Monkey Shines (also known as Monkey Shines: An Experiment in Fear) is a psychological horror film directed by George A. Romero and starring Jason Beghe, Kate McNeil, John Pankow, and Joyce Van Patten, released in 1988. The story revolves around a teenage athlete who becomes paralyzed quadriplegic and forms a rapport with an intelligent service monkey named ‘Ella,’ who becomes violent after being injected with an experimental serum containing human brain tissue. It is based on Michael Stewart’s 1983 British novel of the same name.
Orion Pictures producers Peter Grunwald and Charles Evans bought the rights to Stewart’s novel in 1985, and production began two years later, with Romero directing. With a budget of $7 million, it was Romero’s first major studio picture and his second-most-expensive film at the time.
The setting was altered from Oxford, England, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Romero had lived for many years and frequently set his films. Monkey Shines was primarily shot in Pittsburgh during the late summer and early fall of 1987.
Monkey Shines was released theatrically in July 1988 by Orion Pictures to mediocre reviews and a disappointing box office response, collecting $5.3 million against a $7 million budget. In the subsequent years, critics have praised the film as an unusual entry in Romero’s oeuvre, and it has gained cult status.