28 Jan

Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Zoink” is a film that took me back to the nostalgic days of making movies as a child and having fun with storytelling. It has the makings of a child’s hybrid of fantasy, horror, science fiction, and comedy. It contains some common tropes that kids still love to this day–there’s something odd and suspicious about your younger sibling, only your friends can understand what’s happening, and of course the classic rule: adults are the enemy.

Even though writer-directors Lolo Loren & Patrick Poe were in their 20s when they made this film, they weren’t afraid to be children at heart (and with a budget of only $250) and I could tell they had fun while making it. I can see why this movie wouldn’t work for some viewers because it’s not their kind of silly. Well…it’s my kind of silly.

Oh, and why is it called “Zoink,” of all titles? You’d be surprised to find out–but I won’t display spoilers in this review.

Our two young protagonists are Tommy (Thomas Fitzgerald) and Sam (Roan Ricker), ordinary kids with ordinary-kid problems. Sam has an older sister for a bully; Tommy is weirded out by his introverted little brother; and both have to put up with a Nickelodeon sitcom’s idea of a bad teacher (Mr. Hideaux, played by a hilariously over-the-top Coleman Crenshaw). Tommy confides in Sam that he believes his kid brother Tyler (Tyler Fitzgerald) is a demon–or, to an extent, Tyler doesn’t even exist. While skeptical, Sam helps Tommy investigate the matter. Why is Tyler silent? What is the “science project” he’s building in his bedroom? Tommy is completely convinced that something isn’t right here.

This leads to a fun montage in which Tommy and Sam test Tyler in many different ways (by looking to the Internet for tips on how to identify a demon) which then leads to a night in which Tommy, Sam, and Sam’s sister Annie (Amber Joy), who’s been roped into babysitting the two youngsters, find themselves in for a crazy weekend…

And that’s all I’ll say about the plot, except that the more the movie digs deeper into its strangeness (from, say, the 35-minute mark of this 70-minute movie), the more enjoyable it is. What this movie lacks in technical quality, it makes up for with plenty of ambition and good laughs. (There are plenty of little quibbles that remind me of film school, but there’s no fun picking on those–besides, Loren & Poe are smart filmmakers; they get better.)

There is an actor named Richard J. Burt whose role in “Zoink,” I’m not even going to begin to describe to you. He’s one of the film’s definite highlights as he delivers some of the funnier lines of dialogue. (And speaking of funny lines of dialogue, Roan Ricker is terrific as Sam, who’s the wisecracking cutup of the central characters.)

If I tell you too much about the plot of “Zoink,” it may either turn you off or get you invested. But I must abide by the respect of the filmmakers and not give away the film’s zanier surprises. Instead, I’ll just reiterate my point from before: it’s my kind of silly, and it might just be yours too.

“Zoink” is available to rent on Amazon. You can find more fun stuff from Lolo Loren & Patrick Poe’s IX Productions by checking out their YouTube channel and/or subscribing to their Patreon page.

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