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Film Reviews

Flying Monkeys, or: We Are Very Much in Kansas

We’re back to high school again for another…er, classic of horror. Fun fact: this is the second film in a row on the Collab where the pizza delivery guy is murdered. Someone please give pizza delivery drivers a raise at least.

The Film:

Flying Monkeys

The Premise:

After a man unknowingly buys a smuggled monkey as a pet for his daughter, it unleashes a reign of terror in small town Kansas. Because it’s a demon. Obviously.

The Ramble:

Ah, smuggling exotic animals: one of the last truly recession-proof jobs. Unfortunately, the hazards of the job include animal bites, zero health benefits, and the occasional chance of being attacked by a monkey that becomes a human-hunting demon at night. You know.

After such a fate befalls two animal smugglers transporting their quarry to the States, their client is less than pleased. Left with only one new animal to sell, he’s determined to make the best of it…until the monkey manages to escape overnight and kill a host of other animals.

A man looks into a cage with a small black and white monkey. The monkey looks fearful as the man holds up his bitten finger angrily.

Meanwhile, in Gale, Kansas, workaholic father James has disappointed his daughter once again, missing her entire high school graduation ceremony. Using demented neglectful dad logic, James decides the clear winning strategy is to buy his daughter Joan a pet monkey. In his defense, Joan has aspirations of becoming a veterinarian, and the monkey is pretty fucking cute.

Naming the little Capuchin monkey Skippy, Joan immediately bonds with her new pet. Skippy turns out to be rather jealous but quite a good judge of character, as he’s not too pleased to meet sketchy boyfriend Jason. As it turns out, Jason is cheating with the sheriff’s daughter…but not for long. At night, Skippy becomes a Xigo, a terrifying winged monkey demon with a taste for human flesh, especially humans who have wronged Joan.

On the roof of a house, a large winged creature bares its fangs in a growl. It resembles a mixture of monkey, human, and gargoyle.

Somewhere in China, two descendants of a family sworn to destroy the Xigo explain all of this backstory and more–and it’s quite generic, honestly. Teaming up with a group of poachers, they are determined to find the only two remaining Xigo and kill them. However, only their ancient mystical weapons can destroy the demons. All other weapons–say, guns for example–will merely cause the Xigo to multiply. Because gun control is such a ubiquitous fucking problem in the States, even shitty B movies feel an obligation to have social commentary about this. And guess who the Xigo ringleader is? Of course it’s Skippy (not his official demon name, tragically).

A man and woman walk through a clearing in a forested area, looking determined and carrying weapons.

After the deaths of Jason and the sheriff’s daughter, Joan is despondent. Adding to her stress is that Skippy doesn’t seem interested in any kind of food whatsoever…as far as she knows. Secretly, Skippy is off murdering livestock and people left and right, and only multiplying as unsuspecting townsfolk aim the inevitable “get off my property” shotgun in his direction.

When the monkey mayhem becomes all too apparent, the local people seem doomed as their default reaction is to shoot each of these creatures on sight. Can the demon hunters save the day before the only residents of Gale are the winged monkey variety?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

Largely because the monkey is so cute. (And their eyes look like my eyes.)

A small black and white monkey stands outside a window, looking in and pressing its hands against the glass.

There’s not much else to recommend this film, sadly. The plot, characters, dialogue, and visual effects are all poorly conceived. At this point, the word “monkey” was thrown around so many times that it doesn’t feel like a real word. What’s more is that the monkey actor is really carrying the film here, and when I think about animals as actors I often feel somewhat conflicted. Like child actors, I wonder if this is the life they would really want, given the choice.

Worse are all the references to China being the source of this demon monkey, which has some unfortunate parallels with Covid-19 (as well as SARS and other diseases). Along with some offhand remarks made to the characters of Asian descent, there are some really problematic and racist ideas at play here. I also don’t love the unnecessary shower scene we get from of one of Joan’s friends, and the jokes made about the demon monkey watching her. There are a lot of problematic approaches here is what I’m saying.

Less infuriating but still there are the extremely lazy references to The Wizard of Oz. These are so badly done that I actually wish we’d had zero references and then just been disappointed by the missed opportunities.

As an aside, I had a lot of questions about monkeys as the film went on, including whether Capuchin monkeys can be kept as pets. Apparently they can in 15 states, Kansas being one of them. Not that this is the kind of film that stands up to rigorous fact-checking anyway, but it does beg the question of why the dude from the beginning of the film had a whole monkey smuggling ring, and seemingly a backroom where all of the questionably legal animals were kept. Maybe we’re in the odd legal territory where it’s legal to own a monkey but not sell one in Kansas. I forget everything from Tiger King that could have had at least some informational value.

I will give a little bit of credit to the actors who had to repeatedly make the serious, dramatically urgent demand “Where’s the monkey?” But most of the time I was fairly bored.

Would my blog wife train this one to jump on her shoulder or promptly strike it down with an ancient mystical weapon? Read her review to find out!