Howdy folkses! Some of you may have noticed that we've been none-too punctual in getting new reviews posted this year. Our previous article had been mostly completed by November 2021 then set aside to make way for our annual Twelve Days of Shitmas project. Towards the end of February we realized we had nothing else ready to post, so we pulled it out, dusted it off and hoped for the best. We are a bit embarassed to have left the site lying fallow for so long, and when I compare 2022 so far to what we'd published by this time last year I find myself overwhelmed by a deep sense of abashment, though I do have what I think you'll agree is both a novel and unassailable justification for these many long months of neglect.

I can't speak for Pam, of course, whose extended absences from MMT can usually be attributed to some sudden, far-flung crisis involving cold and homeless ferrets, but for myself the hard, plain truth is...I was kidnapped.

Now don't panic! I came to no bodily harm in the process, and in fact my abductors made out much worse on their end of the caper than I did myself. Still, nobody likes to have a canvas sack stuck over their head, to be shoved into the back of a poorly maintained Econoline van, pulled out by their feet and locked in a dog crate for five months in a poorly lit, damp shag-carpeted, dingy wood laminate-paneled bungalow smelling of stale cigarettes, spent Odor-Eaters and stagnant bong water. Except maybe Nate. He'd probably pay for that shit.

What can I say? He likes what he likes.

The perpetrators were a trio of prospective indie filmmakers who'd hoped to ransom me out to fund their movie, but they had clearly overestimated both my personal wealth and the financial solvency of Million Monkey Theater. It was a plot doomed to failure from the start.

To begin with their first story treatment was dreadful, unfilmable, derivative offal, and I minutely detailed everything that was wrong with it in an expletive-filled polemic that lasted the entire first twenty-seven days of my captivity. I'm not sure what else they'd expected. Had they never actually read any of my reviews?

The second treatment was even worse, and when they brought me the third, for a broad horror parody involving an escaped gorilla brutally slaughtering hapless bystanders with under-ripe bananas, I had to break it to them that another trio of young filmmakers from Detroit had beat them to the punch by a cool two years and had been tearing up the festival circuit with their completed film ever since.

Gradually my would-be extortionists became unmanned and dispirited by my scathing, sesquipedalian critiques, frustrated and dismayed by my strict dietary demands and repulsed and scandalized by my unusual bathroom habits.

I do eat an awful lot of fiber.

To make matters even worse for them it became clear as the months wore on that no one from MMT or even amongst my family or friends had the least intention of raising the necessary funds to rescue me. Another few weeks of my ceaselessly barbed babble and the prodigious increase in water usage caused by my residence in their home finally pushed them over the edge. They gave up their dreams of cinematic glory and paid my wife $15,000 cash money to drive from Pennsylvania to Indiana and take me back home.

We didn't have the heart to turn them in. We figured they'd already suffered enough.

On the very day I returned from my unwonted adventure I noticed an Instagram post from Psycho Ape! director Addison Binek, requesting indie film sites to review his magnum opus. This seemed at first to be a little out of my wheelhouse as I normally follow a strict policy of only reviewing films made before the year 2000, but after a hearty meal, a massive shit and a fruitless attempt at extracting so much as a cursory apology from Pam and my wife for leaving me at the mercy of my abductors for five fucking months, I reconsidered my position.

After all, my policies are self-imposed and therefore non-binding in any legal, practical or moral sense, and even a cursory glance at the MMT Archive reveals a rich, storied history of supporting budding young filmmakers by mercilessly trashing their affectionately crafted labors of love in relentlessly brutal, gratuitously didactic reviews.

Why should only forgotten trash auteurs of decades past suffer the indignities of our cinematic tirades? My talentless triumvirate of kidnappers certainly seemed to derive some practical benefit from my dream-killing ministrations, might not Binek and his co-producers benefit from them, too?

"I'll do it!" I shouted, frightening the interns, "I shall sharpen my my pencil--and my claws--and savage Psycho Ape! immediately!"

Imagine my profound disappointment when Psycho Ape! turned out to be pretty damn good.

A shout-out to Frank Zappa doesn't hurt, either.

I'll freely admit I'm not usually a fan of movies intentionally designed to be bad. There's generally too much mugging at the camera and gratuitous bad-taste boundary-pushing for my kidney, and although Psycho Ape! certainly does these things it turns the elusive trick of making them work by the sheer force of its personality. Each trope or jape is offered knowingly, lovingly and with a welcoming wink, affably inviting the viewer further and further into Binek's cheerfully twisted parody metaverse with unpretentious charm and infectious enthusiasm.

