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A humanizing look at something awful
Adam Donaghey30 April 2007
Zoo is probably as tasteful a movie as can be, given its bestial subject. For those of you who aren't aware, there's a small population of the world who prefer the love of an animal--both mentally and physically--over the love of a human. This film stylistically recreates the life and death of one horse lover, Mr. Hands, and his pack of animal molesting friends, during one of many meetings and BBQ's in a small town near Seattle. Mr. Hands died from internal injuries, caused by the numerous and repetitive thrusting of the enlarged member of a stallion into his anus.

The film is tasteful because it's not sleazy. In this respect, it's almost worse on the audience because it humanizes these so-called animal lovers. What you'd think would be more like a shockumentary, more than anything else, really becomes a shallow dissection of a zoophile's playful mind. It's certainly not psychological, nor really in-depth; but its shallowness really makes it that much more grim.

As I watched the film, I felt like a voyeur peering into the lives of ordinary human beings doing absolutely bizarre and reprehensible things--and they just talked about it as if it were as benign and workaday as eating a bowl of cereal or taking the dog for a ride (insert pun here). Yet, much like a pedophile talking about his love for children, these zoophile's innocently and sincerely spoke about their love for animals.

Initially concerned about the content of the film, I left the theater without witnessing the exploitation or mockery of bestiality, nor did I see anything graphic or overtly sexual. I did leave the theater a little sickened, however, because I didn't loathe Mr. Hands or his friends. In fact, I somehow sympathized with their pitiful plight.
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The point--as with the ultimate intent--is unclear...
moonspinner5521 January 2010
Actors silently recreate controversial true-life events which took place in Washington State near Puget Sound when a family man died a shameful, incomprehensible death: he successfully managed to get a horse to have sex with him, resulting in internal injuries. Called zoophilia, this act of sexually bonding with an animal not of the human variety is the basis for this entire production--and yet is tiptoed around in a most facetious, irritating, and finally dreary manner. The audio interviews with actual persons connected to this story fail to flesh out the narrative, what with clueless lines such as: "These were animals I loved. I wasn't breaking any laws." True, at that time, Washington did have not laws on the books regarding bestiality (which has since been rectified), but we are never made to understand this obsession. This "classless society" of men is envisioned here as members of a secretive sect (mysteriously filmed), and what we hear on the soundtrack are the murmurings of troubled and regretful lost souls. The swooping, gliding cinematography is handsome, but only serves to make the overall effect rather drowsy. The subject matter, though wanly dissected, isn't for the faint of heart...but if you're going to do a documentary-styled take on a small circle of zoophiliacs, you might want to figure out in advance what point you want to make. Director and co-writer Robinson Devor obviously didn't want to venture too far out into unchartered cinematic waters, yet his hesitance is much more of a turn-off than his theme. *1/2 from ****
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Moody exploration of zoophilia in Washington State
fertilecelluloid10 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
If you have ever seen the "Mr. Hands" video, you will get more out of this film. "Mr. Hands" was a short video depicting a man having anal sex with a horse. Suddenly, the horse thrusts violently into the man and ruptures his colon. He died several hours later of internal bleeding. The man was part of a Seattle-based group of zoophiles who met occasionally in a non-judgemental environment where they would discuss and indulge in their fetish for animal love. Robinson Devor's examination of this group uses audio recordings, on-camera interviews, and actors to recreate the events that led up to the death of Mr. Hands, a father of one and employee of Boeing, the aircraft manufacturer. What's so amazing about this doc is the cinematography by Sean Kirby and the brilliant score by Paul Mathew Moore. Devor uses these powerful elements to create a deliberately discomforting vibe to accompany his always interesting revelations. Although the director scoots around the precise details of the Mr. Hands incident, he packs his film with fascinating detail and even-handed debate. The film explores what zoophilia (animal love) is and avoids demonizing its subjects. Although I found the recent British TV doco, "Animal Passions" (also reviewed), a more thorough exploration of this incendiary subject with unbelievable on-camera interviews, "Zoo" is effective for the atmosphere and sense of time and place it creates. Highly recommended.
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An understanding view of something almost impossible to understand.
ben-15807 March 2007
What job as a film maker is harder than to show the human side of something most would agree is so perverse as to appear unhuman? This film delves into the psyche and social constructs of a group of people and depicts it in such a way that I can honestly say I understand WHY it happened. I don't sympathize personally, but the characters were made human in a way I truly didn't think would be possible to portray. Even if you don't agree (and most won't) with the sentiment of the characters involved, and even if you find the subject matter abhorrent, you honestly could view this film and walk away with something useful from the experience.
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Eerily beautiful
Howard Schumann4 November 2007
Zoo is not a docudrama about caging animals but about having sex with them. The film, directed by Robinson Devor, comes out of an incident in 2005 in Enumclaw Washington, a rural community 45 miles southeast of Seattle in which a Boeing engineer died as a result of a perforated colon after having anal intercourse with an Arabian stallion. Known only as Mr. Hands in the film, the deceased man was a divorced father of a young son with a top level job who used his weekends as an escape from a suffocating life style. Since Washington law at the time allowed sex with animals, no one was charged with a crime.

