Shakma

A low-budget thriller with a made-for-television look that's developed a surprising cult following. A baboon — the titular Shakma — is subjected to a series of medical experiments that stimulate the most aggressive portions of its brain and is then euthenized...except that it's not. Doctor-in-training Sam (Christopher Atkins) gives Shakma the wrong...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A low-budget thriller with a made-for-television look that's developed a surprising cult following. A baboon — the titular Shakma — is subjected to a series of medical experiments that stimulate the most aggressive portions of its brain and is then euthenized...except that it's not. Doctor-in-training Sam (Christopher Atkins) gives Shakma the wrong drug and doesn't cremate the apparently dead animal because his instructor, Professor Sorenson (Roddy McDowell), wants to do an autopsy the following day. So the unfortunate creature awakens some time later, as Sam and his friends — computer geek Bradley (Tre Laughlin); fellow reidents Gary (Robb Morris) and Richard (Greg Fkowers), a suck up who weaseled his way into the game; and love interest Tracy (Amanda Wyss) — are in the midst of an elaborate, after-hours Dungeons & Dragons style role-playing game in their medical school building. The acerbic Sorenson is the game master and Richard's younger sister, Kim (Ari Meyers) — who has a fierce crush on Sam — is the princess, which means she'll spend the evening waiting on the top floor to be rescued. With the doors and windows locked, the students start the game, only to run one by one into the enraged Shakma. All the phones are in locked offices and Sorenson is the only one who has keys; although all the players have walkie-talkies, clever Bradley rigged the devices so they can speak to Sorenson — who quickly falls victim to Shakma's fangs — but not to each other. Much running and screaming ensues. The film veers between the creepy and the profoundly silly; the fake baboon arm used for certain scenes is a real mood killer, as is the flat, bright lighting. The role-playing angle dates the film painfully, and and no matter how cognizant you are that baboons are very strong, very fast, very agile and very mean if you make them mad, it's hard to be viscerally frightened by the sight of adults menaced by a red-assed primate the size of a water spaniel.

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