Everything has a beginning and for the Maneater Series of movies, this was it. Now I remember seeing this movie on Syfy years ago and honestly, not being too impressed with it. The only reason I got it on DVD is because it was part of a 3 disk set of movies from the Maneater series back when I first started collecting the movies in the series. Now lets see if time will make me think better of the first movie in the series, Blood Monkey.
The plot: Deep in the jungles of Thailand, a group of men manage to capture a new species of primate. As the leader tries contacting Professor Conrad Hamilton, the leader of the expedition, the primate escapes from the cage and proceeds to kill the men, leaving Hamilton and his assistant/bodyguard Chenne to head out to see what happened but all they find is the broken cage and bodies of the team. Meanwhile, a group of anthropology students (Seth, Amy, Greg, Josh, Sydney, and Dani) arrive in Thailand for their own research expedition into the jungle, with Dani documenting everything on her video camera. After being flown to the outskirts, a guide shows up to take them deeper into the jungle but when they reach a certain point, the guide stops the truck, telling them that he will go no further as bad things are in there. When the students ask him what they are supposed to do, he tells them to follow the trail, then quickly turns around and drives away. Seth leads the others down the trail, with all of them feeling a little nervous about the situation they are in. When they reach the end of the trail, Seth says they should just wait for whoever is supposed to meet them and as it gets dark, Josh tries making a fire. When a strange creature is seen in the brush, the kids get scared but Chenne suddenly appears and frightens the creature away with a flare, then leads the students to the base camp. The next day, Hamilton introduces himself to the students and tells them that they will be doing something different than what they signed up for. As they prepare to leave, they Sydney and some of the others notice that their cell phones are missing and realize Chenne must have taken them when she tries to take Dani’s camera. Hamilton explains that she had done it on his orders, saying that he doesn’t want anything they discover leaking out, but promises to explain his reasons why. After giving them all ID bracelets that he says contains all their necessary information for being out there, such as blood type, Hamilton leads them out into the jungle and they soon reach a cliff overlooking a hidden valley, which Hamilton says is completely uncharted and theirs to explore for the first time. When Chenne appears with rappelling gear for them to descend into the valley, Sydney and some of the other students don’t wish to continue but Hamilton motivates them to head down, choosing to go first so Dani can document it. The others head down but when Josh and Chenne make their descent, Josh panics and freezes up on the rope, prompting Chenne to kick him to try and get him to keep moving before continuing down herself in disgust. Josh eventually makes it down, falling the last couple of feet, and Hamilton tells them to pick him up and keep moving, much to Seth and the other’s shock. They soon arrive at a camp site and Seth and the others question what is going on, as Hamilton had said that they were the first people down there. Hamilton tries to pass it off the claim that he and Chenne had gone down previously to make the base camp but refuses to explain the additional backpacks. That night, Hamilton pulls out a large skull and asks if any of them can identify it. Sydney studies it and says it is not quite a primate skull but also not quite human. As the students pass around the skull, they are shocked when the badly wounded leader of the first expedition appears in camp. Hamilton and Chenne rush over to him and lead him to the main tent, telling the students to stay by the fire and not leave. Later that night, Seth and Amy see Hamilton and Chenne digging a grave for the now dead man, and they discuss how Sydney and Josh both want to head back and they discuss their options on staying or going. As they head back to their tents, they don’t hear Hamilton telling Chenne that the primates let the man go on purpose to serve as a warning. Later that night, Sydney goes to use the restroom when she hears someone moving around the latrine tent and as she finishes, something grabs her from under the tent and drags her away. The next morning, Amy tells Seth that Sydney is missing and he goes to talk to Hamilton about it, only for Hamilton to tell him that he had Chenne take her back to the plateau. As Hamilton tells them to get ready to leave, Amy asks Seth what they should do and he tells her he will think of something but for now they should just keep following Hamilton. Meanwhile, Chenne is shown to be dragging Sydney through the jungle before kicking her into the river, throwing her pack after her. As Chenne heads back to rejoin the others, Sydney manages to make it to the other side, where she ends up being killed by something in the remains of the broken cage. Elsewhere, Hamilton leads the others further into the valley but Seth is using scraps of a shirt to tie around trees, intending to use them as markers to find their way back if needed. When Chenne returns, Seth and the others question how she was able to get back so quick but Hamilton dismisses their concerns and wants them to keep moving. Hamilton and Chenne then check a tracking device they have and seeing a