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April 2016

The Zero Boys

cast: Daniel Hirsch, Kelli Maroney, Nicole Rio, Tom Shell, and Jared Moses

director: Nico Mastorakis

89 minutes (18) 1986
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Arrow blu-ray region B

RATING: 5/10
review by Ian Shutter

The Zero Boys

American kids with guns? Yeah, this is one of those movies! It starts with a paintball tournament shoot-out on a 'weekend warriors' ranch. Jamie (Kelli Maroney, a star after Night Of The Comet) is champion player Steve's prize, and three couples drive out of town for a picnic. At 16 minutes, we clock the first scream; decibels unknown. Heroine Jamie spots a woman running through the trees along the roadside. At dusk, nobody is home at a house off the highway. The unwary trespassers decide to stop for the night, and there's a birthday surprise-party for one of the boys. A storm descends, and a knife-man is silhouetted by a lightning flash. Events cascade from that menace into outright mayhem.

The Zero Boys cements M.I.A. imagery (Rambo is a pin-up) to the iconography of slasher flicks. This was shot on the same location as Friday The 13th, and 'Jason' is mentioned in dialogue as an in-joke. Armed with Uzi weapons, our heroes search the barn and find snuff-video evidence in a torture shed. The suspense won't kill the protagonists, but death-traps and shadowy predators will. Basically, an engagingly competent re-mix of The Most Dangerous Game (1932), Deliverance (1972), and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), bolstered with a standard cabin-in-the-woods set-up (before such a format became numbingly routine for generic horror), and stalk 'n' slash antics, this boasts a briskly directed story with a twist-ending that leaves the thrill-hunting unfinished, as if the makers were hopeful of a direct sequel.

Unexceptional, but still quite watchable, as far as 1980s action thrillers go, this has a rather limited cult-movie potential that was never quite realised, anyway. Back in the 1980s, it was fairly popular as a video rental, but failed to transcend its plotline with any groundbreaking ambition. It was a passable thriller back then and it remains so today especially when it's so carefully restored and packaged for this premier entertainment format. The Zero Boys first appeared only a year after Jeff Kanew's superior comedy adventure Gotcha! - a spy movie starring Anthony Edwards as a paintball winner who travels to France and meets a femme fatale played by Linda Fiorentino. That picture benefited from its European locations, and both Edwards and Fiorentino moved on to enjoy notable careers - which is more than might be said for the comparatively lacklustre leads of The Zero Boys.

Disc extras: Nico Mastorakis' selfie interview (28 minutes), talks to himself about the various contributions to this movie from Frank Darabont and Hans Zimmer. There are also new interviews with 'Zero Girl' Maroney, and Nicole Rio (just eight minutes each), a couple of music videos, the trailer, a stills gallery, and a commentary track.



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