2009’s “Monkey Boy” is a dark fantasy, giallo film directed by Antonio Monti. The Italian horror is a bit of an odd, fairy tale story that follows the journey of Monkey Boy and Agata, a young princess. The fairytale is played out in a urban drama that has a strange humanoid “freak of nature” who’s destiny crosses the path of a young girl Agata. “Monkey Boy” stars Giampiero Bartolini, Gianni Fantoni, Giovanna Gardelli, and Andrea Melli.
The official synopsis reads: A freak lived his entire lifetime closed down in a cellar far in the country. But one day the Monkey Boy, after the death of his "keeper", an old lonely woman, is forced to explore the world outside. Set during one night only, a short time to discover the world, but enough time for Monkey Boy to find Agata, an autistic young girl, the only creature that seems to be able to communicate with him. In the darkness of the night, they share an adventure filled with strange discoveries and unhappy creatures called human beings.
The story is an odd mix of fantasy, drama, and horror with stoic characters that seem to be a little bit nonsensical. It has plenty of heart, even as dark a fairytale as it is. “Monkey Boy” plays out in a surreal melodrama with characters that are only partially defined. These aspects of the story come off more intentional instead of in error. This is probably due to the fact that the two main characters are a mutant and an autistic girl. Either way the style of storytelling used for “Monkey Boy” works wonderfully, and creates a captivating adventure with actors that give believable characters.
The special effects are on the milder side and only used to enhance the harsh world this fairytale world creates. The effects are practical and habitual tricks common in Italian horror. The overall outcome of the special effects and visual style that Monti uses is reminiscent of 80’s spaghetti thrillers. More importantly they work. The cinematography is haunting, shades of poor lighting, tight frame shots and atmospheric surrealism. “Monkey Boy” gives good giallo vision. A style that is as contemporary as it is classic. Considering the story content and creature effects required of the film I was pleasantly surprised to see that things came together as well as they did. The sounds used aren’t really anything major but the instrumental effects accentuate the already dark fairytale theme nicely, giving an added emotional energy.
Overall “Monkey Boy” is a nice Italian fantasy, horror film. There is some odd moments that were a bit confusing but I think that they were more cultural difference than directing or writing flaws. The film will not appeal to all horror fans, and the parallel drama that mirrors fairytale with actual character prose (the monkey boy and Agata of the fairytale kingdom and that of the “real world” characters) has moments that are not as authentic as intended. However the total result of “Monkey Boy” is a well directed, oddly entertaining fantasy that delivers both in story and horror.