Hey folks, Valkor here. Now I'll admit, I'm not the biggest fan of documentaries; I mean I'll sit through just about anything and my most recent review of "The Boy She Met Online" (a Lifetime film) attests to that. But if I had to choose between that and a docufilm, chances are I'll side with anything but the documentary. However when I read the title and synopsis for the film "The Elephant in the Living Room" (directed by Michael Webber), oh you better believe I was gonna sink my teeth into that.
"The Elephant in the Living Room" is a documentary that takes us into the living rooms of folks who raise exotic pets and those who have to deal with them. I'm not talkin about dogs, cats, pigs, sheep, rats, frogs, or turtles (though some species might rank right up there). I'm talkin about folks who like to keep poisonous snakes, lions, tigers, cougars, and bears. In the mix you get interviews of the exotic pet owners, those who are against the onwership of such pets, a look inside a market where one can purchase poisonous snakes, as well as news footage of animals that have gotten loose. However the film mostly centers on two men – Safety Officer Tim Harrison, who not only has to deal with phone calls of wild animals stalkin his hood such as an alligator on the loose, or a snake trapped in the walls of a home of an elderly woman, but also reveals that his partner was killed by a snake. Next up you have Terry Brumfield, a man dealing with depression the best way he knows how - by raising a pair of African Lions and the effects they have on his life. It's most touching when Terry's favorite lion, Lambert, is killed and he comes to realize that keeping the remaining lions locked away, is more than he can handle. But what brings Tim and Terry together is the love they both have for these animals, it really pulls on the heartstrings.
Commentary time: I'm the sort of person that enjoys variety; take me away from the norm, especially when it comes to pet ownership. I'd rather own say an exotic fish over a dog any day. But I think there's a line being overstepped when someone chooses to own a tiger over a tabby. I think it's selfish, especially if you live in a residential area to own such creatures, without thinking of the people around. And what's really messed up, which the film shows, is that when the animals get too big for some owners, they dump it – leave it in the streets, kill it and toss it on the side of the road, or tie them up to a tree. Is that fair to the creatures? It's not and I'm gonna say it, that's really fucked up.
The DVD also has some nifty special features, such as deleted scenes, a director's commentary track with Michael Webber and Producer John Adkins, a feature called "Beyond the Call – The Untold Stories", which stars Michael Webber, Tim Harrison and Russ Clear as they answer questions about the film. Finally there's a hidden feature that's not too hard to find. But to make it easier you go to "special features" then "deleted scenes" and if you push the right arrow on the remote (or click in the right area if you're on a PC) you'll see a paw. Click that and it'll take you to a screen with a box giving you two options "Open" or "Do Not Open". Of course you wanna open and there you'll get a special look at Tim Harrison who shows you how easy it is to get very poisonous snakes. Crazy.
And now on with the TOV Breakdown!
The Elephant in the Living Room is a fascinating, informative, well-balanced, and revealing look into a world that most people may not realize exist - wild animals being kept as pets in the neighborhood. Webber covers both sides of the fence – those who wish to own such animals and those who say "it's not cool to have them". Sure we may know someone who owns a snake and yes we've seen news reports of people being attacked by wild creatures that folks try to domesticate (that attack on the woman whose face was bitten off by a chimp comes to mind). But to open your mind to the fact that something just as dangerous and deadly as a Lion or poisonous snake might reside in your neighbor's home? Well that just blows my mind! I was impressed with the depth that Webber takes us, how close he gets to his subjects, but to go even further to show how easy it is to own a deadly snake or a Tiger is just... wow! Definitely check out "Beyond the Call" as that will take you even further into the film. Finally, I was captivated by Tim Harrison's stories of what goes on in his neighborhood and what he has to deal with when it comes to these animals. I wonder how he sleeps at night knowing that tomorrow he might have to fetch a cobra out of someone's yard or yank an ape out of a tree. And I was touched by Terry's plight as he had to deal with having to lose something close to his heart. I hope he's hangin in there. Overall it all comes together for an exciting and emotional rollercoaster ride of a film.
Nothing bad here, but watching the demise of Lambert… the manliest tears you ever saw…
"The Elephant in the Living Room" is available now on DVD and it's a cautionary tale and one that'll make you think about what you're neighbors have hidden behind closed doors. The film is exciting, informative, and entertaining, one that is a sure thing, can't miss. And out of TOV 5 stars, I give "The Elephant in the Living Room" 5 stars perfect! And it's been Valkor Viewed, TOV Approved!