While few object to depriving animals of their freedom in zoos or sending them to slaughterhouses to be ground up for hamburgers, the thought of men having sex with animals stirs up reservoirs of righteous indignation and the incident became fodder for the media and Internet message boards which approached it with typical scorn and ridicule. Devor uses a combination of audio interviews with actual participants and reenactments from actor stand-ins to attempt to shed some light on what actually happened. The film delivers neither judgment of the practice nor evaluation of the psychology behind it but simply raises the question whether zoophilia is simply another form of sexual orientation or whether it constitutes abuse of a being incapable of giving consent.

Shot in muted colors, Zoo has a lyrical and poetic style with a moving sound track that gives the film an air of something forbidden but also something eerily beautiful. Bringing a taboo subject out of the darkness and subjecting it to some light, the film allows us to reexamine our preconceived notions about a practice that has in fact been going on since Ancient Greece. Opening with an interview with Coyote, a coal miner from Virginia who came to Washington to meet like minded friends, the film examines the phenomenon of the "zoophile" community, a group of isolated individuals where such appetites are shared. The men gather at all night parties, talk about their love for animals, and engage in an activity they consider natural but which the rest of the world frowns upon. After he was identified as a participant, one man asks how he could be a good man yesterday and a bad man today but the question remains unanswered.

We hear the voices of some of the members of the group but only Jenny Edwards of the organization "Hope for Horses" speaks directly to the camera. While the thrust of her remarks are humane, her participation in a dramatization of the gelding of the horse involved is disturbing and is certainly done without the horses consent. Zoo neither endorses sex with animals nor condemns it but simply empathizes with the humanity of the participants who, for one reason or another, prefer anonymous sex as Richard Gere put it in Pretty Woman, "without all the emotional hassles" of relationships. By doing so, the issue is removed from the level of abstraction and the death is made heartbreakingly real.
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There's less here than meets the eye
rdekoch27 May 2007
I appreciate that the filmmaker is going for more than shock, but I'm not sure what this film really has to offer. It's clear that the filmmaker has some sympathy for the zoophiles, but as a whole, the film is mess. It's beautifully filmed. Almost every frame is mesmerizing, but it feels distracting rather than enlightening. The impeccably filmed images work to mask a lack of insight. Not a terrible film, but the novelty of the subject matter will bring it more attention than it ultimately deserves. It's also derivative. It borrows heavily from Errol Morris. It's probably better than most stuff out there now. At least I saw it instead of Georgia Rule.
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Horseback-riding… Only, in reverse!
Coventry26 February 2008
Please don't let the graphic title of this user-comment mislead you (I just couldn't resist writing this), as "Zoo" is – in fact - everything but an exploitative and perverted excuse to finally revolve a movie on the controversial topic of bestiality. As strange as it may sound, this documentary/drama is actually very sober, tasteful and not the least bit disrespectful towards people with peculiar (to put it mildly) sexual likings. Robinson Devor, the young and clearly promising young writer/director of "Zoo", based himself on real events as they occurred in Seattle in 2005. A middle aged and divorced man died there as a result of internal bleedings after – and here comes the kicker – experiencing sexual intercourse with a horse. The media promptly jumped onto this story and in practically no time the authorities unraveled a small but nevertheless fanatic network of people who regularly gathered for a weekend of beer, pizza and … animal sex. The "shocking" news spawned a giant debate and even some riots because apparently there weren't any laws against bestiality in the state of Washington at the time and all sorts of animal rights organizations launched hate-campaigns. Rather than to bluntly categorize the Zoos (short term for Zoophiles) as sick & twisted individuals as well, Devor's film digs a lot deeper into their pasts and personalities. The documentary