Zoo (2019) – movie review

Zombie movies, as fun and entertaining as they are, have been done to death. That’s why Antonio Tublen, a Swedish filmmaker and composer, tried a different angle with Zoo, a horror/comedy/drama that revolves around our favourite flesh-eaters.

Despite being a Swedish film in every aspect (from director to crew, from production company to locations), Zoo has an entirely British cast and tells the story of a married couple, Karen and Jon, who find themselves stuck in their apartment when there’s a zombie outbreak. Instead of focusing on the outbreak itself, though, Zoo tries to explore the dynamics of the couple’s relationship in such a sticky situation, which is made even more complicated by the fact that Karen was about to leave Jon before hell broke loose.

Continue reading and check my final grade below… 

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The movie is, basically, divided in two parts: the first one is very comedic and light-hearted. Yes, there’s some typical zombie action and a few moments of tension can be found here and there, but mostly the focus is on a very North European sense of humour that often results in comedically awkward situations.

The second part of Zoo, which consists of the last 30 minutes (out of 100), is quite dramatic, depressing and intense on a psychological level.

This duality is probably the biggest issue with Zoo. Rather than consistence, the movie comes off as tonally all-over-the-place: the big shift from horror-comedy to horror-drama is extremely abrupt and unwarranted, making you feel lost and confused. In fact, when a film switches from a tone to another so suddenly, the characters are also forced to change and whatever was developed throughout the first hour of Zoo is now thrown out of the window.

Not to say that both “movies within the movie” are bad. Actually, both the first and second part of Zoo have elements of quality to them. The comedy, which is quite subjective, for me worked for the most part: Karen and Jon have great on-screen chemistry, which leads to some genuinely hilarious moments. Their contrasting personalities, fairly build throughout this picture, make for some funny confrontations (during the first part) and heartfelt drama over the course of the last act. It definitely helps that the acting is solid, and the casting pretty spot on.

It is also very interesting to witness “the zombie apocalypse” from the narrow perspective of two people locked up indoors. This, for once, justifies the PG-13 rating Zoo has been given: the movie doesn’t need violence and gore here, because the viewer looks at the events through the eyes of characters that don’t see all the violent shit that’s going on in the streets.

However, all these fascinating concepts and singular cool moments don’t come together to make a good, consistent movie. As I mentioned above, the tone is extremely inconsistent and so are the characters, due to a script that seems very confusing and sloppy. Although the editing implements fairly well both the jokes and the heart-breaking scenes, every other technical feature in Zoo is very flat: the cinematography, due to plot restraints, hasn’t got elements of awe; the camera-work is competent but uninventive; the score is average at best – which is kind of a bummer considering the director is also a music composer; the lighting and colour palette are fitting but, again, not impressive in any way.

Ultimately, Zoo is a movie that might entertain some people and, during certain sequences, could even make you a bit emotional, but overall it fails to fulfil its interesting concept. I would recommend it to fans of situational comedy who also like zombies, as long as you go in with fairly low expectations.

Zoo                                         5/10

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