dir. Richard Franklin
When one thinks of horror and apes conversation invariably turns to King Kong, that towering beast who climbs buildings and fights dinosaurs. But in 1986 director Richard Franklin – off the back of Psycho II, Roadgames and Patrick – brought a new type of simian-based fear to the screen in the form of Link, a highly intelligent orangutan out for revenge.
The film sees zoology student Jane (Back to the Future Part II and Adventures in Babysitting star Elizabeth Shue) taking on a holiday job with Dr Phillips (screen legend Terrance Stamp, at this point in his career best known for his role as General Zod in the 70s Superman films) to help his studies on chimps. When she arrives at Phillips’ remote seaside house Jane is met by Link, a super smart orangutan rescued from the circus. On first impression, this primate seems to be Phillips’ pride and joy, but as the film progresses he begins to show his more sinister, primal side. Link becomes infatuated with Jane, leading to some uncomfortable moments as the ape does what he can to impress her. But when she fails to heed the rules set out by the professor and attempts to punish Link, things turn dark, the narrative shifting to a game of cat-and-mouse.
Franklin’s film is a great example of single-location horror, with 90% of the run-time focused inside Phillips’ home of chimps. There’s a palpable feeling of tension and isolation, ramping up the fear as Link becomes more and more violent. Shue shows great acting chops too in only her second film role after her debut in The Karate Kid, working alongside impressive orangutan performer Locke: this is especially the case as most of the film is her working with him and chimpanzee Jed, both apes showing brilliant skill. The film also borrows from the slasher genre, with Link often sharing characteristics of those quiet, stalking killers, his facial expressions and mannerisms effectively telegraphing a rich interior life. The end result makes Link – available on Blu-ray by Studio Canal, a sleeper hit which shouldn’t be missed.