primarily depicts these Zoos as confused and introverted people with a devoted affection for animals. Of course this doesn't justify their sexual preferences, but at least you don't simply label them as a bunch of perverted freaks. In the hands of any other random exploitation-filmmaker, "Zoo" probably would have existed of nothing more than images of slavering rednecks cheering and queuing to bend over in front of a horse. There isn't a single explicit shot to be found in "Zoo" and the story hardly even hints at sleaze or schlock. If anything, you almost feel like Robinson Devor is to blame for patronizing & protecting these Zoophiles too much, but then still you don't as they already suffered more than enough scandal in various other media. The narrative and filming style of "Zoo" is also quite original and refreshing. The on screen characters are, with the exception of some supportive ones, hired actors but the guiding voice-overs come from actual interviews with the real Zoos. The bitterness and noticeable martyr-tone in their voices gives a whole unique dimension of realism to the film. The photography is truly enchanting and the sober music, oh my God the music, literally sent cold shivers down my spine. Regardless of the questionable subject matter, "Zoo" is a dreamy & highly elegant film that comes with my highest possible recommendation.
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Dreamy documentary that fails to convince
NJtoTX25 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Zoo is a dreamy, slow-moving documentary about those who "love" animals and the fraternity that developed to make it possible for others to do so. It tries just a little too hard to show a sympathetic, understanding and otherwise balanced view of this activity. It's almost as if this were a film assignment given to the filmmakers, i.e. "your task is to take this activity, as well as the death involved, and convince the class to empathize and sympathize with those involved." Just in case you don't get the point of view espoused by the film and the awareness it wants you to attain, it ends with the one person close enough to the animals, a female veterinarian, stating her newfound understanding of these people. The extra prod did not sway me, and as such, Zoo fails at an impossible task.
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Does this film add value? Nayyyyyyyyy!
Kashmirgrey17 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Zoo is a documentary based upon the true story of some perverts who meet on the internet and form a club for like-minded perverts out in the country where they can engage in sexual acts with animals. One of the perverts, a Boeing engineer by day, bleeds to death after his abdomen is ruptured during his having sex with a horse. The surviving perverts cower in shame and attempt to rid themselves of the video evidence of their perverse activities. Law enforcement discovers the videos. The perverted club is disbanded and its members retreat in shame utilizing this film as a forum to whine about getting caught.

The film is well-made in respect to its photography and the unsettling mood the soundtrack and dialogue project. I found the film quite moving when I considered the poor Mr. Hands who died. However, I am even more saddened when I consider his poor surviving family members who continue to suffer for his indiscretions and the shameful legacy he left behind.

Yes, the film is undeniably effective if you are one of those individuals who believes we must tolerate and "attempt to understand" what sickos do in the privacy of their bedrooms, homes, or in this case, barns. The Sundance Film Fest judges hailed the film as a "humanizing look at the life and bizarre death of a seemingly normal Seattle family man who met his untimely end after an unusual encounter with a horse." Humanizing. I wasn't quite sure what the judges were attempting to convey with this term so I looked up the verb on dictionary.com and this was the definition: "to make humane, kind, or gentle; to make human; to become human or humane." Then I clicked on the Thesaurus tab and I got the following suggested synonyms: adorned (to lend beauty to); advancing; "broadening"; "dignifying", elevating, enlightening; "edifying (to instruct or benefit morally or spiritually)"; socializing; "stimulating"; "ennobling"; influential; "promoting", and my absolute favorite... inspirational! Many reviewers have commented that Zoo was very non-biased and objective, however, the bias of the film was blatantly in your face. It merely took the politically correct and touchy-feely stance of "tolerance".

