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I rented Zero Day from the local video store last week. I had never
heard of the film and I had my reservations about it. Just from looking
at the box I knew the film was an Indie film and therefore the quality
was going to be less than a mainstream film.
I can tell you that after I finished watching Zero Day I immediately started it from the beginning again. The film was clearly following the basic outline of what happened at Columbine High School of April of 1999, but what struck me was how believable the two lead actors were. My first time through watching this film I wasn't entirely sure if what I was watching were actual tapes left behind by the shooters at Columbine. In the back of my mind I knew what I was watching could not be real but at the same time the acting was so convincing you had to keep giving your head a shake.
Is the film disturbing? Absolutely! Are you going to see things that will make you question the merit of the film? Probably. I think what most people will find disturbing is they will actually have feelings for the two lead characters, Calvin and Andre (Played by Cal Robertson and Andre Keuck). Why is that problematic for some people? Calvin and Andre are planning a massacre at their high school. I know for myself, I felt an immense sadness for Andre and Calvin. I had empathy for them because their lives had come to such a horrific point. They had fallen so deeply through cracks that they had begun a journey down a road which could have been stopped, if only people around them had taken notice to their plight.
Zero Day is a phenomenal film. It gives you an up close and personal look to events that most of us will only ever see the conclusion to on the news. It leaves you thinking about the lives involved. And it leaves you perplexed how people get to this point. A week after seeing this film, I still think about it.
Those of you who have not seen Zero Day please keep in mind the following: The film is an independent with little to no budget and the film is shot on camcorders. The material in the film is disturbing. This is not mainstream Hollywood and there is no happy ending.
But if you can put all that aside, Zero Day is a film that will stick with you and just maybe help you to open your eyes a little.
I agree with a lot of what is said in this movie about people blaming the
molding them into who they are. Also, they took a rather taboo topic and
good job documenting what 'could' have happened.
I watch a lot of movies, many of them random movies that I end up wanting hours of my life back for, this was not a movie that I regret seeing and believe me, I don't use those words lightly.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As always, controversial movies like this have mixed reviews. You
either love it or you hate it, and not everyone will like this movie.
This shows the perspective of the killers, which is something I
personally feel is something important to consider. You may hate them,
you may claim to understand them and feel as though you can relate, but
regardless this movie will make you think about school shootings from a
The movie is shot entirely using a hand-held camera, something that I think works quite well as it makes it more realistic. It is told completely from the killers point of view, from their "missions" to family outings, all leading up the big day "Zero Day" in which they are planning on a massacre at their school. Zero Day does not offer answers, but merely presents a glimpse at the lives of two troubled young boys and lets the audience decide for themselves. Our feelings towards the boys are something mixed between sympathy and hatred, but yet we are left confused as to why two ordinary young boys would do such a thing. They are shown to be surprisingly normal, typical teenage boys leading ordinary lives, and if we didn't know what they were planning we wouldn't expect a thing (They make it clear throughout the whole movie that no-one else knows about their plan)
The acting is extremely good considering the two actors are complete unknowns. We can only hope to see more work from the both of them in the future. Despite how this is a fictionalized movie, one cannot help but notice the obvious similarities to Columbine. Calvin and Andre are scarily similar to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, (not so much in looks, but in manner) As someone who has researched Columbine very extensively, I could see the similarities and it is almost certainly based on it.
The actual massacre is shown through surveillance cameras at the school and is one of the most chilling things I have ever seen. I was completely in shock after seeing it, and its a feeling that stays around for a while. It is very realistic and well-done, and it is very difficult to watch.
All in all Zero Day is an excellent movie, and I think everyone should at least check it out. In the past, we have always simply branded killers "psychopaths" and assumed that either they were biologically wired for disaster or had media influence, but as Zero Day shows sometimes the motives are deeper than that, and we can never truly understand why tragedies such as school shootings happen until we have seen it from the perspective of the killers.
Zero Day leads you to think, even re-think why two boys/young men would
do what they did - commit mutual suicide via slaughtering their
classmates. It captures what must be beyond a bizarre mode of being for
two humans who have decided to withdraw from common civility in order
to define their own/mutual world via coupled destruction.
