Saturday, 11 November 2017


Title: Zoo
Director: Robinson Devor
Released: 2007

Plot: Documentary based on the life and death of Kenneth Pinyan Aka: Mr. Hands who died of peritonitis after having sex with a horse.

Review: While the bestiality subject matter might scream the short of subject matter for late night shock docs but what we get here instead is actually thoughtful and strangely beautiful documentary on one of the last great taboos - bestiality while looking at the zoophile’s who the film derives its title from.

Constructed using muted reinactments charting the events which lead up to Pinyan’s death, the film is narrated by the extensive interview footage which director Robinson Devor collected with both the members of the group that Pinyan belonged to but also with those such as Jenny Edwards who were called in to deal with the aftermath of Pinyan’s death.

Rather than just focus on the Pinyan’s death Devor instead makes the most of his access to the key members of the group all referred to by their internet handles such as H, Coyote and The Happy Horseman rather than their real names clearly happy to maintain anonymity in exchange for the real insight their interviews provide. This anonymity is also extended to Pinyan who throughout the film is only referred to as “Mr. Hands” though the use of radio footage he does tease revealing his identity only to cut it off at the last second. Still how this anonymity currents holds up is doubtful now, especially when a quick wikipedia search can bring up the details of everyone involved, but back then it did mean that we get the best possible insight into this secretive world.

By using only interview footage to narrate the film, Devor avoids sharing his own opinions when it comes to how he views the actions of the group, nor their less than conventional sexual tastes, the group surprisingly not being portrayed as weirdos for their sexual desires towards animals and instead the result of finding more of a connection with animals than they find with fellow humans. This is certainly the case with Pinyan whose Devor takes great pains to include footage which highlights his normal white collar lifestyle as an aeronautical engineer and devoted father with his trips to the farm clearly being like many of the group a separate part of their lives which they revealed only to their fellow group members. Its also perhaps unintentionally twee looking at the film now to hear the group talking about the internet, more so when the films soundtrack is often punctuated with the sound of dial up modems, but it does serve to remind how the internet really did help everyone to find their tribe as was certainly the case for the group at the centre of the incident.

The second half of the film focuses on the ill fated events surrounding Pinyan’s death and the inevitable fallout that unsurprisingly came from the discover of what the group had been doing including what happened to the members in the aftermath. Devor surprisingly never judges any of them for their less than traditional desires though the events which lead to Pinyan’s death are left largely foggy, thanks in no part to the unique way that he chooses to portray those ill-fated events.

Its also during this second half that the question over whether these acts can be considered abuse or not, especially when the animals are unable to provide consent to being involved in such acts and to Devor’s credit he manages to provide both sides of the argument though its doubtful that you mind will be changed by the evidence provided it and certainly the opinion of the government on the subject is made clear by their classification of bestiality as a felony offence.

Despite the subject material the film is fascinatingly shot and with none of the lurid shots that you might have expected, especially with Devor punctuating the re-enactment with numerous shots of the breathtaking landscape of Enumclaw and its rocky vistas. The footage throughout only being added to by a mesmerising score from Paul Mathew Moore which only serves to heighten the experience drawing you further into the story as it builds to its grim climax.

A facinating documentary on a less than typical subject and which well elevates itself being a shock piece to instead perhaps go some way into providing some kind of insight into this world.

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