Written by Old Bluffer 21st Sep 2006
The premise of Shakma is, in the parlance of the B Movie aficionado "totally sweet".
Roddie McDowell plays Sorenson, an eccentric professor who organises a late-night live action roleplaying (LARP) game for his students, in an academic laboratory complex.
Unfortunately, whilst they are playing, a baboon that has been inexplicably injected with drugs to make it a savage killer, escapes and starts eating his players.
Now if that isn't a nice premise for a silly film, I really don't know what is.
*Nobody* is going to guess the film on the frontpage of the site from this screenshot...
Sorenson runs the game via a communications network involving radio tracking devices, walkie talkies and some "dungeon" software running on a BBC Micro.
The actual game is sadly less sophisticated though, and it is therefore somewhat confusing why the students seem so excited to be playing.
All they have to do is traverse numerous identical corridors, then radio the professor telling him which room they are going to search. One room in the entire building contains a monster (played by the one student who seems to realise that the game is total arse) which presumably would mean game over. Most doors contain basic riddles to solve though, and eventually a player should amass enough clues to get to the top floor and rescue the princess (played by a rather needy girl who resembles Miss Piggy in a strange dress).
Imagine the disappointment after braving 5 levels of baboon infested dungeons only to find her waiting at the end.
Any fun that may be gleaned from this game is quietly disposed of by Sorenson's completely bland and unexciting style of being a "Dungeon Master". In fact, phoning the speaking clock would have provided a richer roleplaying experience.
Roddie McDowell playing the world's dullest games master.
Be that as it may, things *are* going to get more exciting, due to the presence of Shakma, the luckless primate who is the star of the film.
Shakma soon disposes of the pretend "monster" and takes his place, brutally ripping throats out of the players, one by one.
The fact that he is able to do this is more testament to the woeful ineffectiveness of the students rather than any supermonkey powers.
For a start, it has already been established that they are used to handling primates, and they even have the necessary equipment on hand to dart and subdue animals. This fact is forgotten until it is irrelevant though.
Poor old Shakma just can't get his paws round the door knobs
Yes, the baboon is high on chemical rage, but he is still only two feet tall, and even more crucially, he can't open doors. This immediately turns the entire concept into comedic farce, as students easily keep Shakma at bay, simply by leaning on the doors that don't have latches or just closing those that do. Whilst they do this they are seemingly terrified, and inevitably panic and run down another corridor, allowing Shakma to hunt them down.
Not really what you want to see when you're sat on the loo.
By the end of the movie, Shakma has somehow managed to slay the entire population of the building apart from one student, Sam.
Sam fancies himself as being rather cunning, so he spends ages wiring up the mains to a puddle on the floor and uses a helpless lab rat as bait. Shakma blunders into this, and Sam confidently goes to inspect the charred corpse.
OK, I'll admit this view would be a little scary.
For some reason though, the electricity seems to have little effect and Sam receives just retribution in the form of an old fashioned mauling, but he eventually manages to beat Shakma back by stabbing him with a kitchen knife.
At this point, they enter into a wary standoff, giving Sam time to knock together his final death trap.
He cunningly places a mirror in front of a laboratory furnace, then positions himself so that wandering monkeys will think he is standing in the mirror. Poor old Shakma can’t help himself and with a final screech of rage leaps into the air, crashes through the glass and tumbles into the oven (this is incredibly unlucky, as the oven is tiny, so if Shakma had aimed even 6" lower he would have been safe).
All that is left for Sam to do is to hysterically declaim "Game Over!" and then turn the oven to gas mark 8 for an hour for his Sunday lunch.
Shakma leaps into the oven, you can see his little paw in the bottom right of the flames, ahhh...
Whether he ever gets to enjoy his roasted baboon in unclear, as he collapses shortly afterwards. He may have died but at that point but I was too busy looking for the “eject” button to notice.
Make no mistake, Shakma is an appallingly made film. The various plot lines serve no purpose other than to use up video tape. This was probably not intentional though. The production company must have run out of budget early on, so vast amounts of footage is reused. Be warned, if you watch this film, you could well be dreaming of the same drab corridors and blue doors that are shown onscreen for at least half the film.
Much is made of utterly irrelevant plotlines as well. For instance, a good ten minutes is spent by the "princess" trying to attract the help of a girl in a parked car below her window. At one point she even uses some of Sorenson's "magic crystals" to try and hit the windscreen, but after all the build up, the car just drives off and is never seen again.
In a similar fashion, Shakma slays one girl in the toilet, but before she dies she exposes an air vent above the cistern. This was clearly meant to segue into a new scary development where the baboon has the run of the building via air ducts, but in the final cut Shakma just ignores the inviting tunnel.
Despite all of this, the film manages to entertain due to the initial ridiculous premise, and is a valuable object lesson in how to make an incoherent movie.
The final scene, where Sam tells a stuffed monkey toy "I win" - no one knows why.