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Primate Appendage of Death!

A number of months have gone by and some of you probably weren’t able to grab a copy of the February issue of Fangoria which covered the film. Here we have it re-typed for you!

It has been a tale oft-told and adapted unfaithfully in horror cinema too many times to count. It speaks of greed, loss, arrogance, motherhood… in fact, it’s a story about the human condition, full stop, cloaked in an icy sheen of supernatural terror.

It’s W.W. Jacobs’ masterful short story “The Monkey’s Paw,” and although it has been represented in spirit in the likes of Stephen King’s “Pet Cemetery” and Bob Clark’s “Deathdream”, parodied in “The Simpsons” and most recently riffed on in the Hammer production “Wake Wood,” rarely has it been translated in its purest state — a problem that filmmaker Ricky Lewis Jr. has rectified with his magnificently atmospheric, emotional short adaptation. “It was extremely important for me to be faithful to Jacobs’ story,” Lewis says. “It’s a masterpiece and doesn’t need me to one-up it, only to pay tribute to a remarkable craftsman.”

The story is simple: In the early part of the century, a middle-class British couple’s houseguest, a sergeant-major recently returned from India, bestows upon them an accursed, severed and mummified monkey’s paw that is supposed to grant its owner three wishes. Despite the sergeant-major’s pleas for the couple to burn the trinket, the husband makes a wish, one that of course comes true… and leads to horrifying consequences for the entire family.

“Their tragedy interested me more than trying to make a quick, gory horror movie,” Lewis says. “Tragedy is horror. That meant the need to focus more on the characters and portray them in a way that made them immediately likable. You’d want to spend an evening with them in their cozy home. Then what comes next, after their wishes, makes it even more horrific — as if it could happen to you.”

The key to “The Monkey’s Paw’s” success is not only its faithfulness to its source, but an understanding of texture and atmosphere — something that many low-budget filmmakers fail to create, but which was mandatory for Lewis and Co. “The visual approach was to make a Gothic, live-action version of the early Disney animated style, like the scariness of “Snow White,” the director explains. “A lot of time and effort was put into the digital grade and the effects work to maintain a storybook feel. The early Hammer films like “Curse of Frankenstein” and “Dracula Has Risen from the Grave” were also big influences on the aesthetic I was going after. It should feel timeless, like a great oil painting.”

Lewis’s next project is a massive, faithful adaptation of another million-times-mined tale, Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” While that beast brews, check out his short by visiting www.monkeyspawmovie.com. — Chris Alexander

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