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  • Writer's pictureMaxwell J.

Human Zoo (2020) Sentences You to Torture by Mind-numbing Experimental Horror

Title: Human Zoo

First Wide Release: May 5, 2020 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)

Director: John E Seymore

Writer: John E Seymore, John D. Crawford, Selfin Morose

Runtime: 109 Minutes

Starring: Robert Carradine, Jose Rosete, Rachel Amanda Bryant

Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here

A group of contestants vying for a spot on the hottest new internet reality tv-show based on the concept of solitary confinement wait to hear if they are chosen to move on to the next round of casting calls. The final group is selected and informed of the competition’s rules. The only way to win is to outlast the other contestants, who must self-eliminate by making a giant X with their arms. Contestants are told that the one who sticks it out the longest will win $2,000,000. The group is rounded up for pre-interviews, then stripped, shower, and are issued their uniform for the show. They all wake up in their cells with only a sleeping mat, a bucket, and a day’s worth of food. Slowly, but surely, the isolation begins to seep in and take hold of their sanity. The contestants realize that they may be subjected to further isolation than anticipated.

Human Zoo is a lifeless and grating film that has little to say and offers just as much entertainment.

A silly and nonsensical film without much in the way of plot, Human Zoo will have you begging for it to end before the competition even begins. From the beginning we are treated to introductions of a large cast of annoying and unlikable characters, many of whom we are supposed to root for throughout the process. The actors do best with the little material they are given, but it is hard to care much for people when we learn one or two of their defining traits and watch them scream at nothing for an hour and a half. There isn’t much plot here.

Furthermore, it’s repetitive. Once the “action” begins, we segue from room to room as each contestant breaks down from the pressure of isolation. The thing is, they don’t even last a week of isolation. I don’t see that as realistic. While it is true that humans are social creatures that need interaction and that solitary confinement is torture, the breakdown in this feature is not properly executed.

And the cast is not fully prepared to execute these breakdowns either. Almost every person brings their Z game to this film. The cast is either compelled by direction or choice to fill each frame with either the most inane improvised rumblings they can think of or scream their loudest and most guttural cries for help. After a while it becomes mind-numbing. The characters blend into each other as well, most likely because they all wear the exact same jumpsuit. And what’s even worse is that we are introduced to several characters at the beginning that never show up in the actual game portion of the show. It does add to the disorientation, but it feels more like lazy writing and poor planning.

Unfocused and boasting atrocious camerawork, along with an ugly color palette, Human Zoo can’t even be bothered to execute its premise consistently. For some reason, the team deviates from its original voyeuristic setup. The whole point of the film is to watch everyone through cameras in the wall, right? Then, why does director John Seymore decide to change it up and film from within the cell. It happens quite frequently. There’s no explanation to how the audience should be seeing this other than it gives actors a chance to “beef” up their portfolio.

I think the point of the film is to probably to draw parallels to animals in zoos or prisoners in solitary confinement, but Seymore fails to capitalize on such comparisons. It feels nasty for nasty’s sake without any redeeming qualities like tension, good characters, or even a bad guy to root against. It’s painstakingly long and, for what? It’s almost 110 minutes of watching Youtube level acting against a community theater budget, without the creativity or charm of either medium. There’s not even a proper resolution! And because of that, there’s no real motive, purpose, or story progression.

Human Zoo is an absolute slog of a film to endure. Filled with overwrought performances but devoid of direction, scares, suspense, or even an ending. If you are willing to sit through something that is as aimless as it is tasteless, maybe Seymore’s film is right for you. Otherwise, I’d recommend for anyone hoping to enjoy nearly two hours of their life to choose anything other than this experiment in terrible filmmaking.

Overall Score? 2.5/10

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