Like a scrappy little micro-budget engine-that-could, it's nearly impossible not to root for it, and by about halfway through I was surprised to find myself fully invested in its reductive madness. What can I say? It's a harder heart than mine that could resist the cheap-ass siren song of its duct-tape-and-chewing-gum appeal.

There's legitimate talent at work here, too. Binek has solid instincts and makes the absolute most of the shoestring he's working with, and his greatest directorial asset is his willingness to lean into the absurdist mayhem when things go off-script or completely off the rails. The golden rule of comedy is that you never cut funny, and some of the funniest moments in the movie were obvious flubs or unplanned incidents that could just as easily have been dismissed as bloopers and left on the cutting room floor.

Psycho Ape! is, by the explicit admission of those who made it, a stupid movie, but its low-brow crudity and dollar store aesthetics come off as charming because they're so authentically crafted from the heart. It's informed by a deep and abiding affection for popular cinema, bursting with the enthusiast's urge to share what he loves and crackling with a joyously subversive energy that's damn near impossible not to love.

One final note before we (finally) begin: Despite our accommodating director's permission to "spoil stuff if you want to" I'll try to keep spoilage to a minimum, which means I'll be attempting a different format than my usual exhaustively detailed slogs. What might that look like, exactly? Fuck if I know. Change can be hard, but the first step is admitting you have a problem.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Bananas tried to block the movie's release.

We begin our tale with a flashback, twenty-five years before the present day, when the titular Psycho Ape escapes from the zoo to wreak havoc and carnage on an unsuspecting populace of mostly non-actor amateurs in and around the Detroit metro area.

[Insert mandatory Crash Corrigan reference here.]

Before the carnage begins, however, we join a "normal teenage slumber party," already in progress, where a group of normal teenage girls do normal teenage things, like paint their toenails and talk about boys. Also present is not-so-normal teenage girl Nancy Banana, whose obsession with apes and ape-related pastimes threatens to derail their normal teenage fun.

She's cute as a button and daft as a brush. Like most of my exes.

Nancy is played by indie filmmaker/actor Kansas Bowling, a precocious and prolific talent who directed her first feature film, B.C. Butcher (2016) for Troma Productions at the age of seventeen. She's also directed 25 music videos and appeared as a member of the Manson Family in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Hollywood (2019).

The rest of the girls want to read fashion magazines and maybe watch the latest Christian Slater movie, but poor, misunderstood Nancy just wants to talk about sexy gorillas and maybe play the Congo (1995) board game.

Ronald Reagan does not approve.

Inevitably the Psycho Ape crashes the party. Nancy faints from the overwhelming hormonal rush of seeing the object of her bestial desire in the hirsute flesh, and while she's out cold he slaughters all her friends by stabbing, slicing and bludgeoning them with bananas. The gore is mostly corn-syrup blood and off-the-shelf CG splatter effects, which not only compliments the lo-fi, shot-on-video feel but adds an additional layer of artifice to the farcically over-the-top violence.

I'll get a virtual mop.

Later the police arrive to interview Nancy, eat some donuts and snort a little Tijuana snow on the taxpayer's dime. Also present is one Dr. Zoomis, an animal psychiatrist and zookeeper who knows the Psycho Ape all too well. In fact, he has made the capture and study of the brute his life's work.

He seems nice.

Zoomis is played by veteran actor, composer and comedy writer Bill Weeden, perhaps best known to genre fans for his appearance in several Troma productions, including Sgt. Kabukiman, N.Y.P.D. (1990) and Toxic Avenger IV: Citizen Toxie (2000). In fact, there are Troma Films connections throughout the movie, and I say bless their perverted little hearts for being so consistently supportive of independent artists and filmmakers.

As we fade away from the crime scene, Zoomis muses as to why Psycho Ape killed everyone else but mysteriously spared Nancy Banana...

Okay, so I'll admit that so far I've not been doing such a great job avoiding spoilers. Bad habits die hard. However, now that we've set up our plot, such as it is, the movie becomes a bit more free-form and episodic, which makes it easier to avoid the pitfalls my accustomed style. Such as that is.

