Our editor-in-chief Nate Yapp is proud to have contributed to the new book Hidden Horror: A Celebration of 101 Underrated and Overlooked Fright Flicks, edited by Aaron Christensen. Another contributors include Anthony Timpone, B.J. Colangelo, Dave Alexander, Classic-Horror.com's own Robert C. Ring and John W. Bowen. Pick up a copy today from Amazon.com!
Everyone here at Classic-Horror.com strives to enlighten as well as entertain. It’s our mission to enlighten everyone about horror films, but to also enlighten and educate everyone about the world around us. The readers of CH are in for a small ecology lesson whether they like it or not. The movie I am reviewing has a very profound meaning for our country at this point in history. At this moment we are under attack. America has been invaded by a foreign menace so bloodthirsty and destructive that they must be destroyed at all costs. This menace is of course the Northern Chinese Snakehead fish. These invaders are large, amphibious, snake-like, carnivorous fish with a nasty attitude (much like the antagonist in the film I’m reviewing).
In the city of Crofton, Maryland a man from Hong Kong ordered two live snakeheads from a food store in Chinatown. Later, he let them go in a nearby pond and they soon multiplied. The fish have become a major concern to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and to the United States Department of the Interior. The ecology of Maryland’s waters is at risk because the fishes’ diet consists of 90% other fish and the snakehead can live for two days out of the water so it can travel from pond to pond. Secretary of the Department of the Interior Gale Norton had this to say: "These fish are like something from a bad horror movie..." I don't know if Secretary Norton has seen Zaat (a.k.a The Bloodwaters of Dr. Z and The Legend of the Zaat Monster), but if she has seen it, I know why she said what she said.
Zaat is the story of one man’s hate towards his fellow man and his love towards his fellow catfish. Dr. Kurt Leopold is a deranged little madman bent on showing up the fools that scoffed at him. He dreams of joining his fellow marine predators under the sea. His dreams are visualized by having a voice (it's supposed to be Leopold, but you can tell its not the same actor) talk about different forms of sea life while documentary footage is shown. Dr. Leopold cooks up a special brew known as Z sub A and A sub T (ZaAt). He uses a pool which resembles a giant fry daddy to transform himself into an aquatic monster.
On Dr. Leopold's track is the crack team of a redneck Floridian sheriff, a young African-American marine biologist (Think In the Heat of the Night with a humanoid catfish monster), and a woman and a man from the INTER-NATIONS PHENOMENON INVESTIGATIONS TEAM (INPIT). The ending of Zaat has the marine biologists and Kurt involved in a beach front battle. Kurt is shot and marine biologist man is wounded. Marine biologist man dies and the ZAAT monster goes into the ocean with a canister full of ZAAT to mutate the other fish. The lady INPIT member (who Kurt attempted to turn into a mutant halibut earlier in the film) runs out to join Dr. Leopold in the ocean and help breed a race of super seafood. The ending doesn’t make much sense. What the hell was this idiot thinking? "He did kidnap me, kill my friend, and try to turn me into a mutant fish person, but I still think I’ll join him in his quest to help his underwater brethren seize control over the evil surface world." Sheesh.
Zaat is not a very good movie. Gasp!! Yet there was one thing I liked about the film. What I liked about the movie was also what ruined the movie for me. The monster is seen for over 90% of the movie which I like. However, the filmmakers reeeeeally should have reconsidered that. The Zaat monster resembles a cross between Bigfoot, a catfish, and a baboon. The beast looks like it was made out of testicle skin and it appears to have green pubic hair that forms a sort of "tutu" around its waist.
The "acting" in this film is your standard monster movie acting, as wooden as a forest full of redwoods. The cast seems to be competent enough, but they seem to realize that there’s no point to even try with the dialouge. My favorite actor in the film is the guy that did the voiceover for Dr. Leopold. It takes a great voice to make a love poem to a clam sound menacing.
One thing that can be said for Zaat is that the filmmakers were not trying to make high art, they were trying to make a monster movie on a tight budget. There movie wasn’t very good, but there’s worse out there that were made for greater amounts of money. The actually sea life footage was cool and was edited into the picture to spice up some of the horror.
Zaat has become a minor cult classic. Last year Scary Monsters magazine did a special story on Zaat. In issue #38, writer Ed Tucker did an interview with one of the writers of the film named Ron Kivett. In the interview Ron reveals that the inspiration for Zaat was an article about the walking Catfish in the United States. The walking Catfish were thought to be a mutation that could live on land and water. The catfish were hardy and had voracious appetites. The panic over them was like the current panic over the snakehead fish.
Zaat is a dumb movie, but it is a dumb movie that everyone needs to see for their own safety! Horrible walking fish are out to get us! After they deplete the waters of America they'll come on land... and then...