signal moving, they tell the students to start moving. When they finally stop, Josh goes to sit next to a tree where they see a chunk of meat and ribs stuck onto the tree and when Hamilton knocks it down and Chenne removes it, a necklace falls from the carcass. Seth and Amy help Josh move and Seth tells them it is a warning meant for them but doesn’t say anything about the necklace, which he had picked up. Seth then confronts Hamilton about why they are there and Hamilton reveals that there is a creature in the valley that is the bridge between the two species and it is still alive in the valley. He tells them that he wanted to get indisputable proof that the creatures not only had lived, but were still living and thriving in the valley but couldn’t risk having any academic help him as they would want to share the glory, which is why he chose to have students help him. Huddling together, Seth and the others discuss what to do and Seth says that he is going to try and grab Chenne’s gun that night when she goes to sleep, then they can get out of there without Hamilton stopping them. Greg wants to help him but Seth tells him to let him go alone, as he won’t be able to carry Josh by himself if something goes wrong. That night, Amy asks Seth if she can stay in his tent for the night while Josh, Greg, and Dani stay together in another tent. During the night, everyone is startled by the sound of water hitting the tents and they think it is a sudden freak rain storm but when the smell hits them, Greg says it is urine, telling Dani that some animals urinate on their prey. Suddenly, Josh, who had stuck his injured foot out of the tent, is grabbed by one of the primates and dragged up into the trees. As Greg goes chasing after him, Dani goes to tell Seth and Amy while Hamilton and Chenne head out to try and capture on of the apes. As Hamilton and Chenne separate, Chenne hears something moving in the brush and fires at it, inadvertently hitting Greg, who had seen Josh getting killed and was searching for the others. Chenne then ties the wounded Greg up and uses him as bait to try and kill one of the primates. Seth, Amy, and Dani see what is happening and Seth tells them to hide while he goes to help Greg but Hamilton stops him, refusing to let him interfere. As she waits for a primate to show up in her trap, Chenne ends up getting killed instead, followed by Greg. Hearing Chenne cry out, Hamilton goes to look for her and finds her body lying on the ground. Seth confronts Hamilton about his using them as bait and his obsession with proving his discovery and Hamilton knocks him down into a cave, then heads out after the girls. Hamilton locates them and after forcing Dani to film him explaining the attack and deaths that occurred, he leads them away. Hamilton tells them that they are trying to locate Sydney and AMy realizes the bracelets were tracking chips so he could use them as bait. They soon find Sydney’s arm dangling forma vine and as Hamilton goes to pull it down, he is impaled by a trap that the primates set, telling Dani to film his final words. Seth joins them and they head off back to the camp site only to find it has disappeared. When they discover that Seth’s markers have also been removed, they try making their way in the direction they think they came from but Dani is suddenly grabbed as they make their way through the jungle. Noticing that she is missing, Seth and AMy go back to look for her and find her camera on the ground, and when blood drips down onto the camera, they see Dani’s body up in a tree. They start running through the jungle, with Seth lighting some flares and throwing them behind them to keep the primates at bay. They eventually discover a cave and find all of Seth’s cloth markers adorning the stalactites at the entrance. Heading inside, they see Josh’s light further inside and go looking for him, with Amy using the night vision mode on the camera to help see. As they reach an open chamber, AMy notices something moving along the walls and tells Seth, who takes the camera from her to get a look for himself. Seth tells Amy there is nothing there but he is suddenly attacked from behind and killed, dropping the camera in the process, and the primate then approached Amy and kills her.
Giving it some time and another viewing, this movie actually isn’t as bad as I first thought it was. The acting was ok, with F. Murray Abraham doing a great job as the almost Ahab like obsessed Hamilton while Matt Ryan (honestly didn’t realize this was my first time seeing him on screen) doing a good job as Seth. Unfortunately, the other actors and actresses honestly weren’t that good. The story was interesting but the whole idea of the evolved primates attacking the group like that honestly felt like it was ripped off from Congo. One thing that I did think was a good idea is that they didn’t really show what the primates looked like for almost the entire movie, which added a pretty good amount of suspense to the movie. However, they absolutly ruined one of the best things they had going for it at the very end of the movie, as right when Amy was about to be killed, they cut away to show the primate, which was honestly just a decent looking gorilla at best. The special effects were pretty decent and I liked the kind of tunnel-vision they used when they were looking through the primates eyes. So yes, a second viewing sometimes can change my opinion on a movie and while this still isn’t one of my favorite entries in the series, it is a pretty decent movie to watch.
Rating: 3 out of 5