My heart (along with other anatomical regions) truly aches for the man who was so lost and died a "death by horse c@&k", but I will never tolerate the diversity of Sally's love for Lassie, Frank's passion for Seabiscuit, or Johnny's affections for Flipper. Personally, I think that makes me pretty damn normal and human! No matter how Zoo attempts to spin it, sex with animals is for the birds.
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unintentionally funny
possiblyj31 October 2008
It's as if the creators of Zoo attempted to legitimize bestiality by depicting it as some sort of mystical nature-bonding experience.

Actors portray the story of the events leading up to and following Kenneth Pinyan's death, as snippets from interviews with those involved are used to narrate.

The film has a surreal, dark feel accomplished by the use of abstract camera work, dim lighting, and a soundtrack that sounds like it was produced by Boards of Canada. Though these techniques produce a somewhat interesting aesthetic for the film, they feel like a feeble attempt to mystify or romanticize the world of horse f*cking.

Despite the film's attempts to create a surreal, brooding atmosphere and the grizzly facts of the story, the absurdity of the film's subject matter is at times laughably funny. In one memorable scene, news helicopters circle the farm of two Zoophiles. Knowing the gig is up, one man grabs a bucket of horse porn and runs frantically into the horizon. I nearly fell off the couch laughing.
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Great For Insomnia
Rick Reynolds31 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
The background on me is that I'm open minded to a fault. I honestly don't think what these men were doing with that horse was wrong. If the horse is aroused and doing the thrusting, well, I think the animal cruelty folks lose the argument right there.

I just wish there was a "move audience cruelty" organization to protect us from torture and inhuman treatment, because I do not know anyone who made it through this documentary without falling asleep or rushing out of the theater scratching at their own sin to relieve the boredom.

What should have been interesting, revealing, and provocative is boring. And slow. And uninteresting.

I do not want to pass judgment on those who seemed to like this film, but it seems to me that I would only recommend this film to someone who has consumed enough hallucinogens in their time to find rolling hills, burbling creeks, and whispered voice-overs entertaining.

I guess in reality I am saying see this if you want to see a filmmaker touch you emotionally while leaving your brain alone. Still, it amazes me that story of a man being blanked to death by horse could put me and everyone I know to sleep.
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Nickolas523 October 2007
Aside from the cinematography, which is outstanding, this documentary is not worth watching. The subject obsession is incomprehensible, if not reprehensible. While I can certainly feel compassion for the man's family, I can only shake my head at what he subjected himself to, time and time again. What can a man be thinking to allow a half ton animal to mount him and shove its two foot long penis into him?? For those of you who are tempted to download and watch the actual footage of the featured encounter (which is flashed briefly a few times in the film itself) my advice to you is don't. I have to admit that I allowed my curiosity to get away with me. Now I wish I could unwatch it.
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How much are you willing to think about the value of life at the movies?
goaheadandtryit11 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
And how much are you willing to imagine your own death? What is special about this story is that we think we can sympathize with others, and we think that we value life, but it's very easy and tempting to laugh off the death of someone who appears to have some kink that we find repulsive. So, if you die doing something that most of us consider to be awful or merely absurd, does that mean that your death was funny? At what point does such a death regain its dignity? This film is highly poetic and disconcerting. The film itself is so beautiful, so lush and full of life and color, that you can easily get lost in the trees. It won't tell you what you should think or how you should feel. It is not surprising that many people won't like it, or that they will decide its merit without ever even seeing it. You think you can't be shocked anymore, and then you are shocked. Maybe it makes you angry, but doesn't it make you curious, also? This film is for people who want to learn about what connects us and how we come to feel so distant from the rest of the world. It is beautiful to watch, and difficult to forget.
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Doesn't quite put the 'best' in bestiality...
ninjas-r-cool8 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Do you love horses? If so, then you'll probably want to check out this documentary, because it's about a bunch of guys who, just like you, love horses. They love the way you can see all those powerful muscles on display, working in tangent to create such a gracious, majestic stride. They love the affectionate nature of these beasts as they nuzzle up to you and blow satisfied gusts of hot air from their nostrils. They love to put their hands against a stallion's testicles and feel the sensual heat emanating from those glorious globes. Most of all, they love all that feral energy when there's a two foot horse-cock jack-hammering away at their insides, sending waves of sexual bliss through every part of their bod... Heeeey... Wait a second. This isn't about animal lovers. It's about perverts! Well, that should make for a much more interesting doco, right? Eh, afraid not.

