TL;DR – While there are some good ideas here, what we have is a film of two halves that don’t quite work well with each other.
Score – 2.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene
Today I have an interesting task in reviewing someone’s first ever feature film which actually puts me in an odd position. That is because while there are some really good ideas here in places and the core concepts are sound, a lot of this film does not quite come together. We need more creatives taking those first new steps because that is where all of our greatest filmmakers started. With that in mind explore the world of a horror aficionado and the chaos they leave in their wake.
So to set the scene, we open in on Zoe (Aida Valentine) as she is preparing for her last day at school for the term and by preparing I mean setting up a horror scene of a wedding, including an exploding bride. This is a frustration to her father Sal (Greg James) who is trying to raise her and run a business as a single dad. All of this comes to a head when Zoe’s older sister Zilla (Sam Kamerman) returns home to announce that she is getting married, oh married to a women Lu (Mia Allen), oh and all of Lu’s family have made the trip from New York to Portland to come over for dinner, oh they are all super conservative, and oh the wedding is in a couple of weeks.
the film, there are these vignette moments that really work when they focus on
these moments of calamity. You see this in the opening when Zoe is staging her
first horror movie scene. There are also some moments that just have you
cringing in awkwardness as it all unfolds like the priest asking some very
standard pre-wedding questions and no one really has the right answers. It is
in these moments, including one at the very end which I won’t spoil, where the
However, while there are these moments, it doesn’t quite come together as a film because it feels like the two sides of the narrative are being forced into one story. In Zilla and Zoe, we have two very interesting stories. On the Zilla side, there is the wedding where you have two sides of the family from different places and backgrounds crashing together. One the Zoe side, is the story of a young girl trying to find her artistic expression through the lens of horror films but her family does not get what is going on. These two stories are the basis for two very good short films, however, they don’t work together in the feature. At times it even feels like they are actually in conflict with each other. At times Zoe’s actions are so extreme it feels like they can’t be justified by the narrative. As well as this as Sal has to do a lot of the heavy lifting in both stories. Which means that he sort of bounces from one disaster to the next leading to a lack of personal development, or any real development on the relationship with his daughters leading to moments where his outburst really feels out of place.
of this, the film starts to drag as it goes on which starts to expose some of
the concessions the filmmakers had to do to keep it at what I assume was a very
low budget. There are issues like footage being filmed by one of the characters
that could not have got that angle, or plot points like someone getting their
hair surprised bleached, and look I can tell you from personal experience that
no one can be surprised that their hair is being bleached. These small issues
with continuity and story are things that you don’t tend to pick up, unless like
here that you have started to disengage from the film and begin noticing all
the small things and the not so small things like the lack of diversity in the
cast or how Portland feels more like a prop than a location. This is
frustrating because the film leaves probably the very best for the very end,
and more of a focus on that would have really helped.
In the end, do we recommend Zilla and Zoe? Look for a first-time filmmaker, I think they have done a really good job bringing this all together. However, it does really feel like a first time film in places and I look forward to seeing their next film when they can bring experience to work on some of these issues.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow
Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV,
he’ll be talking about International Relations,
or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Zilla and Zoe
Directed by – Jessica Scalise
Written by – Jessica Scalise
Music by – James Sizemore
Cinematography by – Sean D. Brown
Edited by – Jessica Scalise
Production/Distribution Companies – Scalise Pictures & Indican Pictures
Starring – Aida Valentine, Sam Kamerman, Greg James, Kurt Conroyd, Julie Elizabeth Knell, Mia Allen & Holden Goyette
Rating – likely around an Australian M