Playing war gets too real
Putting his protagonists on the assault is enough to make what could have been a typical slasher film into something fresher--evident in the confidence that allowed Mastorakis to drop references to films like Friday the 13th into the script. There are touches of the new throughout the film, especially in the cinematography, which is remarkably more ambitious than other work that shared the genre at the time of this film, while the lead female character, Kelli Maroney's Jamie, despite initially being presented as property that could be wagered, represents toughness rather than vulnerability, making it stand out in a crowd. (The absence of any nudity is similarly interesting.)
Throughout its brief 89-minute run, a large portion of which involves a slow-burn opening that introduces the characters, The Zero Boys is a legitimately weird movie. Whether it's the opening military-style gun fight in a western-themed locale featuring full Nazi regalia or the insertion of psychological theory into casual conversation, there's often something odd to behold, but it's usually intriguing as well, like the unidentified killers' use of video technology or the lack of motivation for their villainy. There's something extremely disturbing about evil that defies explanation, and that's just the case here. There's no mythology, there's no provocation, so there's no safe space and no escape. It's simply kill or be killed.
That said, there's a lot about The Zero Boys that's just not good. The traditional moronic behavior on the part of horror protagonists reaches new heights (depths?) here, as it would not be unreasonable to think that perhaps some of these characters are suicidal, otherwise, why act the way they do? You can certainly blame the writing, as the plot is sometimes absurd and there are points at which the dialogue is laughable (like when wooden spikes are described as somehow looking poisonous.) The performances don't always help either, though no one is ridiculously bad. They just can't overcome weak material. As much as remakes are a plague to moviemaking, one wonders if something great could be made from this concept, rather than just the interesting film it became.
The 2.0 PCM track is most notable for the score, which features work by future film legend Hans Zimmer. The synth-heavy tracks are strong and aggressively reproduced to accentuate their part in crafting the feel of the film, which is pure ‘80s horror/action. Dialogue is clear and easily understood, and, along with the sound effects, enjoys fine separation from the rest of the audio elements, though there's nothing obviously discreet about their placement in the channels. This is a presentation focused more on brute force than subtlety.
There's more from Maroney in the 8:20 "Zero Girl", a 2015 interview focusing on the experience of working with Mastorakis and the low-budget filmmaking environment. The 8:30 "Blame it on Rio", also recorded in 2015, offers another member of the film's female contingent, Nicole Rio, a chance to reminisce as well, with similar results.
We get to hear from Mastorakis also, as he interviews himself in his office in the 27:48 "Nico Mastorakis on Nico Mastorakis." He's obviously a character, as he jokes with himself, playing a journalist and himself. He chats about the film and its production, catches the viewer up on the cast and some now-famous members of the crew 30 years later, as well as the lessons he learned on Island of Death that he applied to The Zero Boys. A quirky interview that fits the man.
There are a pair of music videos (3:18 in all), though that term applies loosely to these clip montages set to pieces of Zimmer's score. THe music's enjoyable to listen to, so for that reason it's worth a look, but don't expect anything different from what's in the movie. The same goes for the 1:24 "Stills Gallery", an automatic slideshow of photos, though this includes a few peeks behind the camera.
The on-disc extras wrap with the film's trailer (3:09), which reveals far too much of what happens in the movie, and features the ridiculously deep-voiced narrator heard in horror trailers throughout the ‘80s.
Also in the package is a 28-page booklet featuring info about the film and this release, along with plenty of images from the film and an essay by James Oliver on the unique elements of the film.
The Bottom Line