The Zero Boys (1986)
Not Your Typical 1980s Horror Film
14 April 2016
A group of friends travel to a wilderness area to play a survival game. Soon they unexpectedly find themselves in a real-life survival situation.

The first thing movie fans will probably notice about this film is that the score comes from Hans Zimmer, who has since become legendary. The score is remarkable, and if this was truly Zimmer's work, it is among his most fun and moving scores. You will not hear another score like it. Although not widely know, Frank Darabont (who is now a huge director), got his start in the art department on this film. Marianne Maddalena, the right-hand woman to Wes Craven for most of his career, was also a production assistant for "Zero Boys".

Writer-director-producr Nico Mastorakis decided to cast largely unknown actors. Presumably, this was done for budget reasons. Despite this, he did land Kelli Maroney, who he now says was "never any trouble" and has nothing but high praise for her. Daniel Hirsch was carried over from "Sky High", but could hardly be considered a known actor, especially since no one saw "Sky High".

Among the main cast is Nicole Rio, who is a horror icon in her own little way. She does not have a long list of credits, but 1986 brought her both this film (her debut) and the better-known "Sorority House Massacre". Being that her father and brother were in show business, it is something of a mystery why she seems to have more or less dropped out before she ever got going.

The biggest name in the film (besides perhaps Joe Estevez) is Kelli Maroney, who is definitely a horror icon. She will forever be identified with "Night of the Comet". Had the 1980s horror boom lasted a few years longer, she probably would have gone from genre favorite to big screen success. Apparently she butted heads with the director on "Zero Boys", being more strong-willed than he was hoping for. He may have forgotten this.

Other reviewers have noted that the gruesome sequences anticipate the so-called torture porn horrors of "Hostel" and "Saw". And this is a fair assessment. The movie has an unusual scene of tone, starting out very light-hearted, but then getting quite dark. The 1980s slasher film often can be seen as dark comedy, but the torture scenes here are too gritty, too dirty to have any humor at all. This takes away from the enjoyment of the picture, but it does make you wonder if "Hostel" or "Saw" was in some way influenced by this grit?

Besides giving us a beautiful 2K restoration, Arrow Video has put more than a couple features on their 2016 blu-ray. We have audio commentary with star Kelli Maroney ("Night of the Comet"), as well as new interviews with Maroney, writer-director-producr Nico Mastorakis (very humorous), and actress Nicole Rio. And two music videos! Want to read more on the film? Check out the fully-illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing by critic James Oliver.

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