Movie Review – Zilla and Zoe

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

Zilla and Zoe. Image Credit: Indican Pictures.


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.

Zilla and Zoe. Image Credit: Indican Pictures.
There are some really great ideas here, and Zoe making her first horror film was a fantastic direction for the story. Image Credit: Indican Pictures.

Throughout 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 film shines.       

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.

Zilla and Zoe. Image Credit: Indican Pictures.
Unfortunately, it is the case of the film having too many competing narratives that don’t work together. Image Credit: Indican Pictures.

Because 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.

Have you watched Zilla and Zoe?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.

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
– Aida Valentine, Sam Kamerman, Greg James, Kurt Conroyd, Julie Elizabeth Knell, Mia Allen & Holden Goyette
Rating – likely around an Australian M

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