Isn’t that the way we all are? Aren’t we secretly looking for something that tickles our fancy in such a way that we’re either (A) willing to talk it up or (B) willing to forget it all happened and try for something else? As much as I do realize film is an art form all of its own, I’ll admit that I still think it was created to transport us away from the cares of ordinary life into a place where dreams come true, good triumphs over evil, and monsters are made only to be dispatched by heroes emerging from the light and shadows. While documentaries or life-altering dramas might be the cup of tea for our cultural betters, don’t they even – from time-to-time – just want to lean back, put their feet up, and escape into some mindless drivel?
Though they’d never admit it, I suspect they do.
Blue Monkey (1987) is exactly the kind of thing I prefer when I’m in the mood for something different and I really don’t want to have think all that much about it before, during, or after. Yes – as I said above – I could go on about it, but that’s only if I choose to do so. If I don’t, then a film like this – part action, part Horror, part SciFi – goes in one ear and out the other. I might laugh as it does. It’s mental bubble gum. It’s cotton candy for the eyes. It shouldn’t offend you, and it carries little political message, if any. Likely, it ain’t gonna change anyone’s worldview, nor was it ever intended to. Instead, it distracts you from that weight on your shoulders just long enough for you to appreciate its value.
I’d like to think there’s something noble in that, even if other critics disagree.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “Steve Railsback turns in a great performance as Detective Jim Bishop, who must find a way to stop a giant monstrous insect that’s eating people in a quarantined hospital before it procreates and spreads a deadly infection it’s carrying.”
Ahhhh, I do so love a good B-Movie.
Blue Monkey – it’s possibly better known under its alternate title, Insect – is a solid B effort. To director William Fruet’s credit, he somehow managed to pack this Canadian-made Horror/SciFi with some respectable talent, including award-winning actor Steve Railsback, award-winning actress Gwynyth Walsh, and award-nominated actress Susan Anspach. Granted, some of these folks may not be as revered much less household-names as they are today, but this was the 1980’s … and think what you may of the finished product but it takes some true magic to woo true talent to what ends up being little more than a monster movie on a slim budget.
Of course, much of the film’s appeal is owed to Fruet, whose IMDB.com profile shows that he’s not only been a director in his career but also a screenwriter and producer. He definitely ‘cut his teeth’ on genre projects and exploitation features, having played a hand in such movies as Funeral Home (1980), Spasms (1983), and Killer Party (1986) before this one; and his credentials grow even stronger afterwards with work aboard Friday The 13th: The Series, War Of The Worlds, Mysterious Island, The Outer Limits, and more. The long and short of it is that he’s clearly comfortable in these murky waters, and I can only hope he had a lot of fun bringing this one to life when he did.
As giant killer bug movies go?
Oh, yes! As I said, I do so love my B-Movies!
Interestingly enough, George Goldsmith is credited on the screenplay. The writer’s other notable credit from the 80’s was the adaptation of Stephen King’s Children Of The Corn (1984) for New World Pictures. His work there didn’t have as many speedbumps as this one did, but that could largely have come from the fact that he was adapting King’s ideas to the screen and not having to craft much of his own, though I suspect some could argue with my characterization. (Having read the Children story years ago, I don’t remember it well enough to dissect the differences, but the film seemed reasonable authentic.) Screenwriter Chris Koseluk is also attached to Monkey as a contributor; his career shows only this and one other film, so I’ve no way to know what kind of collaboration took place between these two minds.
All of that aside, what I’m essentially left with is the completed film, and – as I said – it kept my interest (and then some). I’m on record as being a fan of B projects, and I’ll go to my grave loving some bits and pieces of probably every creature feature I’ve ever seen. Lastly, I do so love practical effects – when the monster is brought to life as a practical creation and not CGI. So maybe – just maybe – I’m overstating my admiration because this one checked a lot of my boxes. While there may not have been any singular performance to call out, the players showed up, hit the marks, and bled or screamed just the way they were written … and for that I’ll be forever thankful.
Pop some corn. Turn off your brain. Dim the lights. Put the kids to bed. Let this throwback to a time when story wasn’t as important as being cheaply entertained for the next 90 minutes, and maybe you’ll feel like I did. If not, it’s only an hour-and-one-half of your life … and I suspect you’ve seen far worse than this.
For me? It isn’t every day I get something this inspired.
Blue Monkey (1987) is produced by Mithras. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being handled by Code Red. As for the technical specifications? Well, if I’m to take the product packaging at its word, it would seem that the powers that be went to some great behind-the-scenes work at pressing this from the original uncut 35mm negatives … and I thought this looked (mostly) fabulous. Honestly, while I’m no tech wizard, this looked very good, almost so much so that I wouldn’t have guessed it to be as old as it is. Well done to the artisans! As for the special features? Wowza, talk about your disappointment! There’s only a theatrical trailer, and that’s a big miss in this era of “give your audience what they want” or else. Even an interview or two with a star or three would’ve been nice.
Highly Recommended. With as widely read as I am on films – and though I’m certainly no expert on the 1980’s I have seen quite a few genre releases – I was dumbfounded that I’ve heard so little about this one. Others have pretty much dismissed it as passable, but I enjoyed the Hell out of this! Yes, it’s a B-Movie. Yes, it’s filled with some loopy logic. Yes, this might be a flick several of these actors and actresses would like to have stricken from their resumes. But there’s enough unintended laughs in here – as well as some pretty fabulous practical effects work – that I was smitten (after a perfunctory set-up). It’s exactly the kind of feature MST3K lampoons – mostly because of the obvious mental plot holes – but there’s still a blue-collar charm that won me over. It may not be perfect, but I was perfectly entertained.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Code Red provided me with a Blu-ray disc of Blue Monkey (1987) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.