The Monkey's Paw is one of those stories that just warms a horror lover's heart. It's become more of an ideal than a story and - despite my vivid memories of reading/discussing the story in a 5th grade English class - I had to look up the fact that it was originally a short story by W.W. Jacobs. The basic theme behind the story - which warns us that wishes can't always overpower fate - has been molded into plenty of horror tales throughout the years. The adaptation/homage that jumps to the forefront of my mind is a segment from Freddie Francis' 1972 Tales From the Crypt film - but the story has also been spoofed plenty of times by folks like The Simpsons and The Monkees. To me the story has always been one of the great horror mysteries, because you can go almost anywhere from a "what if you had three wishes but couldn't control the results?" set-up.
So when Chris Regan, a blogger and reader of FMWL, contacted me regarding a comedy-horror short film that he'd just completed - Jenny Ringo and The Monkey's Paw - I noticed the words "The Monkey's Paw" in the title...and I got real curious real quick. I didn't know who Jenny Ringo was at the time, but I'm darn glad I watched this short and met her.
Jenny Ringo and The Monkey's Paw - a blatantly British production, FYI - seems to have taken a bit of inspiration from the work of Edgar Wright on Shaun of the Dead and Spaced. The story focuses on two best buds - Jenny and Gavin - who share a flat and try to coexist through Gavin's slothful attitude and Jenny's attempts to grow-up and pay the bills. When Jenny tries to escape the apartment for a couple of weeks, Gavin is forced to leave the flat, which allows him to come across a magician who possesses a magical monkey's paw.
I think it's safe to say that Gavin is about as bad at coming up with three wishes as anyone in the history of Monkey's Paw tales, but he still manages to do sufficient damage to the lives of himself and his flatmate. When Jenny returns and finds the results of his actions, she has to take action to make things right.
The first thing that anyone will probably take away from this film is Rosie Duncan's turn as the title character, because she instantly makes Jenny Ringo a heroine that we're ready to love. She brings fantastic energy to the lead, from her initial pleas that what she's telling us might save our lives to her dominating direction to the lifeless Gavin when things rough. The character could be taken over the top - and one segment of the film shows us what it would look like if Jenny was too happy-go-lucky - but Duncan manages to keep Jenny realistic and entertaining throughout. It was less than 10 minutes before I was ready for a whole slew of Jenny Ringo adventures.
The rest of the film is at a disadvantage when pitted against such a front-and-center character, but there's still a lot that goes right. There are no obvious liabilities in the cast, and the film provides a lot of fun moments visually. A sequence in which Jenny and Gavin search for the magician who gave him the paw - a hammy character who is also pretty endearing in his own way - really gave me the impression that the cast and crew were having a lot of fun making this comedic tale. And a sequence with the magician and some characters that seem to have walked right out of a Herk Harvey film definitely had me smiling.
Regan's film isn't without flaws. The film sets Jenny up as a narrator and in-film director - kind of like Wayne in Wayne's World - early on, but I didn't feel they did enough to make this a part of the film in all scenes. And I was kind of left cold by the finale, partially because I was confused trying to put it back together with the opening of the film, and probably partially because I was selfishly wanting more Jenny Ringo adventures. (According to Regan, a sequel just might be in the works. My fingers are crossed for it!)
Though its tonal changes gave me brief pause, I found Jenny Ringo and The Monkey's Paw to be a fun example of the comedy that can come from classic horror tales. Regan has put together a neat little homage to the classic tale, and Duncan has created one heckuva memorable comic heroine. The resulting 25-minute film is well worth seeing, and I think that anyone who enjoys a tongue-in-cheek comedy should get a kick out of Jenny's brush with fate.