06th Apr2017

‘Population Zero’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Julian T. Pinder, Adam Levins | Written by Jeff Staranchuk | Directed by Julian T. Pinder, Adam Levins


In 2009 three young men were killed in a remote part of Yellowstone National Park. Authorities never found the murderer. He found them. Only hours after three young men were gunned down in cold blood, Dwayne Nelson walked into a ranger station miles away and confessed to the crime. Despite his detailed confession, Dwayne Nelson was allowed to go free because of a loophole in the American Constitution. Documentarian Julian T. Pinder travels to Yellowstone compelling chase for truth behind a crime that should have rocked the nation. How did the United States Constitution, the supreme law of the United States of America, let a guilty man go free?

Wow. That sounds intriguing right? A documentary on a crime that, because of legal loophole surrounding Yellowstone Park, went unpunished. Only it’s not. Unlike the recent Netflix documentary mini-series Making a Murder, which took a look a real criminal case, with fresh eyes, providing theory and evidence of what took place, Population Zero is, in fact, a work of total fiction. And much like The Blair Witch Project used found-footage to blur the lines between film and reality, Pinder’s film uses a faux-documentary format to bewilder and beguile its audience.

Told from the perspective of director Pinder, who has a legitmate history as a documentarian, Population Zero sees the director head out to the wilds of Yellowstone with co-director Levins (Estranged), who in this case portrays Pinder’s cinematographer to uncover the “truth” about a crime that seems to have disappeared from the radar’s of anyone but the duo investigating it. Could that be because the American justice system doesn’t want anyone to know of this legal loophole, or is it because, much like The Blair Witch Project, the entire thing is a hoax. A mere figment of a filmmakers vivid imagination, based on urban legend and internet chatter.

Speaking of the internet, it’s hard to comprehend how a film like Population Zero can work in this information-heavy age. After all, one quick search online will debunk the contents of Pinder and Levins film entirely. Although to be fair, despite being a fantastic what-if story, this tale is actually backed up by an all-too-real article warning about a constitutional loophole creating a legal black hole, dubbed the zone of death in numerous articles since, in Yellowstone National Park.

Think the intrigue of Making a Murder meets the terror of Blair Witch and you’d be somewhere close. It may not have the impact of either, but Population Zero is a fascinating, if fictional, look at one of America’s strangest legal oddities.

Population Zero is available on Digital Download 10th April 2017 from FrightFest Presents.


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