India has been an avid fan of all things spooky and scary ever since she can remember.
"It's a zoo, not Jurassic Park."
— "Zoombies," 2016
What do you do when you’re a huge “Jurassic Park” fan, but you lack both the funds and the creativity required to craft a fitting tribute to the fossilized franchise? You cross your fingers, mutter “here goes nothing” . . . and you end up with “Zoombies.” Now, low-budget doesn’t necessarily mean bad; iconic films such as “Paranormal Activity” and “The Blair Witch Project” managed to serve up some decent scares despite their money problems. Unfortunately, “Zoombies” lacks the finesse of its more illustrious predecessors. Though it has the occasional moment of self-awareness in the form of tongue-in-cheek dialogue or a sly reference to the movies which inspired it, the film is infected (pun intended) with unlikable characters, second-rate special effects, and enough plot holes to herd an elephant through. Then again, what else is new?
Dressing to (Un)Impress
Normally I don’t bother commenting on the characters’ clothing, but the cast of “Zoombies” commits some particularly egregious crimes against fashion. To be fair, most of them don’t live long enough for this to matter, but I found the complete lack of effort devoted to the actors’ wardrobes almost as astounding as the comically bad CGI.
For example, A.J. (Aaron Groben) looks like an extra in a Jane Fonda video, with his short shorts, sleeveless hoodie, and striped socks. Not to be outdone, Amber (Brianna Chomer) is dressed like the mean girl in a 90’s rom com—check out the side ponytail and deliberately mismatched jewelry. The pantsuit Dr. Rogers (Kim Nielsen) is wearing seems almost tame in comparison.
Maybe you believe that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. However, if you were hoping the cast would redeem themselves through their actions, you’re about to be disappointed. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: horror movie characters should be sympathetic, or at the very least, tolerable. Otherwise, how is the audience supposed to root for them? Then again, I suppose Dr. Rogers & Co’s lack of likability isn’t all bad. You may not be invested in their survival, but at least you can chuckle at their idiotic and occasionally outlandish behavior.
We’ll begin with the good doctor herself. A blonde scientist with an overinflated ego, Rogers is rather reminiscent of Theranos C.E.O. Elizabeth Holmes. She also happens to be a terrible mother. Being a single mom is tough, and I have nothing but respect for women who work hard and make countless sacrifices for their children. The thing is, Dr. Rogers isn’t one of those women. Quite the opposite, in fact. Seemingly unconcerned that the zoo is infested with undead animals which want nothing more than to feast on human flesh, Rogers spends most of the movie ignoring her daughter, Thea (LaLa Nestor) while she fiddles with her microscope or bosses around her subordinates via walkie talkie—a habit which leads to more than a few sticky situations.
Speaking of Thea, I’m honestly concerned about this kid, and not just because of her mom’s unimpressive parenting. Although she is one of the few characters who isn’t totally braindead, Thea also appears to be a budding psychopath. For example, after her mother leaves her alone—again—an infected koala somehow breaks into the building and attacks the little girl. Luckily, Thea manages to save herself by bashing the animal’s skull in with a bat. You may be expecting her to scream or cry, like a normal child (even an adult would be freaked out in this situation)—but this couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, Thea seems rather relaxed despite being covered in blood, simply stating that she doesn’t want to play with the animals anymore. (If that’s her definition of playing, I’d hate to see what she considers fighting.)
But wait, there’s more. When Dr. Rogers announces her plan to use some conveniently stockpiled gas tanks to blow up the aviary—no movie is complete without a few explosions—Thea responds with an enthusiastic “All right!”: seeming a little too pumped to blow her feathered friends to kingdom come. Furthermore, when the gorilla Kifo, whom Thea has known since she was a baby, is killed right in front of her, she hardly bats an eyelash. Somebody get this kid some therapy stat!
Rounding out our dysfunctional trio is Leslie (Ione Butler), who goes by Lizzy for some reason. Though Lizzy claims she worked as a school security guard before being hired by the zoo, she seems too comfortable with firearms for a mere School Resource Officer. (Unless said school was in Chicago. Then it all makes sense.) In addition to being a suspiciously good shot, Lizzy has enough angst in her for the entire cast and then some. At one point, she states that “All I ever wanted was to be left alone. That’s why I chose security.” That’s a cry for help if I ever heard one. My theory is that Lizzy’s backstory is a lie; she’s really a soldier battling some serious PTSD and an unhealthy obsession with firearms (as she puts it, “It’s not a weapon, it’s an accessory.” Not the best argument I’ve heard for gun rights, but certainly the most original.) Still, regardless of her past Lizzy needs professional help even more than Thea.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2022 India LaPalme