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First Look Review - HUMAN ZOO

human zoo review
Contestants on a twisted reality show compete to see who can stay in solitary confinement the longest.


Review by Sue Finn

Directed by: John E. Seymore

Starring: Robert Carradine, Trista Robinson, Rachel Amanda Bryant, Jose Rosete, Jessica Cameron, Megan Le, Heather Dorff

human zoo poster

There’s a new streaming show coming, a Big Brother-style reality program called ‘Solitary Confinement’, and with only the title to go on, people have come to audition.

We are treated to the tryouts of a wildly eclectic group of people, including a painfully unfunny parody of a cat lady - which as a joke is dated beyond belief - and a rudely entitled young male who luckily storms off before he could be recruited - his misogyny wasn’t something I wanted to sit through.

After selections are made each competitor is interviewed one-on-one so the audience can learn a bit more about their background and motivations.

They are then told to wait for further instructions.

human zoo review

Subsequently, things get a bit strange as they’re all forced to cold shower in front of a pair of thugs who watch enthusiastically as every individual realises they have no option but to expose themselves if they want to be on the show and claim the promised two million dollars. This scene stretches belief. I don’t accept that everyone would agree to being sexually harassed and humiliated like this, especially when they had no idea this treatment would be included in the machinations to get show-ready.

These opening acts are filmed like a behind-the-scenes expose of Big Brother, all hand-held and interview style.

The contestants are not allowed to towel dry before they are given minimal clothing to wear and placed in small cells with a bucket for a toilet.

There are no doors or windows, there is a camera live-streaming them from the corner of the room, and they are provided with one meal of oatmeal and water for the day.

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At this point I’m wondering how writer/director John E Seymore is going to sustain this for the films almost two hours of runtime; as that really is all it is - a large number of contestants in the same boring cells coping or not coping with the solitude and deprivation.

The first problem you encounter as an audience member is the lack of stimulation in the rooms; thematically it makes some sense, however it means that there is no visual stimulation for the viewer, not to mention that they have no one to create drama with so therefore there are no conflicts or really much of interest.

Watching various disconnected people poop, rant, scream and fall apart on camera just isn't entertaining.

human zoo review

This is punishing work for the audience, not to mention that the characters almost bleed into each other. It doesn’t help that they’re all dressed identically, which I understand narratively but makes for a confused experience. There are far too many characters to keep track of, care about or develop.

It’s also blatantly obvious how little the writer thinks of women, making every single one of them completely lose their minds and quit within two days, whereas the men can stoically endure for a lot longer. The women gag and vomit over the toilet bucket whereas the men can put their faces right next to it and even use their own excrement as writing material.

Seymore also abandons the live feed aspect, which is the whole point of this film, by cutting to hand held shaky-cam close-ups and medium shots which make absolutely no sense within the framework of the movie.

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Robert Carradine is the only actor you’ll recognise and he is barely a presence in this claustrophobic film; it’s a wasted opportunity to not at least get us out of those rooms and give the film some texture by showing more of those who pull the strings. The rest of the cast does feature some good performances, it’s a pity they weren’t given much more to do but fling their own faeces about, and wail.

The finale is completely lacking in any semblance of resolution and is an insult to the audience members who had to sit through this endurance test only for a slap in the face.

human zoo review

Reportedly, the first rough-cut of this film was over nine hours long. I imagine watching nine hours of this would probably be comparable to the torturous days spent in confinement that we watch these poor people go through.

The only way to gift this film with any kind of value is to think of it as perhaps a socio-ethical comment on how zoo animals feel, that same four walls and the same food over and over again driving them all slowly insane. But I don’t believe this is what’s intended; in fact I don’t know if any sort of purpose is intended, just mean and degrading unrelenting punishment.

If you want to watch a good confinement movie check out The Stanford Prison Experiment, now that has something to say. Human Zoo is just a pointless and diabolically miserable experience.

Human Zoo is on US DVD/Digital now. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.




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