Release Date(s)2013 (June 17, 2014)
Studio(s)Chiller Films (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: C+
The Monkey’s Paw is a modernized retelling of the W.W. Jacobs’ story from 1902, about a young man named Jake who receives the titular object as a gift. After a night of heavy drinking with his co-worker Tony (Stephen Lang), the two end up in a car accident. When Jake discovers Tony’s dead body, he asks the paw to bring Tony back to life. Unfortunately, he doesn’t realize that once Tony comes back, he’s something else entirely: a murderous ghoul, hell-bent on finding his family at all costs.
The major drawback of doing The Monkey’s Paw as a film today is that it’s already been done in many different forms. The concept is common knowledge and has been parodied ad infinitum (notably on The Simpsons), so it’s unsurprising that most folks haven’t given this film a chance. Watching The Monkey’s Paw now in retrospect, there are some positive things about it. Stephen Lang’s performance is good, though that’s not saying much as he outshines nearly all of the other actors. This is also a very stylized film, with stark use of both color and darkness. What it lacks is momentum; the middle section is padded and begins to meander with no end goal in mind. Charles S. Dutton also disappears from the film too soon. Despite its shortcomings, however, The Monkey’s Paw has some merit and is a fairly well-put together little thriller.
The Blu-ray presentation of The Monkey’s Paw features a strong transfer, but is slightly problematical. While fine detail and depth are often good, the image appears soft from time to time. Colors are strong, but skin tones are never very consistent. There are also some undesirable black levels with excessive contrast, especially during dark or nighttime scenes. There are two audio options: English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD. The 5.1 track offers a nice presentation without being incredibly immersive. Dialogue is front and center while the rest of the soundtrack fills out the other speakers. There’s some decent ambience, as well as occasional low end activity. Subtitles in English are also included, as well as a few extras. There’s an audio commentary with director Brett Simmons, cinematographer Scott Winig, and actor C.J. Thomason, a trailer, and a Making The Monkey’s Paw featurette.
Although it received mostly negative reviews when it was originally released theatrically and on VOD, The Monkey’s Paw is more intriguing than one might think. It’s no hidden masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s definitely worth giving a second look, particularly with Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray presentation.
- Tim Salmons