Despite a hokey prologue and ending (the latter imposed by producer Charles Evans), this is one of George Romero's most effective and interesting horror thrillers—not as profound as his remarkable Living Dead trilogy, but unusually gripping and provocative.
This is Romero at his best - a set-piece of sustained chills all precisely shot and rhythmically cut, good enough to make us
forgive (if not forget) the cast that is merely competent, and an ending that is downright tepid. But even at half-throttle, Romero can quicken the pulse. Worse than it could have been, Monkey Shines is still better than most. [29 July 1988]
Romero loses momentum in the closing passages because he has too many loose ends to keep track of. Somewhere within this movie’s two hours or so is hidden an absolutely spellbinding 90-minute thriller.
Monkey Shines is just humdrum theater fodder that exploits the problems of quadriplegics for a cheap buzz of fear that it can't even deliver. This movie could make the apes sorry that we're related. [29 July 1988, p.9]