Directed by Richard Franklin
Jane, a young Zoology student takes on a position as a housekeeper and assistant for anthropologist lecturer, Dr Phillip, from the university she studies at. Phillip’s speciality is the link between humans and apes and, at his home on the coast, he has in his possession three chimpanzees in which he studies: Link, an older, well-trained ex-circus ape; Voodoo, a savage female ape; and finally, Imp, a young chimp who’s reaching maturity. When Dr Phillip leaves suddenly without saying a word after agreeing with a Mr Bailey to sell Voodoo, Jane finds herself at the property all alone with the chimps. However, in Dr Phillip’s absence, one of the chimps begins to show its true colours forcing Jane to fight for her life at the remote cliff-top home against her physically intimidating adversary.
Survival thriller LINK isn’t your typical horror movie in the fact that we can’t exactly be mad at the so-called villain of the piece – chimpanzees. Exploited by humans, these marvellous creatures, with strength and power far greater than ours, have put up with a lot of crap from mankind. In the film, we met the titular chimp who’s already had a hellish life working in a circus. His party trick is using a box of matches to light a cigar and it’s clear he has a penchant for fire as he’s keen to light up the kitchen during his early interactions with Jane. As the only chimp to roam the house wearing human clothes, he appears to be the perfectly trained chimp, even showing Jane around the home and carrying her bags to her room like a butler. The other two, Voodoo and Imp, are more primal in their activities so when shit ends up hitting the fan, you expect the wilder chimps to go a bit crazy but instead it’s the one who’s endured 45 years of servitude, and he’s going to take advantage of the skills he’s learnt over that time to exact his own revenge.
The filmmakers have been really clever in the way they’ve shot and edited this film, particularly with lead ‘chimp’ Link, who’s actually played by a beautiful orangutan named Locke with his fur dyed. The way he looks Jane up and down when she’s stood in the bathroom naked will give you the creeps as you can see there’s more to Link than “just a chimp”. He’s plotting, he’s assessing, he might even be slightly aroused. In some respects, featuring chimps (and an orangutan) in a film like this in itself is exploitation although the film has been noted for being one of a very small number of films not to have received any complaints of animal cruelty. Animal trainer Ray Berwick was heavily involved with the film, and has a successful back catalogue of work include The Birds, Lassie TV series and Gremlins. Whilst Link may, on the surface, be depicted as the villain of the film, it also highlights that in many ways he isn’t – he’s just reacting like any other wild animal would do except his intelligence, coupled with his natural physical abilities, make him a greater adversary than one might imagine.
Whilst an enjoyable film on the surface, LINK somewhat lacks in the script department and hasn’t got much depth to the characters to make you wholly sympathetic to them. For instance, early in the film Jane is asked if she can cook and clean and she says something along the lines of “Course I can. I’m a woman, aren’t I?“. Clearly she’s never met this reviewer who’s cooking usually ends up in food poisoning. I’m not usually one for being offended by comments like that but I think it’s the way she says it and the conversation that it’s a part of that strikes the whole conversation as utterly shallow. She definitely doesn’t come across as the intellectual she’s supposed to be. Instead, she just appears desperate to want to shadow Dr Phillips, played by Terence Stamp, by whatever means necessary. Phillips, on the other hand, initially appears quite the respectable anthropologist until we meet him in his home environment. Away from prying eyes, he’s a bit of a dictator with his chimpanzees, furiously reprimanding them when not testing their mental ability, and comes across as a bit of an arrogant arse. In contrast, Jane shows the animals respect as someone who loves creatures whereas Dr Phillips sees them as a means to an end, the end being his name in the history books, on important research papers and making a breakthrough in the link between apes and humans. This is clear when he agrees to sell female Voodoo and at the same time put veteran Link to sleep. From these scenes, it’s Elisabeth Shue’s student character Jane who we end up siding with and to be fair, she puts in a decent performance when she finds herself at the mercy of Link’s aggression, even if some of the decisions Jane makes aren’t the ones most people engaging common sense would make.
LINK is without a doubt the star of this movie and the scenes where he eventually snaps is where the film really comes into its own. It’s thrilling and frightening in equal measure and you want Jane to escape the cunning ‘chimp’ as the slow build up to Link’s retribution on humanity erupts in a battle between him and Jane. In many ways, it feels like a classic horror movie with a stalk and slash bad guy, a la Michael Myers, but this adversary ain’t no boogie man and can scale a roof and climb through an air vent like nobody’s business.
Available for the first time on Blu-Ray in the UK from Studiocanal, the film comes with a new audio commentary by film historian Lee Gambin and film critic Jarret Gahan and a new interview with film programmer and horror expert, Anna Bogutskaya. Other features on the disc include deleted workprint scenes, an audio interview with director Richard Franklin, Jerry Goldsmith’s demo of the LINK theme and the original UK theatrical teaser trailer. The newly restored film is also available on DVD and digital download. The 4k restoration looks fantastic on Blu-Ray however the 2.0 stereo audio is slightly muddy at times resulting in the dialogue difficult to decipher during a couple of moments in the film, though the majority of the movie is largely unaffected by this.