Release Date(s)1986 (April 26, 2016)
Studio(s)Omega Entertainment (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
Even though Nico Mastorakis has had more of a career writing films than actually making them, he did direct a few of them, one of which was the notorious video nasty selection Island of Death from 1976. The film featured multiple graphic murders, the kind of which weren’t present in too many films at that time. As a consequence, many years went by before it was finally released uncut to the public in the U.K. Nearly a decade after Island of Death, Mastorakis set his sights on another project, this time writing, producing, and directing The Zero Boys. Comparing and contrasting both films today, it’s clear that Mastorakis did indeed have a filter for the use of violence at his disposal, but chose which story to actually filter.
The story of The Zero Boys involves a group of weekend warrior types who, after successfully winning a recent paintball competition, traipse off into the wilderness with women on their arms, settling down in a remote cabin with less violent ideas on their minds. While things begin to get chummy (and then some), strange things begin to occur, and it becomes abundantly clear that there is someone or a group of someone's in the woods who mean to not only harm them, but taunt and torture them as well.
The Zero Boys would probably be a disappointment to most modern slasher fans. The movie has many of the genre’s tropes, especially in its setup, but it differs in execution and content. The difference can be seen in several areas: there’s very little blood, no nudity, almost no body count, and the plot makes even less sense than a traditional slasher would, or wouldn’t. What’s also strange is that the movie has no ending; it just sort of stops. It could have been an attempt at sequel bait, but it winds up leaving one unfulfilled, which is never a good thing. Most of the time white I was watching it, I was dreaming up various scenarios for the killers’ identities and motivations, but it ended up being a pointless exercise as it’s left totally unexplained. There’s never any clarification as to who is doing the killing and why. We eventually do see the killers, but there’s no context that leads to a story conclusion. I suppose it would be a realistic approach from a character’s point of view, but this is a movie, and confusing and disappointing the audience isn’t an effective way to achieve anything, different or otherwise.
Despite its relative obscurity, The Zero Boys also wound up being notable years after its 1986 release for several reasons, and not due to its aforementioned content. Besides Mastorakis at the helm, there were some familiar faces in the cast including Kelli Maroney, who did a string of low budget 80’s horror movies including Night of the Comet, Chopping Mall, Not of this Earth, and Transylvania Twist, as well as landing a role in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. There’s also Nicole Rio, who was also in another low budget horror movie Sorority House Massacre. But one of the most interesting members of the cast is Joe Estevez (under the name Joe Phelan), who many MST3K fans will remember from Werewolf and Soultaker, and he is actually effective. Also noteworthy is Hans Zimmer’s co-written score, which was by no means his first. He had already co-written the scores for My Beautiful Laundrette and Insignificance prior.
To say the least, The Zero Boys is an unusual horror movie. It has a sort of Southern Comfort vibe coming off of it, but at the same time, it functions as a slasher movie, minus a proper resolution. It’s well-photographed and has a nice score, as well as some interesting performances, but overall, it didn’t quite reach the plateau of “difference with a purpose”. It meanders a lot and peters out fairly quickly, but it’s definitely not a bad watch at all.
Sourced from a 35mm interpositive source and scanned 4K resolution, the transfer found on Arrow Video’s release of The Zero Boys should please most viewers. It’s definitely not a perfect-looking film, as to be expected from most low budget ventures, but what’s present on this release is excellent viewing material. It’s a very clean transfer with heavy but mostly even grain levels. Fine detail varies, particularly during some of the much darker scenes, but when it’s bright, detail is quite thick. There’s also some strong colors, as well as some very nice skin tones. Black levels aren’t very high due to the heavy grain, losing some detail in the process, but contrast and brightness levels are satisfactory. Some shots are slightly unstable at times, but it’s a mostly solid and stable presentation with only occasional print damage, which is not much more than lines running through the frame. For the audio, you get an English 2.0 LPCM soundtrack. It’s a surprisingly strong stereo soundtrack with clear dialogue and both strong sound effects and music. The sound effects sometimes sound a bit dated, but they have some nice punch to them nonetheless. There’s also some nice directionality and ambience to be heard. It shows its age a bit, but it’s a competent audio experience overall. There are also subtitles in English SDH for those who might need them.
In terms of extras, there’s a nice assortment to dig through. There’s an audio commentary with actress Kelli Maroney, moderated by Fangoria’s Chris Alexander; a Nico Mastorakis on... Nico Mastorakis interview; Zero Girl, an interview with Maroney; Blame It on Rio, an interview with actress Nicole Rio; two quasi music videos of Hans Zimmer’s score, one for the Main Theme and the other for The Spelling of S.U.S.P.E.N.S.E.; the original theatrical trailer; a stills gallery; a 22-page insert booklet with an essay on the film by James Oliver; and a DVD copy of the movie.
Arrow Video comes to the rescue once again with a top-notch presentation of a little-known horror movie from horror’s golden age: the 1980’s. The Zero Boys certainly disappointed me in the end, but I enjoyed enough aspects of it that I would probably watch it again, especially for the transfer and the extras found on this release.
- Tim Salmons