First up, this movie looks and sounds amazing. It's loaded with beautifully constructed imagery and evocative music, so it's quite a feast for the senses. But that's not enough to make a good documentary. There's a lot of voice-over work from the zoophiles and others, but none of it really offers any insight into the subject matter. Much of it is just these guys talking about how they discovered and connected with other folk with similarly rare sexual proclivities. And they talk about loving horses. That doesn't interest me. Hell, I like horses; I just don't want to have sex with one. And there's never any discussion about the line where this love for animals becomes sexual. So, whilst the whole thing is nice to look at, ultimately it fails as a documentary, simply because I didn't learn a damn thing.

One issue the movie does inevitably bring up is the whole morality of the situation. Let's admit it, the idea of a guy wanting to be boned by a horse is fairly sick and disgusting. But more importantly, it's also really, really funny, so I wasn't too concerned. There's a minor reference involving a horse giving a blow job to another horse, suggesting that these guys trained horses to put on sexual performances for them. That's a touch more worrying but, once again, the mental image of a bunch of dudes having a circle-jerk to some wicked horse-on-horse action is just so damn hilarious that I'm unable to work up any moral outrage.

Fact is, the horses weren't hurt, physically or emotionally, in any way. Are the actions of these guys any more exploitative than training a horse to run real fast so we can all place bets on it? Nope, don't think so. So, if you watch this movie, then enjoy all the sumptuous visuals, but don't judge these guys too harshly because, at the end of the day, they're just harmless perves. Aren't we all?
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Why The Long Face?
tieman6414 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
It's a story as old as the hills: A man breaks into a farm, masturbates a horse to arousal and inserts the horse's penis into his anus. Sufficiently pleasured by the animal, the man returns the horse to its stable and drives back home. Days later, the man dies due to internal bleeding, the horse's penis having ruptured vital internal organs. We later learn that the man could have saved his life by checking into a hospital, but of course he was too embarrassed to have done so. He died, alone in his home, having been humped to death by a horse.

Despite its sensationalist subject matter, this is a rather boring documentary. Not wanting to seem exploitative, the film-makers back away from their own material, too timid to ask any truly interesting questions.

Why, for example, did horses fascinate the man? What is the appeal of bestiality? Is there such a thing as horse penis envy? Why was the horse not jailed for manslaughter? Is it possible for an animal to consent to having sex with a human? Why did the police charge the man with "coercing an animal into sex"? How exactly do you coerce such a huge and powerful animal into sex? Either the horse wants to do it, or it doesn't. Doesn't anyone notice the irony of a horse mounting a human being?

But no, this documentary doesn't delve into anything interesting. There is one great shot, however, of a horse being elevated above an operating table and then later operated upon by a group of masked doctors. With its surreal juxtaposition between hospital gowns, antiseptic tiles, sterile medical equipment and a giant levitating horse, the sequence recalls several scenes in David Cronenberg's "Dead Ringers".

6/10 - I watched this film thinking it was Frederick Wiseman's famous documentary, also called "Zoo", which examines the lives of the men and women working within an inner city zoo. But nope, it's about a guy who has sex with a horse. Kinky.

