new horror film starring John Ritter (Three's
Company, Problem Child 1 and 2) or Caged Heat 2: Stripped of Freedom,
"If these girls were good, they wouldn't be in cages!" Unfortunately for
everybody (especially for myself) I chose the former. I am truly sorry.
I will make it up to all of you next week, I promise.
In the mean time Terror Tract will have to suffice, but I
really don't have to tell you that it is a poor substitute. John Ritter,
who really wasn't that cool twenty years ago in Three's Company, and was
even less cool ten years ago in the Problem Child films, has now pretty
much reached the status of completely lame. He plays a real estate agent
who must make a sale on the last day to fill his quota, or the company
that employs him will torture his family.
You see, he shows houses in a haunted neighborhood, and the
company he works for is rather twisted as well. Unfortunately, with each
house he shows, he must reveal the reason why it's up for sale, under
the agency's full disclosure policy.
Seeing as how these houses are located in a haunted neighborhood,
each house has it's own horror story that led up to it being placed on
the market. Ritter shows three houses, making for three short stories
of chilling terror, or just plain boredom.
Two of the stories really are pretty lousy, and I'll refrain
from giving a detailed account of them, but the remaining story was almost
worth the $3.98 rental fee.
Almost. The success of the story rests on the well-known
principle that a small live monkey wearing a bell hop outfit can be simultaneously
funny and creepy. It helps if the monkey is evil and kills people and/
or house pets.
A little girl finds a monkey in bell hop garb in her backyard.
They soon become fast friends. She names him Bobo. When the little girl
brings her simian pal into her house, her father is suspicious. "I wonder
if there's anything unusual about that monkey," he says. Hmm, maybe the
fact that he's dressed as a bell hop and has befriended your daughter
in your own backyard. I might consider that unusual.
Dad won't allow his daughter to keep the monkey in the house,
but she throws a tantrum. The monkey and the father exchange glances.
It is clear that neither one of them trusts the other. "I almost feel
like it's, I don't know, like it's evil," the father confides in his wife.
"Ron, it's just a monkey," she consoles him. Yeah, just a monkey in a
bell hop's outfit. Didn't we learn anything from The Wizard of Oz?
The father enters his daughter's bedroom to tuck her in.
He moves a few stuffed animals from her bed, only to reveal the monkey
hiding under the covers. Bobo shrieks and bites the father. He grabs the
monkey and stuffs it in a cage, leaving it in the living room to be guarded
by the family dog.
The next morning he finds the cage empty and the dog stabbed
to death. The angered father confronts his daughter, "Don't give me that
innocent act, where's the damn monkey?!"
The father sends his wife and daughter out of the house in
order to take care of the freaky little bastard. He hires an animal control
officer to kill the monkey, but Bobo has the upper hand and stabs the
officer with every kitchen knife in the house. Dad chases the little monkey
with a shotgun, but Bobo escapes from the house.
Mother and daughter return and Dad sets a bear trap baited
with Fruit Loops in the backyard. Later that night, Bobo sneaks back into
the house and slits the mother's throat and returns into the daughter's
room to snuggle with her and fall asleep.
Dad storms into the bedroom, brandishing the shotgun, "Your
mother's dead, now give me the monkey." A struggle ensues and the little
girl ends up shooting her father with the shotgun in order protect Bobo.
After all, they were close friends.
As I have already mentioned, the other two stories were not
nearly as powerful and touching, and John Ritter's presence in between
each tale didn't help matters much. The gist of the film is that with
each story he tells, Ritter loses another sale, a premise which gets old
after the first time around. Terror Tract gets a C-. Don't you dare miss
next week's column; prison has never been so hot.