Normally when I’m watching a horror movie, I find it is beneficial to the viewing experience to know who the normal and relatable characters are, and who are the dangerous psychopaths. Take Halloween as a classic example. Laurie Strode is the normal person we can all relate to. Michael Myers is the terrifying and deranged lunatic. It provides that all-important element for a horror to truly work: empathy. Without empathy, we can’t be frightened or concerned for the fate of others. Without empathy, we are all psychopaths.
Which brings me to The Zero Boys – a bizarre, mid 80s, cheapo slasher, that genuinely makes you ask the question: who are the psychos in this film? Is it the drooling rednecks with their house of horrors and surrounding woodland full of booby traps? Or is it the vile yuppie weekend warriors, in their tailored shorts and sweater vests, who worship Stallone, trade women as prizes, and carry sub-machine guns as if it’s the most ordinary thing in the world? Oh, and call themselves the fucking Zero Boys.
Lets go back to the beginning. The film opens in the middle of a gunfight between groups of strangely dressed young men. I say young men, they all look about 30, but I think they’re meant to be college age. One of them has a python coiled around his neck. Another is dressed as Gestapo officer.
This shootout is slowly (in De Palma levels of slow motion) revealed to be a paintball competition between rival teams, with The Zero Boys emerging victorious. Yes that’s right, The Zero Boys are a paintball team, and boy oh boy do they take their war games seriously. So seriously in fact, that the prize for winning, is the girlfriend of the defeated team’s leader. She isn’t privy to this bet, but goes along with it anyway.
So the Zero Boys – Steve (Daniel Hirsch), Larry (Tom Shell) and Rip (Jared Moses) – and their girlfriends Jamie (Kelli Maroney), Sue (Nicole Rio) and Trish (Crystal Carson) drive off to the woods to celebrate. When they hear a scream and catch a glimpse of someone running through the trees, they go and investigate, but on the way are distracted by an empty house. Completely forgetting about the screaming, fleeing, bleeding woman, they decide to go into the house and have a party, with cake and champagne. Unsurprisingly, the owners of the house are not too happy about this. To make matters worse, the owners are inbred, hillbilly maniacs. Uh-oh, is this the end of our intrepid hero Zeroes? Of course not, because in their car, like all college students, they have a cache of machine guns.
Now armed to the teeth, the gang start fighting back and blowing the shit out of everything. The switch from kids having a party to being cold-blooded, murdering survivalists is instantaneous, without any change in emotional register. There is no fear, only the desire to shoot things and kill people. I like to imagine a young Bret Easton Ellis watching this film in some dive theatre, and thinking to himself, “these preppy assholes are crazy” and then a light bulb going off over his head.
Directed by notorious Greek filmmaker Nico Mastorakis – perhaps most famous for his exploitation horror Island of Death, which was prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act during the Video Nasties scandal – this in no way comes close to the levels of depravity in his previous works. It falls more into the category of dumb and quite nasty. You could also generously describe it as a forbear of films like Hostel and other rubbish from the torture porn era.
The Zero Boys is ultimately a slice of 80s trash horror that has somehow attained cult status. It will only be of interest to fans of kitsch crap, and Hans Zimmer completists. Yes, Hans Zimmer does the music for this film.
As with all Arrow releases, the disc comes packed with extras. As well as the impressive 2K conversion, there is an audio commentary, new interviews with Kelli Maroney and Nicole Rio, music videos, the original trailer, and the director in conversation with…himself.
Cast: Daniel Hirsch, Kelli Maroney, Nicole Rio, Tom Shell Director: Nico Mastorakis Writer: Nico Mastorakis, Robert Gilliam & Fred Perry Released By: Arrow Video Certificate: 18 Duration: 89 mins Release Date: 25th April 2016