The Zero Boys are the best "Weekend Warriors" on the paintball ranch. With feisty newcomer Jamie (Kelli Maroney) in tow, the gang heads out on a classic aimless teen road trip, and wind up at an apparently deserted country house where they proceed to do the things horror teens do: have sex, play games, argue, and split up to maximise their vulnerability.
Of course, they are not alone. The yokel hicks are on the loose with knives, and they soon lure the group into the woods – and into a series of traps. The Zero Boys (and Girls) must use their dubious survival skills, and their stash of real guns, to fight back and make it through the night.
Although Nico Mastorakis is an uber-trash auteur on the level of Albert Pyun, the first scene is promising: playful in the same way that Vamp toyed with our perceptions in its opening. And the idea of the kids taking the front foot, rather than being out-and-out victims, is an intriguing setup. But it's a swift descent into mediocrity and cliché.
"Eat your heart out, Sly," one gun-toting character utters. The film has no problem referencing its contemporaries, including Friday the 13th and The Twilight Zone. It's kinda meta. Ostensibly The Zero Boys is a blend of two classic 80s genres: the teen slasher and the uzi action movie. If only it delivered on the scares or the thrills. In its found footage torture vignettes and its Hunger Games survive-'em-up finale it even prefigures certain modern genres, but in practice we have the usual idiot-plotting schlock, with characters inexplicably going off and doing their own thing to suit audience expectations rather than logic.
Kelli Maroney is perhaps most contemporaneously famous for Night of the Comet, another (much better) mid-80s genre mashup. She's different here: less ditzy and more resourceful, and usually the smartest person in the room. She's more than a match for our hero, Steve, played by Daniel Hirsch with the soft-spoken intensity of a young Bruce Dern but without the charisma.
The positives: occasionally decent quickfire dialogue; some good 'n' gaudy lighting; the pacing is bang on; and Hans Zimmer's Gothic- synth score is fantastic. What it lacks is the ghoulish humour and gore to match something like Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2 or Sam Raimi's Evil Dead series. Poor editing and mediocre makeup undermine the best scares (don't open that freezer cabinet!). Throw in some irrelevant slow motion and a frankly meaningless final shot and we're left with a distinctly ordinary entry in the 80s slasher canon.
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