Media Blasters // 2005 // 119 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dylan Charles (Retired) // July 13th, 2007
In order to survive, you have 5 choices.
Zoo is a collection of five short films all based on the short stories of Japanese author Otsuichi. I've been trying to think of a single term to describe all five films (science-fiction, horror, alternative rock), but there really is no all encompassing word to describe what you'll see. There's some horror, some thriller, a little anime, and plenty of oddness no matter what the short is about.
Kazari and Yoko: A mother showers one of her twin daughters with near constant affection, while she treats one little more than a dog. Yoko must find a way out.
Seven Rooms: A brother and sister wake up together in a small room. The door is locked, there are no windows and there's no way out. Together they try and find a way out before the clock turns six.
Hidamari No Shi: A man builds a robot in a world that is apparently devoid of all other human life.
So Far: A boy is alone at home when his parents come home from a car wreck. The mother cannot see the father. The father cannot see the mother. But their son can see both of them and they can see him.
Zoo: A man and his girlfriend are ill-matched. He's sensitive and unstable. She's a biter. A trip to the zoo ends badly and he returns every day to take a picture.
I haven't read anything by Otsuichi, but after seeing this I'm definitely curious about what else he has to offer. Each of the stories has its own little quirk, not so much a twist ending, but a strange twisting path that doesn't always arrive at where you think it will.
Zoo is the weakest of the five, which is odd as it lent its title to the entire collection. The story meanders along from start to finish, with no real sense of conclusion. It's not a bad little film; the acting is good and it has a creepy, unsettling atmosphere. It just doesn't stack up well against more interesting fare like Seven Rooms.
Seven Rooms is very nicely done. The acting between Yui Ichikawa and Kenta Suga (who play the sister and the brother respectively) are what makes it work. If they had lacked chemistry, it would sucked what little joy a movie about people being trapped in a room could have. Often their gallows humor adds a moment of levity in an otherwise bleak situation.
This kind of humor touches all five films, each of which have similar bleakness. All of the characters are trapped, whether it's the man in a post-apocalyptic world or a girl trapped in an abusive household. It's both the situation and how they deal with it that makes these shorts so interesting.
The little boy in So Far is trapped in a house with what he thinks are the ghosts of his parents. His interactions with each parent and his attempts at reconciliation between the two feels very similar to that of a child stuck between two divorced parents.
Even the anime has something to offer the likes of me. Impressive, considering I'm not overly fond of the animated offerings of Japan. The animation itself has an odd quality. The motions of the characters are very fluid, almost as though the people had some weight to them.
Kazari and Yoko is also very solid. Honestly I don't have a single damn thing to complain about. Each of these shorts has plenty of story packed into their truncated runtimes, and the acting is strong stuff all across the board.
Actually, I do have something to complain about. The extras, or the lack of them anyway. There are a few trailers and two making-of featurettes. These are some of the more useless making-of clips I've seen, amounting little more than brief interviews with the cast.
These five, very different little films are definitely worth a rental at the very least. The lack of extras is disappointing, as I would have liked to have known more about the author or even just more information on how Zoo was put together.
However, the movies on their own are nifty little stories, each a little encapsulated world.
Zoo is not guilty and free to go. The court hopes to see more like it pass this way.
Review content copyright © 2007 Dylan Charles; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Media Blasters
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 119 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Making of "So Far"
* Making of "Seven Rooms"
* Trailers and TV Spots