I've always thought there had to be more. Ever since the breaking news of Kenneth Pinyan's death, I have never liked the treatment his story was given. Either the object of tasteless jokes or scathing condemnation, his death has left a void that needed to be filled. Mostly, famed director Robinson Devor's documentary, 'Zoo,' doesn't do much to fill that void, but maybe no documentary can.
Mostly a reenactment, 'Zoo' traces back the account by actors who go to the facility where guests would engage in bestiality with stallions at a stable just outside of Seattle. Hooking up via the anonymity of the Internet, Pinyan (bka "Mr. Hands") and others from many regions joined up to spend time with one of the prized horses. Using eerie, low-ebbed synthesizer music, the film has a lurid quality as it unveils alienated men who bond through tequila and space exploration videos, making their way later solo to pair off with horses often in the middle of the night. Much of the photography is meant to touch on the aesthetics of the environs and equestrian beauty, but the analysis of the human aftermath is few and far between. One of the better aspects touches on the profile of the men: Varying in socio-economic and religious backgrounds, all of them seem tragically alone.
Much of the footage focuses on Pinyan who died one night after an encounter ruptured his colon. As the news headlines flashed across, it became one of those tragic, novelty human interest stories. Devor survey's some of those reactions. Anyone from CNN to Rush Limbaugh is given space, but then they go to some witnesses. Part of the testimony is about the behavior of the key people; some of the rest of the testimony has experts going over evidence of alleged abuse to the horses.
While I usually think it is the execution rather than the subject matter that wins for a documentary, I was looking for more insight. In place of so many animal experts analyzing the alleged abuse to the stallions in a nonconsensual setup, it would have been better to have psychologists analyze the human situation. Besides retracing the events before his death, they show the incremental steps as charges came to the fore by law enforcement who didn't have anti-bestiality laws in place in the state of Washington. As the stable manager relates, some people came by dropping religious "tracks" at his doorstep. The best scene is when the stable manager (played by an actor) opens up and honestly admits his inner thoughts after the whole incident. As much as I love animals, I must confess, I couldn't understand their emphasis on the animals' potential post trauma. If I lived near there, I would have left a pie on his doorstep, instead of a track, coaxing and encouraging them back to the human race.
While it isn't fair to expect "Just the facts ma'am," the presentation leaves some huge, gaping holes.