Worth one viewing.
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Shocking, but not in the way you would expect.
carinaroo6 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Where other films on this subject matter would be made to shock or weigh heavily on the inappropriateness of it, Zoo is quite the opposite. It is a somewhat poetic documentary following the tragic death of Mr. Hands, a man who died after having his colon perforated by a stallion. Instead of focusing on the pure shock values and controversy that bestiality brings, it instead focuses on the condition of zoophiles. It is an intimate study into human nature and what makes us who we are.

Zoo was in no way meant to shock or entice the audience's curiosity with graphic images. In fact, if you were to watch the film without the dialog, you could be fooled into believing that this was a beautifully photographed and musically scored feature film. Perhaps it is the imagery that softens the story of the zoophiles.

There is a definite play on light in this documentary. Light is used to great effect in what we see in lightness or darkness. The use of light in cinematography, however, is in direct contrast to the story being told. Where one would think that the topic of bestiality is one of black and white, Zoo blurs the line. Is it really so hard to accept love for what it is and accept that humans could love animals as they love humans? Perhaps this is the most shocking part of Zoo. Rob Devor has made a film that makes the audience sympathize with the zoophiles. For a topic that should shock us on a graphic level, it turns the tables and shocks us in an altogether different way.
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Gorgeous Doc thats hung like a Stallion!
thrillkill-221 December 2007
OK. Yeah, we all know what it's about. Get over it.

Are you done? Good. Now sit down and watch this film.

"ZOO" is a groundbreaking film not simply because of its taboo subject matter, but how it weaves said subject matter into this visceral experience WITHOUT EVER SHOWING YOU A SINGLE SHOCKING THING! Watching this film was like experiencing something born from a love triangle consisting of Werner Herzog, Errol Morris and David Lynch.

And the music... Aah! The music was perfect!

"ZOO" is exactly the kind of progressive film making we as the paying public should be embracing.
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Rave Reviews? Sundance? For What?
Ann Cook9 October 2008
The only thing I can credit Zoo for is setting a decent atmosphere and the cinematography.

The movie did manage to handle a touchy and perverted subject in an amazingly well done fashion, however it tells half of the story. We hear from people involved, people in to the zoo fetish, but where are those who are concerned about the effects on the animals? There are some obligatory 'what is your opinion' style interviews and a few minutes on laws banning beastiality. I was hoping for a more balanced documentary.

The wording and flow also leave everything quite shadowy. I had never heard of this happening and was watching at the behest of a friend who is in to the 'lifestyle' and wanted to humor him. So perhaps I'm biased in my opinion.

I've just seen many documentaries on things I don't support or don't agree with but they're done much better than this one.
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Boring As!
Paul Lynch11 September 2012
I was really looking forward to this documentary as i like things out of the ordinary and would pretty much watch a documentary on paint drying (well, maybe be not that far, but i feel like i just have) To put it politely, it was so F**king Boring! They don't even get round to what happened till about 40 minutes in, before that it's just different interviews on things nothing to even do with the story. And even more annoyingly, all the way through it has a constant drone of music! another IMDb user titled his review "good for insomnia" and i'm gutted he beat me to it! hah :) What annoyed me most about this documentary is that it has the potential to be a good story. I just feel they went the wrong way about it. To say its 1 hr 15 mins long they could have told it in 25 minutes. I really wouldn't bother with this one.
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Slick, sick and still a bit boring ...
vram2220 January 2009
The visuals and music of this documentary could have come from an inspirational or motivational movie. Amazingly, it comes from something as estranged as this subject matter. "Zoos", as they're known, is a shortened form for zoophile; they are people who have an amorous and sexual interest in animals.

This documentary delicately approaches the secret lifestyle of those who engaged in this activity at a Washington state horse ranch around 2005. After a rambling start, it ultimately focuses on those who associated with a Boeing engineer named Kenneth Pinyan. He died of "internal injuries" related to "interaction" with a horse.

Just as a good, atmospheric horror movie can put your mind on hold while it glosses over things that you would normally object to, so too does this movie. There's a lot of indirect talking, smoke and mirrors, etc. that get you off your guard and caught up in the beautiful imagery and music... so don't get too carried away with the film-making aspect... remember what it's about.

