Population Zero (2016) [FrightFest 2016]

populationzeroShot documentary-style, Population Zero follows director Julian T. Pinder as he investigates a triple murder in a national park, a place without population, hence the title, and where some laws apply differently or not at all. Director Julian T. Pinder and co-director Adam Levins build a film about an interesting case as these three murders were never fully investigated or prosecuted.

They dig into the subject and reach out to quite a few people, uncovering evidence fairly easily which puts further doubt on the judicial system and also on the loophole that allowed the case to be dropped.  Throughout the film, evidence of who killed the three victims accumulates as well as doubt as to whether or not this is a real documentary or another mockumentary like La Rage du Démon which comes off more believable than Population Zero.

The interviewed people here (not credited on IMDB) feel more like rehearsed parts than actual people.  The way they speak is too perfect with very little hesitation.  As they are everyday people who do not do films or television appearances regularly, their countenance being so professional, it creates a disconnect in how real it all feels.  It’s a nitpicky issue but it makes the whole thing feel like a set-up along with how easily they obtained the evidence that authorities could not.

These issues notwithstanding, the film looks very good with cinematography by co-director Adam Levins.  The film shows the interviews and locations very clearly, his cinematography takes advantage of the locations and the natural or ambient lighting making the film feel more intimate in some scenes than most straight forward interviews do.

Now for a big somewhat spoiler: There is one scene in the film that makes it either entirely exploitative or entirely fake or both.  The scene comes near the end and just turns the style of the film around.  Yes, the film needed more of a bang after droning on and on for a while following its interesting start but this scene just kind of messes the whole thing up.

Overall, “Population Zero” is a film with an interesting subject but an execution that loses steam until that one scene near the end.  It’s an okay watch but feels longer than it actually is.