We flash-forward now to the present day where Psycho Ape lives in a small but tidy apartment somewhere in Detroit, wearing an apron and frying up bananas in a skillet like he's making an omelet. He casually half-watches daytime tv to while away the hours until the killer urge strikes him and he must hurry away to stalk fresh victims of his tropical fruity rage. His program of choice is an entertainment news magazine called "Low Budget Movie News," featuring a perky young brunette hottie and a distinguished older black gentleman who is, incidentally, my favorite character in the movie.

The Hottie.

The Nottie.

The actor who plays The Nottie seems to be in a permanent state of bemusement, befuddled and tongue-tied by the preposterous dialog he's unreasoningly made to recite. He seemingly struggles even to read out his own character's name (which when spoken damn near made me shoot seltzer out my nose laughing) and requires audible coaching from off-screen to stumble and bumble though the remainder of his few meager lines.

I was astonished to discover that this actor, Grover McCants, is a professional performer with seventy credits on IMdB. All I can say is that if it was his conscious choice to play this role as a hopelessly confused actor unsuccessfully trying to make sense of dialogue he is incapable of reciting then McCants deserves a fucking Oscar, because it may just be the greatest screen performance of all time.

So Hottie and Nottie give a recap of the events of twenty years ago, adding that the whereabouts of Nancy Banana are currently unknown. Not so the Psycho Ape, who has recently resumed his rampage throughout Detroit, killing, amongst others, "local favorite the banana man sign spinner," who's one of those hard-up street denizens who get paid in booze and bennies to stand on street corners wearing demeaning costumes and waving sale signs for struggling tradesmen's floundering businesses.

I can smell the dry-drunk sweats from here.

The entire sequence is low-brow, nasty, inane and seriously fucking funny.

The Ape eventually grows bored of this recap of his past exploits and heads out to do that voodoo that he do so well. We segue into a montage of banana kills, chock-a-block with nostalgic cultural touchstones and repurposed dialogue from popular ape-themed entertainments of yesteryear. There's a decent nod to slasher flicks mixed in there, too where the Psycho Ape charges a buxom and seemingly helpless would-be victim who turns and punches his lights out, only to slip on a banana peel while attempting to make her escape.

Also there's this.

Current carnage complete, we now abruptly shift both tone and location to join a pair of pretentious post-punk counterculture posers strolling through New York City, providing vapid observations on their empty, vacuous lives in a toxic double feedback loop of garish, self-absorbed affectations. These two have nothing in particular to do with the plot except to show that news of the Ape's shenanigans has gone national and to set up an inevitable end-of-narrative, King Kong-like trip to the Big Apple by the hairy horror himself.

Insufferable and Insufferable-er.

These two will be given several opportunities to randomly wax turgid about nothing in particular during the next half hour or so, and each individual viewer's enjoyment of this will depend entirely on their personal tolerance for awkward, low-key cringe comedy. Their banter is clearly improvised and seems to be a pre-existing shtick between performers Amanda Flowers and Dylan Mars Greenberg, both Troma alumni.

Their exchanges represent something of a low-ebb for me as they feel dropped-in and slightly out-of-synch with the rest of the movie. They sure do help pad out the lean runtime, though. That's a convenience of which co-producers Binek, Greg DeLiso and Steve Albers seem to have been keenly aware as the characters are listed in the credits as Francisca and Petunia Filler.

Speaking of Steve Albers...

Fun fact: Albers also played the Ape, and when his birthday happened to fall in the middle of a production run Binek and company got him a cake. Instead of simply eating it and getting back to filming they decided to include it in the movie as a Low Budget Film News Breaking News Alert, where the Hottie and the Nottie report that the Ape has stolen and run off with it into the woods. The stern hosts warn their viewers not to leave their baked goods on thier windowsills to cool, lest they, too be thus victimized.

Now we get back to the central narrative and catch up with Nancy Banana, all growed-up and living alone in a comfortable suburb with only her Border Collie and her broken dreams of becoming the next Jane Goodall to keep her company. Still, it's not such a bad life, but it is kind of lonely. What do you think the odds are that might soon change?

She hasn't aged a day.

Dr. Zoomis provides some up-to-the minute narration and soon the man himself appears, his long, white hair barely contained by a Spirit Halloween plastic pith helmet, surreptitiously sneaking around on Nancy's property and perv-peeping at her from behind a rock.

He hasn't aged more than a couple of decades.

Zoomis rhetorically muses as to how Nancy can afford her swanky digs with no discernable income or employment, as to whether the Psycho Ape still remembers her, and crucially as to whether will they might ever reunite. He then comes back to the fundamental question that has haunted his every waking hour for the past twenty-five years: Why did the Psycho Ape let Nancy Banana live?

