Over-saturation has certainly helped Julian T. Pinder and Adam Levins’ faux-doc Population Zero. Horror thrillers have overplayed the mockumentary/found footage sub-genre, which is why this serious dramatization of an elaborate conspiracy theory is a breath of fresh air right out of the gate.
Pinder and Levins – playing expressive versions of themselves – are inspired to make a documentary after they’re intrigued by a mass murder in Yellowstone National Park that took place in 2009. Even though the killer turned himself in, the case itself has neglected loose ends. Pinder, the film’s on-camera personality, willingly dives down a treacherous rabbit hole in search of answers. However, he only receives more questions.
Population Zero is dry and dense – the cinematic equivalent of inhaling a spoonful of flour. However, even though it’s a slow crawl to the finish, I can’t necessarily dismiss the movie considering how faithful it is to its own conceit. The faux-doc has production qualities of a television primetime special that are very convincing, and although pretentious Pinder could’ve poked fun at himself, he fits the bill of the role he’s subtly emulating (a documentarian who misunderstands that their movie isn’t about them).
I can’t fully endorse Population Zero because the film’s winding mystery eventually segregates itself from the audience’s interest. But, I do believe movie goers who have been burnt out by fake films will be glad that a couple of filmmakers finally decided to take a chance and do something new with certain conventions.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie