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Zoo (2018) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

Zoo Review

Director: Antonio Tublen
Writer: Antonio Tublen
Stars: Zoë Tapper, Ed Speleers, Antonia Campbell-Hughes

Admit it, the zombie horror genre has been thoroughly milked in recent years. Last years the market is flooded with films in which a global epidemic causes the rise of a maddened mob of bloodthirsty, mindless people who just want to sink their teeth in a juicy piece of human flesh. The majority of releases are also terribly bad and full of unoriginal clichés. But once in a while, you’ll also find quirky attempts that try to give an original twist to a well-known theme. Like this Swedish production “Zoo” (don’t confuse it with the adventure film in which a young boy and an elephant steal the show) which tries to mix comedy and drama with the zombie genre. Even though I’m not in favour of a mix of comedy and horror, I could appreciate the black humour here. The film immediately reminded me of “La Nuit a dévoré le Monde” where they also put more emphasis on the person who’s trying to survive the Apocalypse than the Apocalypse itself.

In “Zoo” Karen (Zoë Tapper) and John (Ed Speleers) are the ones whose lives are being shaken up. A pregnancy that has gone wrong has already ensured that they don’t get along so good anymore. Karen has withdrawn deeper and deeper into her shell where she is consumed by grief and reproach. John throws himself into his work. And before they realize it, they live alongside each other, there’s no longer any question of affection and Karen has gathered a lot of moving boxes already. In short, their marriage is falling apart. Were it not that a rapidly spreading virus starts to mess up society big time. Just like their marriage, society is gradually collapsing. And the only thing the authority’s advice is to stay inside and keep yourself busy with something.

And that’s what they do. They watch old films on VHS. Do exercises to keep fit and to defend themselves in case a few infected guys try to smash their door. But mainly the couple grows closer to each other and discover their lost love again. Maybe the supply of drugs Karen has hidden in a cupboard has something to do with it. In any case, everything seems like peace and light again. For a moment anyway. The interaction between Zoë Tapper and Ed Speleers never felt artificial. It was as if they were a couple in real life.

As I mentioned earlier, “Zoo” is a mix of drama, humour, and horror. Although the horror part is gently slumbering in the background. Every once in a while, you get to see some hysterical looking aggressors who throw themselves at every audible sound. But these fragments are so scarce that after a while the horror element is forgotten. The first part is both engaging and moving. Until the neighbours show up and the comical side prevails. Without a doubt the better part of the film. The second part is more tragic and fairly intense. The ultimate message is a confirmation of their wedding promise. And I’m talking about the “for better or for worse” part. “Zoo” is certainly not suitable for a seasoned horror fan. I’m sure horror fans will be disappointed and get bored while watching it. And finally, an important warning. This film has the alternative title “Death do us part “. But you should certainly not confuse this with the film of the same name from the year 2014. Because that’s really a monstrosity of a movie.

Zoo (2018) Movie Review by Philip Henry 

Zoo

Director: Colin McIvor
Writer: Colin McIvor
Stars: Toby Jones, Art Parkinson, Penelope Wilton

Being a native, I try to see and support every film that is made in Northern Ireland. This often proves difficult as so many of them get very limited releases and are hard to track down, but thankfully Zoo was playing at my local Movie House and got the quality screening it deserved.

The plot, as unlikely as it sounds, is based on a true story. During World War II after the first major attack on Belfast by the Luftwaffe, it was decided by the powers-that-be that all animals which could possibly be a danger to the public if a further bombing inadvertently released them, were to be put down by the army. So young Tom Hall (Art Parkinson), with the help of a couple of schoolmates, decides to save the zoo’s most recent acquisition, a baby elephant named Buster, and hide it in the back yard of strange old Mrs. Austin (Penelope Wilton).

The film recreates 1941 more authentically than most blockbusters with much larger budgets. In these period films they tend to either concentrate on the broad strokes; the CG battle scenes, or the small stuff, but zoo succeeds in both. The cramped interiors of the small houses and handmade clothes ring just as true as when we see a fleet of German bombers filling the skies above Belfast. It’s a chilling sight to see, especially from the PoV of children.

This is very much a family film. There’s great fun to be had as the children outwit the adults searching for the elephant at every turn, and though they’re all from very different backgrounds, they form friendships because they’re working towards a common goal, which is a great message for all kids.

I should warn you all about dust associated with Zoo. Several times during this screening I got something in my eyes. They watered quite a bit and I had to sniff and wipe my cheeks more than once. I remember a similar type of dust being present at the beginning of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe when crying mothers are loading their children onto trains bound for the country. If you feel you might be susceptible to the same sort of dust, I suggest you bring some tissues with you to the cinema.

I suppose if you wanted to get all symbolic about things you could read a lot into this story – does the elephant represent the hope for peace; kept alive by a younger generation while the adults do their best to destroy it? I’m sure some viewers will see these themes purely because it is set in Northern Ireland. Whether that is what writer/ director Colin McIvor intended is up for debate. With or without subtext, there’s still enough going on to keep audiences of all ages interested.

I was just glad to see a film based in this country that told an uplifting, funny and occasionally heart-breaking tale with universal themes that the whole world can relate to and enjoy. Let’s have some more of this and less of the depressing stuff.