I was a little worried going into The Zero Boys when I saw that Nico Mastorakis was the director. If you read my review of Island of Death, which Nico Mastorakis also directed, you would understand why I was hesitant. Thankfully, though, The Zero Boys is in an entirely different league than Island of Death. We don’t have to worry about obscene perversion with this one. The Zero Boys is thankfully just your bona fide ‘80s suspense slasher. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect film. Speaking of perfect, though, Arrow Video once again delivers an incredible Blu-ray release, with a nice helping of special features is some solid video and audio. I may be sounding a little bias with them at this point, but they have yet to disappoint me. Anyway, if you want to know why The Zero Boys movie isn’t perfect, read on…
[tabby title=”Product Information”]
DISCS: 2 (1 Blu-ray, 1 DVD) RUN-TIME: 89 mins ASPECT RATIO: 1.85:1 RESOLUTION: 1080p AUDIO: LPCM Stereo 2.0 LANGUAGE: English SUBTITLES: English SDH REGION: Region Free RATING: R PRODUCTION DATE: 1986 RELEASE DATE: Apr 26, 2016
[tabby title=”Plot Summary”]
DAWN OF A NEW BREED OF HEROES
From cult director Nico Mastorakis, the man behind such eclectic offerings as the controversial Island of Death and the Oliver Reed-starring actioner Hired to Kill, comes The Zero Boys – the genre-bending ’80s classic with gruesome sequences that anticipate the torture porn horrors of Hostel and Saw.
For a group of young friends, a weekend of survival games in the wilderness turns into a genuine battle of life and death when one of their number turns up dead. Finding themselves hunted by a bloodthirsty band of maniacs intent on slaughtering them one-by-one, the self-styled “Zero Boys” must now play their war games for real.
Starring Kelli Maroney (Night of the Comet, Chopping Mall) and featuring an early score from the legendary Hans Zimmer (Inception, The Dark Knight Trilogy), The Zero Boys mixes action, survival and all-out slasher movie elements in a thrilling horror yarn that falls somewhere between Friday the 13th and Deliverance.
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The Zero Boys centers on a group of weekend warriors (paintball) out celebrating their recent victory at a survival games competition. While they are drinking up and having a good time, they hear a scream nearby and go to investigate. They happen upon a cabin in the woods, which looks to be abandoned. However, it turns out the inhabitants just happened to be busy elsewhere and when they come back to find these kids eating their porridge and sleeping in their beds, they soon get to work on terrorizing them. Unbeknownst to the killers (one being played by Martin Sheen’s brother Joe Estevez), the kids are packing heat and the skills to survive.
The back of the Blu-ray for this Arrow Video release states that The Zero Boys is an “’80s classic with gruesome sequences that anticipate the torture porn horrors of Hostel and Saw.” I’m not entirely sure where they got that idea from, save for the possible hints at the killers having tortured previous victims and videotaped them. The Zero Boys to me felt very tame in comparison to the movies they are mentioning. I thought that the film was going to be riddled with blood and gore, but in actuality, it’s an almost entirely bloodless affair. As for the other staple of ‘80s classics, nudity, the film features not a drop of flesh. This comes down to Kelli Maroney (Night of the Comet) refusing to do nudity unless she gets paid an additional $500, in which the director was not going to pay, so, alas we get nothing at all.
Another issue I had with The Zero Boys is the lack of tension. It was rare that I felt any sort of fear or worry over our “victims” in this movie. Each member of the Zero Boys is entirely capable of standing up for themselves, with them being avid gun enthusiasts and bringing along semi-automatics by the truckload. The killers have knives and a bow and arrow, which they do occasionally end up getting the upper hand on the kids, but more often than not, the Zero Boys had hardly anything to fear. So, in order to bring some tension into the plot, they decided to have the women of the movie make some of the stupidest decisions possible. A few times the girls would wander off alone or stay behind, leaving themselves wide open for a kill strike. It makes no sense why these skilled people would ever think to be by themselves or leave the ladies alone given the circumstances, so when stuff like this happens it takes you completely out of the film. However, having said all that, there were times where some tension managed to creep into the film, especially during two scenes involving traps set up in the woods.
I feel like I’m being overly harsh on this movie and I really don’t mean to be. I still really enjoyed the heck out of it. All the performances are better than your average slasher flick of the ‘80s. Also, I do enjoy the idea of a bunch of would-be victims taking the upper hand in a typical slasher scenario. In the words of director Nico Mastorakis, the film wonderfully cross-pollinates several different genres, mixing humor, suspense, horror and thriller. Also, I would be remiss in not mentioning the early works of musician Hans Zimmer on this movie. He provides a really fantastic score to go along with some of the more action-packed scenes.
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Arrow Video releases The Zero Boys on a two disc set, one disc housing the movie on Blu-ray and the other on DVD. The film comes with several bonus features, with the highlight for me being the 27-minute interview with director Nico Mastorakis, who is actually interviewing himself in a rather humorous way. It provides plenty of information on the making of The Zero Boys. Other features include a commentary with star Kelli Maroney, moderated by Chris Alexander, an 8-minute interview with Kelli Maroney, who fondly remembers working with director Nico Mastorakis, even though he was the one who demanded nudity and she was having none of it. Another interview is with Nicole Rio, which also runs 8 minutes or so. There are two music videos featuring the works of Hans Zimmer, a still gallery, trailer and of course the usual booklet, which is always a nice treat.
As for the audio and video side of things, the Blu-ray is looking fantastic, with only a few scenes with some noticeable dirt and debris present. The film takes place mainly at night and thankfully, the blacks are even with no noticeable crush. Audio fares just as well, with clear dialogue and Hans Zimmer’s fantastic score pounding through speakers wonderfully.
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• Brand new 2K restoration of the film, approved by writer-director Nico Mastorakis
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
• Original Stereo audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Audio Commentary with star Kelli Maroney, moderated by Shock Till You Drop’s Chris Alexander
• Nico Mastorakis on… Nico Mastorakis – brand new interview with Mastorakis on the making of The Zero Boys
• Brand new interview with star Kelli Maroney
• Brand new interview with star Nicole Rio
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Stills Gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
• Fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by critic James Oliver
The Zero Boys failed to provide enough tension for my tastes, but it still doesn’t mean it’s a bad film. In fact, it’s a rather highly enjoyable flick, which mixed several genres together, succeeding more often than it failed. It provided a nice amount of action and a few scenes where I actually did feel afraid for the characters, even if a minute later the fear was gone. Fans of the movie are going to fall head over heels for this masterfully restored Blu-ray release, with a bunch of new features to dig into. This is one release that is an easy recommend for all fans of ‘80s goodness.