It definitely feels like someone took the original short story of the monkey’s paw, and stretched in to ninety minutes of melodrama. There’s so much padding and filler here, you could cut it down to fifty minutes without missing much. “The Monkey’s Paw” is one in dozens of variations of the dreaded monkey’s paw tale, created by W.W. Jacobs (about the perfect wish trinket with dire consequences). Except the monkey’s paw bears little to no relevance in a movie about an undead guy who just wants to take his young son fishing. He just wants to take him fishing, what’s a dead guy to do? Kill a lot of boring supporting characters to get his wish?
In this adaptation and continuation of the W.W. Jacobs short story, we follow the bland Jake who is working at a factory for a man married to his ex-girlfriend. After whining non-stop, co-worker Gillespie is fired on sight, and during a night of drinking he bestows the monkey paw on to Jake. About the first twenty minutes of “The Monkey’s Paw” is spent on clumsy exposition, setting up really bad foreshadowing and the like. In one moment when Jake goes to speak to the former owner Gillespie, we see him hacking at weeds with a machete, and the director zooms in on the machete being dropped down on a wood stump. Gee, I wonder if that machete will come in to play later on. “The Monkey’s Paw” is practically a remake of “Death Dream,” save for the rich characterization and twisted familial dynamic. It’s a long, boring film about a guy named Jake who really doesn’t have it that bad who makes everyone’s life in to a horror movie when given a monkey’s paw.
Of course Jake’s first wish is for a really cool car that inexplicably becomes his, and the second is to revive his friend Tony, that is sent shooting through the window after a horrible car crash. Of course it’s Jake’s fault his friend Tony dies. What’s dead should stay dead, and the film suddenly takes the territory of “Pet Sematary” when Tony comes back to life, but really is not the same. He’s violent, erratic, and psychopathic. The problem is the movie can never decide on a clear set of rules and principles, what with the terrible writing and bad direction. We’re told only the person who owns the monkey’s paw can make wishes, so why does Tony murder his friend Gillespie? Did Jake want Gillespie dead? And are Tony’s murders of Jake’s enemies and rivals the work of the paw or Tony? Is the paw carrying out sub-wishes for Jake that he sub-consciously wanted all along?
How did Tony assume murdering everyone in Jake’s life would grant him happiness? If Jake got his wish for the dream car, what happened to the previous owner? And if Jake never passed on the monkey paw to Tony’s son formally, why is it such a shocking reveal that his son now has the paw in his possession? For all its immense flaws, the one high point is Stephen Lang whose performance is entertaining and pretty sad. Despite being a monster, Tony is still craving his biggest wish and will do whatever he can to get it. Aside from the great Lang, the movie wastes the only big stars it has. Corbin Bleu is merely just a prop, while Charles S. Dutton plays a character whose sub-plot goes nowhere and ends abruptly. “The Monkey’s Paw” could be a great play on morality, fate, and the caution of wishing for our wildest dreams, but in the end, it’s just another goofy slasher film with a heavy emphasis on melodrama.
The Blu-Ray comes with the original trailer for “The Monkey’s Paw” as well as a five minute humdrum Behind the Scenes look at the filming. It’s the basic featurette with interviews and the like. Finally, there’s the audio Commentary with Director Brett Simmons, Cinematographer Scott Winig, and Actor C.J. Thomason. It’s a pretty entertaining commentary that will likely be a good argument for re-watching the movie. There’s discussion about the fil;m’s technical problems, and stories about filming in New Orleans after Katrina hit.