Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Zygote’ an exercise in claustrophobic terror


Neill Blomkamp released his third effort, Zygote with Oats Studios yesterday. We were lucky enough to get a look at this thrilling horror short film at 1428 Elm.

Would you survive?

Two Is the Loneliest Number

The Arctic Circle is a harsh environment. Apparently, something ghastly has taken place at the Far North Mining Station. There are only two survivors left out of the Cerberus crew. Pictures of fallen members still adorn the wall of the cafeteria.

Seated at a table is Commanding Officer Quinn (Jose Pablo Cantillo) and Canary class Barklay (Dakota Fanning). They are eating food as if their lives depend on it. Alarms are going off everywhere.

Barklay informs Quinn that they are low on supplies including water. At that moment, the lights go off. Quinn says that if they can drive through the corporate wall they can get to much needed provisions. If they could make it, they might just get a chance at survival.

Panic lurks beneath the surface. These two are waiting for something. Whatever it is, “it” is terrifying. Quinn shows Barklay how to use his firearm. Initially, she balks at it because she is not the correct class to be handling such a weapon. Quinn tells her that the rules no longer apply.

There are only sixty rounds of ammo left. Bandaged and wounded, Quinn begins to get sick. He believes there is something wrong with him. He talks about how he looked at the light and it took out his eyes.

At any moment, something is coming for them. They decide that they need to get to the second facility where they might stand a chance to fight against this thing. As they are exiting, the lights flicker off.  Perhaps this is a harbinger of the malevolency to come.

Running into Chaos

To get to the other facility, the two survivors must don masks to brave the uninviting conditions. Masks on, they head out into the night. A raging snowstorm is taking place and they are braving the elements as best as they can. Finally, they reach their destination.

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Once inside this facility they start walking down a corridor only to come face to face with the creature. From what we can see, it appears to be a gigantic thing made out of various body parts such as torsos, arms, hands, legs and feet. It looks like a huge scientific mishap.

Fleeing into the cafeteria, they have a brief respite. A skinned body is lying on the floor in front of them. Quinn knows that there is something inherently wrong with him. He tells Barklay that she has to be the one to escape.

Reluctant to leave her Commanding Officer behind, she starts to make excuses but Quinn won’t listen to her. He picks up his knife and tells her that she will need his fingerprint to get into the vault. This is where she will be safe.

Just as Quinn starts cutting into his flesh with the knife, the monster starts banging on the door. It breaks it down just as he takes his severed finger and gives it to Barklay. He taunts the creature by yelling at it to take him.

However, the thing is more interested in Barklay. Barging past the wounded Quinn, the monster swipes Barklay’s leg and cuts her. She turns and runs out of the room. The creature then focuses its attention on Quinn. It sticks a probe into his skull, killing him.

The Lower Level of Hell

Barklay finds herself on the lower level of the facility. Everything is a mess of red colored lights and flickering bulbs. Bathing everything in a warm, red glow enhances the frenetic action. It helps to induce a state of panic.

As Barklay runs down the halls, they get smaller and smaller. The claustrophobic feeling lingers in the air. She goes into this medical room which is full of indescribable carnage where organs and body parts are thrown together in a heaping pile on stretchers.

Fleeing from this particular nightmare, she ends up in front of the vault. She tries to use Quinn’s finger but keeps on getting an error message. Meanwhile, the creature is making its way toward her. Although she is terrified, she manages the strength to wound it with her gun.

Once the thing falls to the ground, Barklay goes over to the body and extracts one of its may hands. The only way that this appendage can be described is like a janitor’s key ring except full of digits. Grabbing one of the fingers, she tries to open the vault with no success. After several attempts, she succeeds.

Before heading into safety, Barklay grabs an ax and starts hacking off some of the creature. Satisfied, she locks herself in the vault. The monster makes one last attempt to grab her but is too late.

The Good, Needs Improvement and the Verdict

The Good

For only having a running time of 22:23, this short is full of non-stop action. The pacing is perfect. Because everything is happening at break neck speed, you get the sense of danger. This keeps building to a fever pitch over time.

The acting is solid. Who would have thought Dakota Fanning would have it in her to be an action star? She is very credible as the unsure employee who must emerge from the shadows to become a heroine.

Jose Pablo Cantillo as Quinn is also a revelation. He plays his role with quiet dignity and determination making you believe that he is a fallen warrior who knows how to lead in adverse circumstances.

Needs Improvement

The only thing that is missing from the script written by Blomkamp, Thomas Sweterlitsch and Terri Tatchell is a backstory on the creature. We get some vague references to someone creating it and synthetic material but that is all we are given.

In my opinion, just a short explanation of the genesis of the monster would have made everything more terrifying. It is always good to know your adversary.

The Verdict

This is my favorite short thus far from Oats Studios. I enjoyed the pacing, the story and the acting immensely. It was truly terrifying. The setting was perfect and while I was watching the film, I felt like I was actually living it.

Blomkamp makes his audience feel as if they have entered the world he has created.  Zygote is not for the faint of heart, there is some gore but it is well worth the watch.

Next: Neill Blomkamp’s supernatural jungle thriller ‘Firebase’ review

Have you seen Zygote yet? What do you think of Oats Studios third effort? Are you a Neill Blomkamp fan? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.