W.W. Jacobs’ short story “The Monkey’s Paw” has been adapted a bazillion times since it was first published in 1902. Shows as diverse as The Simpsons and The X-Files have spun their own variations, which typically contain a talisman that grants three wishes, but with dire consequences. Now Husk director Brett Simmons has delivered his own version of the classic story, set in contemporary New Orleans. The Monkey’s Paw is a competent little horror film, one that asks the question: what if the parents in Jacobs’ original story had opened the door?
I like that it’s simply titled The Monkey’s Paw. No beating around the bush here. After a brief prologue introduces the titular talisman, we meet Jake (Husk‘s C.J. Thomason), a blue-collar factory employee who’s working under his ex-girlfriend’s husband. Ouch. His best bud on the job is Cobb (Stephen Lang), an outspoken fella who enjoys a cold one (or 12) after a hard day’s work.
At a local watering hole, Jake and Cobb try to console a co-worker who was canned. They find him brooding over whiskey and the paw of a dead monkey. He explains to them that it grants three wishes, but he doesn’t sound all that enthusiastic about it – he seems to dread the damn thing, actually. Although he doesn’t believe in the paw’s magical powers, Jake jokingly picks it up and wishes he owned the sweet Mustang out in the parking lot. A few drinks later and whaddya know, the Mustang is still there, with the keys in the ignition. So begins the curse.
They crash the Mustang and Cobb is killed, so Jake uses wish number two to bring him back to life. What could go wrong? Cobb comes back, but he’s undead now. At this point in the film, I was enjoying myself but got super worried that Cobb was now going to be a zombie – limping around, moaning, the whole bit. Thankfully, Undead Cobb is physically the same, he’s just a lot more uninhibited and more of a dick than before. As the film progresses, he does begin to deteriorate though, which leads to some pleasantly gory moments.
Thomason may be the lead, but once Cobb rises from the dead, The Monkey’s Paw becomes Lang’s movie. He gets to ham it up at times, but for the most part he plays Cobb as a reserved maniac. His resurrection brings about an abrupt tonal shift in the film, one that feels kinda jarring at first. The film is consistently dark, absolutely, but once Cobb comes back to life, the film takes on a nightmarish feel for a little while, as Jake stumbles around the dark alleys of New Orleans, trying to figure out what to do with the paw. The shift is handled a little clumsily, but it’s only a brief segue and then the film is back on track again.
Like I mentioned, Jacobs’ story has been done to death. Is there really room for another interpretation? Brett Simmons proves that yes, there is. The Monkey’s Paw is a solid horror flick with great acting and thick mood. Jake’s third wish is a crucial, painful decision that most viewers won’t see coming. Check this one out if you have the chance.