Welcome to Planet Zee! No, it’s not some new celestial body recently discovered in the farthest reaches of our solar system. In fact, it’s not even a planet at all. At least, I don’t think it is. You see, I’m not really sure just what Planet Zee actually is, but I do know that it’s the title of a new release from young writer and director Zetkin Yikilmis, and you’re reading my review of it right now.
The film focuses on Zee (Yikilmis), free-spirited, somewhat-hippie, young filmmaker who lives with her somewhat peculiar grandmother, Sam (Trish Osmond). The two women deeply love each other, and live quite comfortably and amicably together despite their age differences. Zee has yet to find much success in her career, but Granny Sam remains quite supportive of her granddaughter’s choice of profession. She believes that as long as Zee is doing something that she loves, she will always find happiness. That said, she does wish that her granddaughter were more confident and assertive.
The other most dominant presence in Zee’s life is her contemptuous producer, Serge (Alexander Tsypilev). “Producer” may be a poor choice of words as the man seemingly does little and does not have Zee’s best interest at heart; clearly looking to sell her work for a fast buck, presumably pocketing most of whatever is obtained while she is left with no further involvement in what is rightfully her creation. (Some would say “such is the life of a screenwriter”). When he’s not looking to short-change Zee for her ideas, he can frequently be found demeaning the woman, occasionally pushing her around, and even sexually harassing her.
On this specific occasion, Serge has dropped by to inform Zee that he’s obtained an offer on her latest script, one which Zee is still attempting to finish. The “catch” is that Zee will not be allowed to direct the project herself, which naturally comes as a great disappointment to the young filmmaker. However, Zee currently finds herself more distracted by the virus-like email game called “Game of Power” that has taken over her computer and is preventing her from finishing her script.
Soon, electrical charges (much like small lightning bolts) begin to appear from thin air, painfully zapping the two if they make any attempt to flee from Zee’s room before playing the game to its completion. The “game” leads to hallucinations, accusations, slowly escalating physical abuse, and eventually to the evocation of a demonic entity. However, instead of careening into dark, supernatural horror, Planet Zee keeps its tongue planted firmly in cheek throughout the vast majority of these events. To be honest, it kinda needs to in order to establish its own identity and separate itself from countless other “conjured evil” films.
Planet Zee is a very low-budgeted film, and it wears the accompanying limitations proudly on its sleeve. Effects, particularly make-up and gore effects aren’t overly convincing, which is acknowledged by one of the characters, but only in one particular instance is this deficiency a distraction. That said, I generally found this to be an acceptable factor as the film is not trying to be a special effects showcase.
What ultimately “makes or breaks” a film like Planet Zee is the performances. In these regards, I honestly still don’t know what the Hell to think. Tsypilev is believably smarmy and generally unlikable, yet somewhat rational at times, as Serge. Meanwhile, Osmond is quite charming as the quirky Granny Sam. However, as Zee, Yikilmis’s performance tends to be wildly over-the-top, whether it be a goofy dance number that is seemingly thrown in “just because”, hysterically crying while covered in mushed brains, or the numerous facial contortions that Zee uses to express her rage. While I do believe that these theatrics are essential to the tone that the director is wanting to establish, I have no hesitation in saying that the character will quickly turn off many viewers, while possibly endearing herself to a few others. She’s extremely polarizing. There’s no way around it.
While I can’t say that I really enjoyed Planet Zee, I definitely didn’t hate the experience of watching the film either. If anything, Planet Zee (and, presumably, Yikilmis herself) has a distinctly unique voice, and while it may not have spoken to me personally, I respect its individuality. However, it’s in the film’s conclusion that I found my greatest disappointment, as the resolution feels anything but unique and individual. While I in no means wish to downplay or demean the message of empowerment and self-respect exemplified by the heroine’s journey presented in the film, it just felt too nice, neat, and simple of a wrap-up.
Simply put, Planet Zee is not a film that I can easily recommend to all of you readers. If you just can’t tolerate a low-budget production, this film is not for you. If you want a little more cohesion to your performances, you might want to look elsewhere as well. However, if you want to watch something a little more eccentric, divergent, undeniably personal, and served with a healthy dose of camp, then by all means give Planet Zee a shot. Maybe you’ll enjoy it more than me. Maybe you won’t. Love it or hate it, you’re sure to have a definitive response to the film, and (in many ways) that’s more than can be said about countless other films.
Planet Zee will be available on blu-ray on Feb 16th, courtesy of Darkside Releasing, as part of February’s Women in Horror celebration. The film is available for pre-order at DARKSIDE RELEASING – WILD. GENRE. FILMS.
We were provided with a trailer for Planet Zee, but have decided not to include it in this review as it is really nothing more than the film’s closing moments, and far too spoilerific.