Examine Dem Shorts! Zygote: The Monster that Gained the Upper Hand

Examine_Dem_Shorts

According to the Webster-Merriam dictionary, a zygote is a “cell formed by the union of two gametes; the developing individual produced from such a cell”– basically, it’s the stage of reproduction when two things become one. In a short 22-minute film with the same name, human and monster become one, creating a suspenseful sci-fi horror flick fun for whole family! Just kidding about that last part…do not show this to your kids.

Zygote was made by South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp, known for creating District 9 (favorably), Elysium, and Chappie (less favorably). The short is part of a film project produced by Blomkamp’s Oats Studio as a way to experiment with ideas and test audience reactions for potential feature films. I haven’t seen the three other shorts in this Volume 1 collection, but I would definitely pay to see a longer, more developed adaptation of Zygote.

Some critics have compared this short to a combination of The Thing and Alien. In an interview, Blomkamp’s responded to the questioned influence:

Probably more The Thing for this particular film. Its DNA is a kind of ‘80s leviathan, science fiction horror.

Personally, I would say it’s more like a galactic-zombie Frankenstein combo.

The story begins in an asteroid mine located in the Arctic Circle. The mine is owned by Cerebus Minerals, a wealthy corporation gleaning from the mysterious resources inside the asteroids. We learn quickly that an accident occurred, taking the lives of 98 members of the crew and leaving only two survivors. With limited supplies and a horrific monster hunting them down, Barklay (Dakota Fanning) and the blinded Quinn (Jose Pablo Cantillo) must hurry to safety before they are absorbed.

There are many things I liked about this film, but my favorite element was the character design of the monster. It looked like something out of a Resident Evil game– horrifying yet mesmerizing to watch. It was an amalgamation of countless arms and eyeballs collected from the crew, occasionally screeching, occasionally groaning in multiple voices. The Zygote creature was the thing of nightmares. Apparently, that’s what Blomkamp had in mind when he first conceived this film.

I don’t know what made me think of it, but I wrote down “a monster made out of men.”

This is typically the point I would add a picture of the monster, but I’ll let your imagination play until you see the reveal in the short film.

Another component of this film I enjoyed was the setting. Even though the monster was slow-moving, the tight and dimly lit corridors of the mines provided a claustrophobic and suspenseful element to the action.

corridor

Dakota Fanning was a great choice for the role of Barklay, the female protagonist. I reviewed a film a couple months ago called Brimstone starring Fanning and I’m glad to see her frontier film wasn’t just fluke. She really is talented– her use of body language helps her to steal the screen, even when she doesn’t have any dialogue.

df

One thing that didn’t really work for me was the execution of the exposition. In the first five minutes Quinn basically tells spouts out everything at once- what’s chasing them, how it was created via experimentation and mysterious ET stuff, where they need to go, and a little social class discussion. There’s a lot of info. Granted, this is a short film so I understand it was probably best to get all of that out of the way, but it just happened very quickly. I imagine if Blomkamp does decide to make this into a feature he could definitely stretch this foundation out for a solid hour of showing, instead of telling.

Welp, that’s all I got. A bunch of Youtube commenters think there’s a glaring plothole at the end. I was too satisfied to bother with such a trifle. Anyway, here’s the film. What do you think of the ending?

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