It is not a perfect movie but given what money/time the filmmaker and actors had - it is a remarkable product. In terms of explaining the motives and actions of the two young suicide/murderers it is better than 'Elephant' - in terms of being a film that gets under our 'rationalistic' skin it is a far, far better film than almost anything you are likely to see.
Flawed but honest with a terrible honesty.
Saw this movie at the Rotterdam IFF. You may question some decisions of the maker - like choosing a mockumentary form for such a sensitive and horrible subject - but this movie sure hits you in the gut. Especially the last scenes were almost painful to watch. Hope it gets the distribution it deserves.
I just came back from the Montreal premiere of Zero Day...and i'm
surprised as hell to find a negative comment on the movie. Basically
the blame is about Coccio doing an easy and overplayed social
message...well, Mr-I'm-a-reviewer, it's an easy and overplayed critic
of movies with a social charge.
Not that I want to expose my life here, but I come from a small town with a similar school than these guys go. Reject & ignorance on the menu. Thing is...I understand how can young kids can be driven to do such horror. High schools have became battle fields of conformity. It's a real ugly sight. You need to fight your way into being like the others. It's hard to explain, bit a lot of people dosen't realize that high schools are becoming cemeteries of human intelligence. Meanwhile, parents are closing their eyes and smiling about how their life in their comfortable suburb is perfect.
The real motive of the movie isn't about what is driving them. It's about this death-like calm suburb and everybody closing their eyes and trying to create this atmosphere of a perfect town. Cal expressed it well. It's a wake up call. Drama is everywhere and it can take every shape. In that case little dramas(like Andre being called a faggot for wearing a J.C Penny shirt) are shaping into being the worse nightmare of a whole town. Andre & Cal took the most extreme way to express their pain. The malaise of unconformity in an era where you need more than ever to be like the others to be accepted.
I like particularly the last scenes where some guys are burning the crosses of Andre & Cal, like if with the pain they communicated, Cal & Andre have communicated their blind rage to their community, their refusal to think about the causes of some acts.
It might seemed aggressive as a movie, but Coccio is meditating more than whining or enunciating. What Andre & Cal are living is a reality...and a scary one that might get to other kids.
Disturbing movie...Home making and strong feeling made Ben Coccio do a very very disturbing movie.
Cutting to the chase: This is one of the most amazing, most intense film
I've seen in a long time. The first movie in years that left me absolutely
staggered. I could barely feel my way out of the theatre, I was so
I've been staring at the screen for about fifteen minutes trying to find some way to describe the power of this film, and just failing. Highlighting any one aspect of it -- the documentary-style video diary format, the unflinching portrayal of the events, the force of the characters -- just seems to trivialise it all. Some may find it laughable that any killer could be characterised as normal. But then not all killers are raving lunatics foaming at the mouth. Many are quite regular, unassuming people. They're just wired differently.
And that's perhaps the most chilling thought of all.
The thing that makes this movie so scary is the way that it portrays Andre and Calvin as (relatively) normal guys. These are definitely not people who want to become professional filmmakers since they goof around in front of the camera, forget scripted lines, etc. They are only making the video as a diary to show 'the survivors' how normal their lives were. Their parents just think the guys are filming for a family home video. By researching other kids attacks on their schools, Andre and Calvin learn what not to do and they inform (usually in a silly 'This Old House' kind of way) any potential 'Andres and Calvins' who might be watching this video how to make bombs, get weapons, and not get caught before Zero Day (the day of the attack).
This movie is essentially shot on a hand held camera by the actors in it. In some ways a mockumentary in other ways a video diary from killers it is full on account of a "Columbine" style attack. While this movie does not answer all the big questions, it does give you an insight into how easy it would be to get away with. Through the movie you are shown how the actors illegally shortened shot guns, made pipe bombs and came up with an action plan for "Zero Day". The actors (if you can call them that) were brilliant, they obviously borrowed heavily from there own lives, but at no stage did I detect them really acting (Something Tom Cruise should try). The use of the CCTV and the 911 operator at the end was genius, but I'm not sure if we needed the very last scene. Overall though a really good movie on a very tough topic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Zero day has a purpose and this is not simply entertainment, it
delivers a message about its specialised subject school shootings.
