Zoo

"Very Good"

Zoo Review


Making a film about something as sickeningly taboo as bestiality is risky, to say the least. Assume the filmmaker gets past the criticism of tackling such subject matter. Then he can revel in titillation and exploitation for widespread attention; or, he can attempt an artistic, less controversial execution and attract a more limited audience. With Zoo, writer-director Robinson Devor chooses the latter, creating a bizarre, moody entry that's part documentary, part drama.

You wouldn't think cinematic style would overwhelm such a powerful choice of topics, but that's the case. Borrowing liberally from the great Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line, The Fog of War), Devor has a spooky artistry and odd narrative approach, an avant-garde sense that practically hypnotizes. Zoo is full of carefully structured visuals, with actors often playing the roles of real people. The camera sweeps smoothly and deliberately across landscapes and along meandering roads. Players stand within well-composed images, the world seemingly in slow motion. It's peaceful and dreamlike, but frightening as hell -- an ideal presentation for a film about intimacy between humans and horses.

The story revolves around a small group of zoophiliacs, or people attracted to "relationships" with non-human mammals. One of the group, nicknamed "Mr. Hands" -- holy lord, could this get any creepier -- loses his life after a deviant connection with an equine. I mean, c'mon, he had it coming. Whoops, sorry.

Did he deserve to lose his life? Depends on who you talk to. The film traces the seemingly lonely lives of those who participate in zoophilia, but there's plenty of commentary from far more normal people. Those involved state their case for meaningful contact with horses, but they don't sound sold on their own bullshit. Instead, they sound confused and searching for rationale. You almost respect the honesty of one "zoo" who chalks it up to the constant sex drive of the human male.

Devor keeps all these people at a distance. Maybe it's a logistic solution since most wouldn't appear on camera, but it works. So instead of talking heads, we get eerie recreations. And the storytelling is distant as well, which, when it's repetitive, can make you question the film's purpose. But when something vital happens, its presentation is anything but conventional.

The demise of Mr. Hands (yuck) leads to an absolutely chilling final act, when a group travels to retrieve and save the animal before the "zoos" can step in. A walk through a freakish stable is as scary a steadicam shot as anything Kubrick pulled off in The Shining. When the shot eventually lands on a farmhand looking out beyond one of the stables, it's a classical visual within a seriously twisted context.

Those on the opposite side -- and let's be honest, that's nearly all of us -- view zoophilia on about the same level as child rape and abuse. Children cannot emotionally and physically offer consent, and neither can animals. But there seems to be something more instinctually disgusting about the whole thing, and I asked myself why. Answer: It's just unbelievably unnatural. Damn, do ultra-conservatives think about homosexuality the same way?



Zoo

Facts and Figures

Run time: 80 mins

In Theaters: Friday 30th May 2008

Distributed by: ThinkFilm

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 58%
Fresh: 28 Rotten: 20

IMDB: 5.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Peggy Case, Alexis Ferris

Also starring:

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