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ZPG: Zero Population Growth - horror DVD review
Rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 2 1/2 stars
Actors: Oliver Reed, Geraldine Chaplin, Don Gordon, Diane Cilento
Director: Michael Campus   Distributor: Legend Films
DVD release: 03 June 2008   Runtime: 96 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Color, DVD-Video, NTSC, Widescreen
DVD features: Aspect ratio 1.77:1, Audio tracks (English - Mono), Closed-captioned

Before Star Wars changed everything, science fiction films in the 1970s were dominated by a sub-genre that could accurately be dubbed as "the future's gonna suck" movies. These movies centered on how a major 1970's global concern such as nuclear war, overpopulation or pollution would create a dystopian future society where everyone is miserable, lives under an oppressive government, yet still often gets to wear rather groovy matching '70s-style unis. Planet of the Apes was likely the origin of this genre, while other famous examples include Silent Running, Soylent Green, Logan's Run and the original Rollerball. ZPG, a long-forgotten film released on DVD under the Legend Films label, is a minor example of this subgenre. It shows a world that definitely no one would want to live in.

The story: Earth has become so overpopulated that no rivers or lakes exist anymore, as they have been drained to add more housing units. All other species, including cats and dogs, are extinct. The only living plants are housed in a museum (where there is a 4-year waiting period to visit). The air outside is a thick smog, so people are required to wear an oxygen mask for any extended time outside. All food is now a synthetic paste squeezed from a tube. As a result of this mess, world leaders agree to a 30-year worldwide ban on childbirth. Failure to comply results in an instant death sentence, both for the parents and the child.

Needless to say, this new law does not sit well with everyone, particularly one couple (Geraldine Chaplin and Oliver Reed) who desperately want a child and do not want to settle for one of the robotic "substitute" children the government is encouraging. Note: by far, the most effective and nightmarish aspect of the entire film is the fake children - they are flat-out creepy. Think the Chucky doll, only with a hideous "happy face" and a high pitched English accent.

However, despite a rather strong and obviously grim premise, the film does not work overall and falls apart somewhat at the end. For one thing, the two leads are almost overbearingly solemn. Chaplin looks like she is on verge of tears throughout the whole movie, while the bear-like Reed wears a constant scowl. Secondly, the major outdoors special effects are laughable. You practically see the piano wire hanging from a news-pod as well as from a security helicopter. Third, like many films in this subgenre, it looks strangely dated in its efforts to look futuristic. For instance, everyone wears matching blue jumpsuits complete with flared bellbottoms and giant gold medallions that one might have seen on the cult '70s show Space: 1999. (Not to get off track, but isn't it weird how films from the '70s set in the future tend to age badly, but '70s films set in the past, such as The Godfather, American Graffiti, even Animal House, still hold up remarkably well?) Finally, the couple's attempt to escape at the end, without going into detail, is rather ludicrous.

The film is not terrible. The desperate efforts of the couple to hide her pregnancy and to protect their baby made me care for them. Also, a scene where she has to try to sneak the baby through a crowded theater in order to find a doctor is quite suspenseful. Still, overall, this isn't quite up to par with other films in this gloomy subgenre, particularly the haunting, sad Silent Running or the exciting Planet of the Apes (with its awesome final shot). ZPG might be worth a look for fans of this subgenre, but it's nothing special.


As with other Legend films, the extras could be title "ZZN" (as in Zero, Zip, Nada).
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reviewed by Nancy Atkinson
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