Wild Eye Releasing is an independent film distributor, with quite the array of genre titles to their name. Some of their titles, such as 2047: Virtual Revolution and The VelociPastor, are tons of fun. Movies like Cruel Summer or The Bad Samaritan Must Die are dreadfully dull. But few of their releases are as absolutely frustrating as director John E. Seymore’s Human Zoo.
Dozens of people are auditioning for a new reality show titled Solitary Confinement. The hook of the show is exactly what it sounds like: the contestants are put in a small room with no windows and given enough food and water for each day. There is a stationary camera placed high in one of the corners that is recording them 24/ 7. Whoever is the last one to demand out of their individual room wins the $2 million prize.
“…contestants are put in a small room with no windows and given enough food and water for each day.”
Of course, after the first two or three days, the contestants being to lose track of time and their sanity. But things take an ominous turn when the players who tap out are not released. What is the endgame of the show’s producers? Who is watching these trapped people? Is there a way out of solitary confinement?
There is plenty to praise in Human Zoo, so let’s start there. For one, the cast is fully committed and absolutely bring their A-game. The movie asks a lot of each of them, and they are believable, heartbreaking, and engaging. The characters are only known as their cell numbers, and Megan Le as contestant 1312 is especially praiseworthy. The ways she attempts to recall her husband’s birthday and hers to stay sane is both sweet and a bit sad. The other gem among gems is Raw Leiba as a former convict, who believes his time in prison has suitably prepared him for this ordeal. His forceful confidence and unhinged mental state make for a compelling arc, one that the actor perfectly brings to life. But again, every actor delivers in a big way; these two just happen to be the standouts for me.
Seymore manages to make every frame, once the show begins, ooze with tension and dread. That is despite the majority of the film being shot from one angle, the same angle, for each person’s room. That just goes to show how important the music and editing is to the overall experience. Speaking of, Finn Cain’s score is moody, atmospheric, and perfectly compliments the psychological horror experiment that is on display. The editing by Mark Freed manages to get across how similar yet different everyone’s experience is and makes for an enticing, up to a point, experience.
"…few of their releases are as absolutely frustrating as director John E. Seymore’s Human Zoo."