Subject matter aside, it is a bit long-winded. There's a bit too much dialog (mostly scripted with actors) about each person's generic philosophies. It's OK at first, but then it sounds a bit like pointless rambling. Even though it's an unusual subject matter, I can't really recommend watching this because I'm not sure what you'll get out of it... I'm not quite sure what I got out of it.
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toddrandall6825 January 2009
I am puzzled to find so many comments that are positive about this. To describe something so grotesque as "beautiful." I remember hearing something about the actual incident but I had always written it off as urban legend. Now I find that they made a documentary about it. I love documentaries but to make one about the rape of defenseless animals is beyond reprehensible. I tried to find more information on the internet about the actual incident but could find less information than about the movie they made about it. I had never even heard of this movie until now. This is rape people. Not natural in the least. I don't see how anyone is anything but repulsed by this.
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Don't waste your time
tbeaucag9 April 2016
This is by far one of the worst documentaries I have ever seen. Not at all engaging, unbearably slow, mostly irrelevant narration and imagery. Almost no content/actual footage used of any interview, news report and any other thing you can imagine. Goes paper thin deep into the world of Zoophilia and the events that transpired. Seriously, don't waste your time. I ended up watching this based off of a list of "Seven Utterly Traumatizing Documentaries." Perhaps traumatizing by means of boredom. Watching this give the impression that the creators never watched or made a documentary before. I kept watching hoping that it would eventually become interesting. You're better off just watching news reports online.
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Film suffers from treating its subject too gently and gingerly
jennyhor20049 November 2011
Based on the case of a Boeing employee who died from a perforated colon while being anally penetrated by a horse in Enumclaw, a town in rural Washington state, "Zoo" (the term is short for zoophilia, the sexual love of animals) is a brave attempt to address a highly controversial and polarising issue in a dispassionate way that neither condemns nor sympathises with the people involved in bestiality. The film recreates the events leading up to the man's death and its aftermath in a way that's part documentary / part drama with re-enactments of scenes and emphasising a soft, dream-like mood with delicately muted, wafting music. Director Devor uses four narrators, talking to an unseen listener, to retell the events from the point of view of the people who knew the man, referred to in the film as "Mr Hands", and this approach thrusts (um) the viewer right into the twilight world of zoophiles: how they found each other through Internet contacts, how they organised their tryst and their reactions when the man was injured and when their secret activities became known to the outside world.

The film has the air of a noir mystery: the majority of scenes are filmed in shadow, at night or in dark colours with blue being predominant. The story unfolds slowly and elliptically and anyone who is unaware in advance as to what the film is about may be puzzled at the indirect way "Zoo" tiptoes around the subject until near half-way when a news report drops its headline in deadpan style. The pace is very steady, perhaps too steady and slow, and the film often dwells on several still camera shots which look deliberately staged as if for static display purposes. Close-ups and landscapes often look very abstract with washes of blue across a background; an orchard looks like a misty fairyland beneath a light coating of rain. The mood is even and quite blank until a scene in which police investigators viewing a DVD recording appears; the police react with horror and shock watching the act of buggery and only then do viewers feel something creepy crawl up their spines.

For all its delicacy, "Zoo" gives the impression of something much bigger than its subject matter struggling to make itself seen and heard: the zoophiles give the impression of wanting companionship, a sense of belonging, a need to share something special that gives meaning to their lives, and thinking they have found it. They seek a utopia in which everyone is equal and no-one is judged by how much money s/he earns or how educated s/he is. The places in rural Washington where many of them live look impoverished and some zoophiles may well be drifters or marginalised people barely managing to make a living and survive. (Difficult to tell as many scenes are recreations of actual events with actors playing the zoophiles.) If the film had directly addressed the need of the zoophiles for meaning, for companionship, it might have been able to gain more co-operation from the people involved; as it is, the level of co-operation it got is very restricted. The dead man's family refused to be interviewed for the film which is a pity as the wife and child might have presented him as more well-rounded than he appears in "Zoo".

