STARS/**** Image C+ Sound D+
starring Elisabeth Shue, Terence Stamp, Steven Pinner, Richard Garnett
screenplay by Everett De Roche
directed by Richard Franklin
by Walter Chaw A movie about a murderous orangutan and its bimbo prey being thrust together in a series of increasingly moronic scenarios, Richard Franklin's excruciating Link is defined by a shot of a computer monitor testing the ability of chimpanzees--and Elisabeth Shue--to identify coloured shapes. (Shue wins, but barely.) The monitor reads: "IQ 43." I'm afraid that of the three (Franklin, Shue, and the monkey), the only one to whom this number is not being generous is the chimp.
It seems that Dr. Phillip (Terence Stamp), brilliant professor of primatology and experimenter in boosting our furry cousins' intelligence, is in the market for an idiotic assistant. Enter Jane Chase (Shue, playing a character apparently named after Tarzan's commonlaw wife and for her function in the film's second half), a student at the college where Dr. Phillip teaches who's there through some kind of ill-fated scholarship program rewarding legendarily bad test scores. Spirited away to the good doctor's remote wind-blown manor on the English coast (a place surrounded, of course, by roving packs of mad dogs), Jane makes the acquaintance of an orangutan butler named Link and guinea chimps named Imp and Voodoo. Jane thus becomes the fourth lower-primate servant of the house, though the only active tasks she performs during her brief tenure there are carrying a tray of glasses from one room to the next and scolding her mandrill peers.
Predictably, Link runs amuck, kills Dr. Phillip (it takes Jane at least an hour longer to realize that than anyone of normal intelligence), and begins to stalk Jane in the deserted mansion. Granted, Jane makes the task considerably easier for him by returning to the death house after escaping from it at least four separate times. Link is a head-scratcher: a movie so abominable from start to finish that it's headache-inducing, and more puzzling for its existence than for any of its numerous purported twists. Shue reminds that she was the Denise Richards of her day, all hair and body and flat, expressionless doll eyes. Her acting doesn't achieve any consistency here--she'll be running from a killer orangutan one moment and staring pacifically at a middle distance the next. While this could be attributed to Franklin's almost total inability to direct a motion picture, at some point cooler heads needed to have prevailed. Stamp's propensity to be wasted in films (The Limey notwithstanding) continues in Link, while the other humans (three himbo victims and an animal-control guy of sorts who hands his rifle to Link for no good reason) are just additional victims for when Jane proves dimwittedly resilient.
Truly, it cannot be overstated that Jane is the dumbest heroine, nay, character, that there has ever been in a mainstream motion picture. She never seems to understand that her life is in peril, she never thinks to check the laboratory for the missing Dr. Phillips, she never thinks to drive away when she has the chance (choosing instead to doggedly return to the house whenever she's free of it), and once she's finally shot Link with a shotgun, she tries to befriend the enraged beast scant minutes later. In one of this film or any other's most disturbing moments, Link watches Jane take a bath. It's not disturbing because an anthropomorphized animal is watching Shue, both of them au naturale, but because Jane believes that Link is getting a charge out of the experience. Think about that.
Link falls into the genre of horror in which you begin to root for the success of the monster. When he's finally vanquished, it's a product of Link's sudden and convenient stupidity, not of Jane's (snigger) ingenuity. Rather than escape from a burning house by walking out the front door (this is an ape who has twice pushed a van off a cliff to hide evidence of a murder), Link inexplicably decides to climb to the roof and strut around like a complete...well, like a complete Jane. Link stinks, plain and simple.
Anchor Bay's 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen DVD presentation of Link looks as bright and bouncy as a badly-filmed piece of schlock can. There's a good deal of grain and a softness that seems to be a result of a lousy negative image as opposed to a transfer issue--but the impact on the quality of the video is nonetheless the same. The Dolby 2.0 surround sound is flat and uninspired; dialogue is clear if low, requiring the occasional volume adjustment--a slight inconvenience in the grand scheme of things. Little to no sweetening of the fifteen-year-old audio is evident. A terrible trailer and a so-terrible-it's-funny teaser round out the presentation. Originally published: August 29, 2001.