Enquiring minds want to know.

Alright. It's time to address the elephant in the review: Despite my assurances to the contrary and all of my God's honest good intentions when I first sat down to write it, every damn thing I've written so far in this entire article has been a massive fucking spoiler.

You know what? Fuck it! I can't live a lie. I just need to accept who I am and that I'm incapable of writing a review without spoiling every goddamn thing in the entire movie. I can't suppress my nature any more than the Ape can deny the primal compulsions of his homicidal psyche.

Perhaps I require some sort of medication to moderate my urges. Perhaps we both do. The Ape certainly seems to think so, because when he stumbles across a couple of dude-bros sitting on a log and sucking on their bongs he joins them for a few deep and potent tokes. They must have stuffed some powerful shit in there, too, as the Ape suddenly enters a life-changing, hallucinogenic trance-state. Clouds and skyscapers dance before his dilated eyes, sweet visions of Nancy Banana and blissful domesticity beckon, even as more sinister auguries of New York City and Dr. Zoomis warn of oncoming peril.

Must have been that Khartoum Khaki from "Alabama's Ghost" (1972).

As his wild visions fade the Psycho Ape grabs his bananas, offs the two Dude Bros with 'em and shambles away, presumably to seek out Nancy Banana and fulfil his destiny.

Next up is my favorite scene in the entire movie...and since we all know I'm gonna spoil the fuck out of it I'm giving you an opportunity to get out and go watch it for yourselves before I ruin it.

Okay. You've been warned.

We jump cut forward to Halloween where the Psycho Ape has temporarily curtailed his usual murderous activities to go out and get his superbad, hairy-ass self some free goddamn candy, eventually returning to his apartment to sort through the spoils. Also trick-or-treating are a couple of bubbly tween-age girls, one of whom recites Peter O'Toole's entire climactic monologue from Ratatouille (2007). The cognitive dissonance of hearing this profound and moving speech recited in the style of an "ermergerd" meme is pretty strong, especially when the girls' subsequent giggle-girted crosstalk devolves into a screeching contretemps regarding the proper ranking of the entire Pixar catalog.

The girl who recited the speech insists Ratatouille should be at the top, the other girl counters that, duh, obviously it should be Toy Story (1995), and the argument becomes so heated that the entire production breaks down and the crew joins in the melee. Some side with Toy Story Girl, some stare in gawk-eyed wonder at the spectacle unfolding before them, and some, like Steve Albers (still dressed as the Ape but with his own face exposed, timidly shrink away, shell-shocked and fearful and determined to stay right the fuck out of this shit.

The Thrilla in Vanilla.

Finally Binek himself steps in to cool things down, and the movie jump-cut resets itself to the point just before the fued began. The scene ends with the Ape banana-bashing the two girls into pink, starchy pulp when they come trick-or-treating at his door.

Alright, Addison Binek. I know you're going to read this. It seems obvious that this was a real quarrel that got out of hand and nearly ground your day's shooting to a halt, but I've also been following you on instagram long enough to know you're clever enough to have planned the whole thing in advance and pulled it off convincingly, Christopher Guest-style.

I mean, either way, well fucking done. If it was an outtake, it was an inspired decision to keep it in the final cut. If it was scripted...well that's just fucking brilliant, but it's also a little scary and makes my head hurt.

Perhaps it's better if I don't know.

Perhaps I never will.

We briefly head back to New York now where the Filler Sisters decide they should somehow find the Ape and get a selfie with him so people will think they're brave and want to be their friends. Unfortunately for them the big boy is still in Detroit and has other, more amorous things on his furry little mind.

Psycho Ape has managed to locate Nancy Banana's comfy suburban digs and waddles up to her door to introduce himself. When she first opens up and sees him she faints, but he assures her through his gentle grunts and tender gestures that he means her no harm. After some meet-cute stammering on her part, and some groany-snorty ape-emoting on his part, they embark together, via the magic of montage, on what I think you'll agree is one of the greatest star-crossed love stories ever witnessed on the silver screen.

Even the dog wants in on the action.

Sadly their possibly platonic but probably pubic paradise is almost immediately violated by creepy old Dr. Zoomis, who despite already having died once (I'm not going into it, just watch the fucking movie, ok?) has tracked the Ape to Nancy's home.