The film also suffers from subjectivity and could have done with a more objective view of its subject. Interviews with psychologists and psychiatrists on zoophilia and perhaps other conditions such as lycanthropy (identifying oneself as an animal rather than as a human) might have shed light on why some people are sexually attracted to animals and to some kinds of animals in particular. The goals of the project would still be met: the issue would not be sensationalised and viewers might come away with a greater understanding of zoophilia and other bizarre philias. Instead the film can only concentrate on the horse-trainer, Jenny Edwards, who took charge of the horses after the incident became public: she admits that after having followed the case in its detail and ordering one of the horses gelded, that she's "on the edge" of understanding the zoophiles' obsession. It appears also that the director and film-crew were as much in the dark as Edwards was while making the film; even after its completion, the film-makers still were scratching their heads trying to make sense of what they'd done. Not a good portent for a film.

Yes, zoophilia is a difficult subject to talk about, let alone film, without making it look disgusting, degraded or ridiculous and pathetic. "Zoo" tries hard not to take one side or the other but with a subject like this, the attempt to be "balanced" is a tough act indeed to pull off. Some viewers will be irate that the film advocates no position at all, as if it's the film-makers' duty to tell them what they must believe. I think though that to achieve the "balance" that "Zoo" strives for, the film-makers should have pulled back from their subjects and taken a more generalised view of the issue of zoophilia; the police officers, the courts, psychologists and medical who dealt with the dead man and his friends should have been consulted for their opinions about zoophilia.
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Aside from any morality issues, this is just a really bad movie
Charles Herold (cherold)8 January 2010
Looking through the reviews of this film, it seems some people give it a bad score because they disapprove of the subject matter, but it doesn't look like anyone just gives it a bad score purely as cinema. So let me be the first.

Sometimes you know a movie is going to be bad from the first 15 seconds, and this is one of these films. Beginning with a long, artsy shot combined with a tedious minimalist modernist score, the film tries to scream IMPORTANT and succeeds in screaming PRETENTIOUS. The movie then plays interviews over recreations of scenes, those recreations being tedious and uninteresting.

The movie also doesn't begin by telling you what it's about. I'm not sure when it does get around to that, because after a few minutes I knew there was no way I could get through this. I decided to fast forward and see if the movie ever got anywhere, and I kind of get the impression that by the halfway point they were still talking around what happened. I could be wrong, since it would be insane to do that (especially since most people watching would have some idea of the subject matter), but anytime I slowed down and took a look it was just more tedious, banal talk about nothing in particularly over arty cinematography.

This seems less of a documentary than of a musing upon a subject.

Normally if I've only watched five minutes of a movie I don't rate it, because I think it's unfair to effect the movie's overall rating if I don't know what I'm talking about. But I'm making an exception for this one, because it's pretentious student film maker approach is just too utterly agonizing to give a pass to.

Why is no one else saying this? The only review I saw that took the filmmaker to task for any of the bad film-making mainly was a lunatic diatribe against "liberals" and "homosexuals." Horrible movie. I can't believe it's got such a high rating.
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Zoo's are just another version of a sexual predator...an embarrassment to the whole human race
debrah-nava10 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Someone once asked 'do crazy people know they're crazy?'.

I love animals truly by caring for them and grieve when an any animal is harmed. Zoo's are depraved individuals who are in the same category as pedophiles. They sexually prey on the innocent. Sick sick people who deserve to die or at least be prosecuted and put away for life. They should live their lives in prison.

This movie is well done though and is objective. It makes no judgments of these people, but allows us to see them as real people. But, the subject makes it difficult not to make your own judgment.

I can't help but equate them in some way to those who practice auto-erotic asphyxiation. The are dabbling in ways to experience the ultimate sexual pleasure bordering on suicidal.

I remember some years back when I was looking for a picture of a Palm Cockatoo, which is basically a black Cockatoo (parrot). They're extremely rare birds so I performed a search of Zoo's. Can you imagine my dismay when some of the links went directly to pornographic 'Zoo' sites. I never even knew anything like that existed before that. Depraved, reprehensibly disturbed, sickly wicked individuals. They're an embarrassment to the human race.
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