Zygote (2017)

Some days the best laid plans fall through, and for that I’m glad we have short films. I’m not saying that every time I review a film under an hour long it’s because I’m scrambling at the last minute to find something to post the next day… but I’m also not not saying that will be the case. Anyway, I at least took the time to look up some horror short films, and Zygote came highly recommended. Was it worth 22 minutes of my time? Absolutely!

We cut straight to the climax of a normal horror film, where the only two survivors are Ms. Dakota Fanning and Mr. Jose Pablo Cantillo (Ricky Verona from Crank, which reminds me to eventually cover the Crank “trilogy”). They’re at some sort of futuristic mining facility, and you can tell not just from the aesthetic but the revelation that Fanning’s character Barklay is a synthetic humanoid. Something has gone horribly wrong, driving several employees to perform ghastly acts that result in the creation of a… I don’t think “monster” properly covers the creature, so good thing I have “eldritch abomination” to fall back on! It’s a struggle to survive before the thing absorbs them, taking their memories as well as their bodies. Real gruesome stuff. I loved it.

The obvious parallels are to Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing, but knowing this was directed and co-written by Neill Blomkamp–the director and co-writer of District 9–you start to see his signature on the film with a message about class struggles. District 9 was about alien Apartheid, Chappie was about a robot rejecting his programming, and while I haven’t seen Elysium, the IMDB description opens with, “In the year 2154, the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth.” So imagine my lack of surprise when Barklay indicates that her goal is to save Cantillo’s character over her own life, as she was programmed to do. It’s not as overt as some of the other films, but it does become a plot point later.

Bit of a tangent, but I want to talk about the use of the “drama” tag on this blog. On the Archives page you can see a list of my most used tags and with this film, and the most popular tag is “drama” with 162 entries (out of around 336, for reference). Just about every form of media has drama baked into it–it’s the reason a lot of us watch movies and it’s a reliable way to tell a story. But I set a guideline for myself a while ago and I wanted to share it now: If the film has a moment where, if it were a Spanish telenovela, the camera would pan to everyone’s shocked faces as a musical sting plays, then it gets a “drama” tag. I suppose it goes hand in hand with twists, but such is life. Long story short, Zygote has more than just people running from a nightmarish combination of their dead coworkers, so it gets that tag.

Do I recommend this film? Of course! Certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s real short and can be found on YouTube, meaning no subscription service is needed. It’s fun, it’s tense, and the creature–in my opinion–doesn’t lose any horror when you get a good look at it. In fact, this might be one of the few movie monsters that actually gets creepier the more you look at it. Is that the difference between “monster” and “eldritch abomination?” Hm… Gonna have to think on that one.

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