Nancy tries to hide the Ape from Zoomis, but the wily old pervert figures out that they're in cahoots and the two are forced to flee. During the chase they get separated, and Zoomis captures Psycho Ape using the old "exploding cigar" routine. He imprisons the Ape in a secret facility where he can perform horrific, inhumane and movie-reference-specific tortures on the poor, helpless beast.

I just know I've seen that trick Barbasol can somewhere before.

When one of the cruel guards (played by Binek himself) takes a dump on his bananas and throws shit in his face, the Ape has had enough. He shoves the banana all the way up the guy's ass and out through his crotch and escapes. I guess if you're the director and you're gonna die onscreen that's the best way to go.

Nancy and Psycho Ape go on the lam, hiding out at a tropical resort someplace, soaking up rays and drinking banana daquiris. Zoomis is never far behind them, though, and despite their killing him a few more times along the way he follows them all the way to New York.

There's a fun montage of Nancy and Ape enjoying the sights and sounds of the Big Apple as a dead-on, minimalist spoof of Harry Nilsson's "Everybody's Talkin'" drones in the background. It's authentic parody gold.

Even the Naked Cowboy gets in on the act.

With Nancy's full blessing, Ape starts killing again. He warms his slaughterin' arm up by throwing a banana at a fat dude like a ninja star, and as he and Nancy sit on a bench giggling about it the Filler Sisters appear and try to get the ape to autograph a banana that Francesca happens to have stuffed down the front of her underpants.

"My dick touched the banana. It smells like my dick." (actual dialog)

Psycho ape kills them, and the happy yet hunted couple continue their whirlwind tour of NYC. Fake Harry Nilsson, meanwhile, continues to hum and whine and "haw haw haw" like an adenoidal hyena on xanax.

At every turn the unkillable Zoomis is hot on the fugitive lovers' tails. Eventually--and inevitably--Nancy and the Ape find themselves at the base of the Empire State Building. The image fades to black and white as the Ape begins to climb up the side of it.

When they reach the top Zoomis is already there waiting. The Ape throws him off the observation deck, but it's already too late for the lovelorn beast. The armed forces have arrived, at the behest of the President of these United States himself, to stop him and his banana abusing ways once and for all.

"The Armed Forces."

The climax is a straight-up King Kong parody, replete with "tanks," "jets" and "stand-up comedians."

"This movie is a bigger rip-off of King Kong than I am of Seinfeld!" (actual dialog)

The bullets fly as thick and fast as the corny jokes and action movie tropes, but things end as they inexorably must when you're explicitly and simultaneously parodying three different versions of King Kong and a bunch of other random popular action movies: the mortally wounded Psycho Ape falls from the top of the Empire State Building and smashes onto the pavement below.

"Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince: and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest." (actual dialog from "Hamlet," but not actual dialog from Psycho Ape!)

A newly regenerated Zoomis and Nancy Banana stand above the shattered remains of the Ape, shake their heads sadly then shrug their shoulders and smile. They're schedules have just cleared and they're in New York, after all, and the City That Never Sleeps sure ain't gonna not sleep by itself!

They walk off into the sunset hand in hand, ready to embark on a new life and a new, possibly banana-related adventure.

The End.

All of my massive spoilers aside, there's still a ridiculous quantity of entertainment packed into the compact package that is Psycho Ape! that I haven't even touched, and in fact I've barely scratched the surface of all the jokes, japes and parodies Binek, DeLiso and Albers managed to cram into its hour and five minute run time. If any of what I have spoiled strikes your fancy I advise you to go buy the DVD directly from Addison Binek here or purchase it for streaming on Amazon Prime.

Just do yourself a solid, folkses. Get thee hence and see Psycho Ape! in whatever way you can.

Final Observations:

--Psycho Ape! was partially crowdfunded through Kickstarter in a June, 2019 campaign. 173 backers pledged $7,205 to help complete the film, more than seven times the funding goal.

--The film was rejected by dozens of festivals but played to enthusiastic crowds at those which ran it, and It has garnered mostly positive reviews online. Binek told me personally that he has submitted it to Rifftrax twice.

--Binek has hosted two separate movie riff programs of his own: Tromasterpiece Theater (2017 & 2020), and Movies to Watch on a Rainy Afternoon (2017-present), the latter of which he films in his own home. Copies of these are available directly from Binek at the link above.

--The movie's pre-release poster appears several times in the background of the movie itself, including during the "normal teenage slumber party" sequence and on the wall of the Psycho Ape's own apartment.

--Binek has been working on a script for a sequel since 2021.

As always, Cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon in July, 2022.

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