Charting the lives of two friends Andre and Cal leading up to an attack
on their high school.
Whilst the movie started in somewhat unassuming fashion, an impromptu announcement of the coming attack in amateurish teenage style followed by some brief encounters with the boys families. It is not long before we are down to business with the boys showing us their collection of guns, their fetishistic love of them, their sprawling sporadic narcissistic fantasies and even in a controversial scene how to build pipe bombs.
So what is the movie trying to say? What is really motivating these soon to be killers. It seems hard to really pinpoint. They certainly do not come across as cold blooded psychopaths yet they are planning an act of sheer brutality. This brings me to what I feel is the genius in part of Zero day. Cal and Andre talk constantly about how much they are on a different level, how above the rest of us they are and how they will 'leave us all behind.' Like the columbine killers they truly feel superior. Like Nietzsche's res sentiment Cal and Andre's value system seems to have been born out of rejection from their society. Yet we are given only glimpses of this, an expression of hatred for a popular athlete for example. So where is the motivation? What I feel is that Coccio portrayed two individuals desperate to make a statement of superiority a gesture of their power yet who have no reasonable venue for it. Hence they turn to mass murder and the kind of which that will garner them more attention than they could ever realise. This is why in part school shooters seem able to carry out atrocious acts despite coming from good stable loving homes. The murder is part of a fantasy, Cal and Andre are totally lost in their fantasy they almost fail to see the reality of their actions. They turn fantasy into tragedy.
What is secondly most enthralling about this film is the character development and the unique dependence Cal and Andre have on each other. Andre is throughout the film overtly the leader of the two, Cal's embrace of his demeanour and attire seem somewhat forced. Andre is uptight, Andre is intense and serious. He completely shuns others except for his family, he is meticulous and precise about everything he does and for a while appears the prime mover in the plot to attack the school. Yet he is likable in his own way, he does not embrace teenage nonsense and in part we feel compelled to agree with him, yet these moments are shattered by Andre's fleeting gestures of violence towards us the audience treating us as both confidante and potential victim. Cal on the other hand seems more relaxed than Andre, more accepting of reality. Yet he is in his own way dominant. We have many personal moments of introspection with Cal's video diary, scenes when he is alone and apart from Andre. Cal seems to be struggling with his own personal demons and using their plan to exorcise himself of them. Andre is jealous of Cal going to the prom with an old friend, he wants Cal all to himself. Cal placates Andre and encourages him. For the first time in his life Andre seems to have found someone who believes in him and who admires him he cannot lose it. Whilst Cal has found someone offering him a way out.
The movie certainly picks up pace and improves as it nears its grim conclusion. There is an excellent moment when Cal attends the high school prom. Suddenly the star of the movie becomes shy and introverted, not at all at ease with his peers. Yet we are inclined to feel more connection with Cal than with the raucous bawdy crowd screaming juvenile obscenities whilst drinking heavily in their limo. Theirs is an episode all too common and recognisable. We do not want to relate to them, when it is over and Cal is back with Andre silently preparing one of their final videos we like the characters feel once again at ease safe in the fantasy world they created. We feel like shunning the masses as they have.
The penultimate scene is superb. The final video sees Andre and Cal arming themselves in their car just moments before attacking. It is all too real and truly creates a sense of impending doom. By know we know Cal and Andre and are realising they are about to actually do it, with a kind of morbid fascination we are also relishing the films catharsis.
The massacre shot in CCTV fashion is at times shocking, and whilst it was certainly the perfect choice to depict the massacre if we were going to it is not void of flaws. What is most significant is the sudden radical change of perception we have of Cal and Andre, looking at them in the this person suddenly they are the callous killers we knew they would become yet refused to acknowledge that they would. It is violent and real, our heroes have become monsters and the reality of their fantasy is a terrible tragedy, which costs them everything.
The final scene shows a group of teens filming themselves burning the crosses erected for Andre and cal in disgust that they have been memorialised. Having known Andre and Cal we can only feel almost a sadness that they are actually gone forever and that they certainly did not win anything.
Zero day is a must see for anyone interested in these violent acts sensationalised by the media. It is a character study well worth experiencing.
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