“Jaws with chimps”. That was the outline that director Richard Franklin optioned in 1979. If that doesn’t sell his 1986 horror Link to you, I don’t know what will.
In 1983, Richard Franklin directed the chilling and vastly underrated slasher sequel Psycho II. And yet, his most Hitchcockian outing was yet to come. With echoes of Psycho and The Birds, his ’86 anthropological horror Link is a slow-burning and wholly entertaining thrill-ride that would have the Master of Suspense cackling with delight.
The film follows Jane (Back to the Future’s Elisabeth Shue), a young zoology student who becomes the new assistant to an eccentric professor (Terence Stamp) at his remote coastal home he shares with three apes. But when it comes time to euthanise Link – the head chimpanzee and butler of the estate (inexplicably played by Locke, an orangutan) – the terror begins as Link lashes out against his masters…and anyone else who gets in his way. As the roles of master and servant become reversed, Jane finds herself trapped in a simian house of horror.
Backed by a fantastic score by the legendary Jerry Goldsmith, Link’s slow establishing first act soon makes way for some truly exciting and terrifying monkey business, with director Franklin’s original pitch of “Jaws with chimps” coming to life before our very eyes. One of the very few films to be made with animals not to have received a single complaint of cruelty due to the work of legendary animal trainer Ray Berwick, Link is inspired by scientific research of violence among chimpanzees and was not intended to be fantasy – rather, it was a warning to reflect the reality of what apes were capable of. The result is an exciting and thrilling film that has fallen into obscurity in recent years and is absolutely deserving of reappraisal.
StudioCanal’s new Blu-ray and DVD boast a beautiful new 4K restoration and a combination of new and archival special features, giving this film its much-deserved and long-overdue definitive presentation. With dark humour and terrifying scares that all hold up today, Link is an absolutely terrific hidden gem of the 1980s.