“Kill Or Be Killed!” I clearly remember the cover art of 1986 feature by Greek director Nico Mastorakis lining the walls of ye olde video shop courtesy of Polygram who released it back in the day. I assumed I had watched it along with pretty much everything else at the time but sitting down to view Arrow’s new Blu-Ray presentation of it 30 years later my memory drew a complete blank. Why had I not picked it up and hungrily devoured it back then? Perhaps it had a really rubbish write up on the back of the sleeve that completely put me off, perhaps it was so awful that I have erased the memory of it completely (although that is obviously not the case) or maybe it just got overlooked in the rush to watch everything else. I would certainly have been the target audience for this sort of film back then, as a much more mature (ha-yeah right) adult the somewhat juvenile exuberance of the film may not find me at my prime as far as target audience is concerned. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it now though as simply put ‘The Zero Boys’ is young, dumb and full of cum!
Of course one film that was not lining the shelves around the time was Matsorakis most well-known piece of celluloid grime ‘Island Of Death’ as it had been banned and ended up on the infamous video nasty list. Compared with many that suffered a similar fate I can still understand why as it is a sleazy and incorrigible piece of filth and one that you can only just see properly now (and read about on this site) courtesy again of Arrow. The Zero Boys is nothing like this or other rare Greek exploitation entries such as ‘Tango Of Perversion’ and ‘Singapore Sling.’ It’s a typical gung-ho made in the USA actioner that crosses genres but sits on very familiar ground with stacks of other direct to video features of the time.
We enter and get heads round what is going on as a strange group of characters dressed as bizarrely as anything you have seen in a post-apocalyptic Troma movie gun each other down on what looks like a Wild West movie stage. They have odd make up and sport everything from full grown snakes to Nazi uniforms (and don’t worry the costume wearer is later ironically outed as being Jewish). Of course it is an elaborate paintball game and the winning team are triumphant and we discover are known as The Zero Boys of the title. The trio head off with the spoils of war namely the none too impressed main loser‘s girlfriend who has been won in a bet and their own prospective squeezes. Jocking around, drinking beer, getting horny and shooting off their guns in the woods they hear a loud scream and go off to investigate. They soon discover a large homestead with welcoming doors wide open and a note on the fridge saying back monday, make yourself at home, which they promptly do. Caught in one of film’s most unconvincing movie storms ever and with their Chevy suddenly broken down they find themselves trapped with all manner of strange things going on. There’s people spying through holes as they try and have sex, a boneyard in the backyard, bodies in trunks and what appears to be a snuff film being made in the barn out back. Luckily they have some real guns including semi-automatics and it looks like they are going to need them as all hell is about to break loose.
Well paced and with everything going on in a film of its time that you would expect (terrible opening font, big hair, cheesy music and tragic fashion sense) The Zero Boys certainly delivers the action even if not in as gory a fashion as many might want. It flirts with horror, thriller, spooky house and backwoods stalk and slash themes prevalent of the time and if you had hired it out then you would not have felt cheated of your 99p rental fee. Naturally it’s going to cost a bit more than that to own now but Arrow have come up trumps and the picture quality is excellent and soundtrack loud and clear, far better than the film probably deserves. The cast play it up with panache and are notable as including Kelli Maroney (Night Of The Comet, Chopping Mall) and Joe Estevez (Charlie Sheen’s bro) as a resident loony. This is much more in line with Mastorakis work of the era than his infant terrible so you should not go into it looking for more of the same. However if you want to watch a fast paced slice of fun action with plenty of tension and people getting themselves in all manner of bother by acting stupidly you won’t go wrong here at all. I’m sure many people of my era are going to grab it, watch and scratch their heads and remember hiring three films like this over an evening and wondering just why the hell they had done so. Of course what do those involved in the film think of it all now is the question you are going to be left with? Luckily there be extras on hand to provide the answers.
The director proved incredibly engaging on the Island Of Death extras and here he is on hand to talk more about himself on the main half hour segment here. With certain other regular interviewers seemingly not available the director does a great job at questioning himself! He firstly mentions that despite being 30 years old the film looks like it could have been made a few months ago and if perms were still in fashion like they are here I could not disagree as far as aforementioned picture quality is concerned. We are teased by the fact he is working with Warner Brothers on “the biggest budget action film in the history of movie pictures”. As with a quick check on the IMDB though there are no further details on this, so feel free to take with a pinch of salt. He is chuffed about the revamped feature and also talks about others such as Hired To Kill (1990) getting future 4K treatment. The Zero Boys was a very quickly imagined and executed feature, including getting the largely unknown cast together. This was his first Hollywood experience and sounds like it all went smoothly and many involved in front and behind the camera went on to do much bigger things. You may well have heard of some of them such as assistant art director Frank Darabont and soundtrack composer Hans Zimmer! We get a quick and informative “where are they now” crash course just to prove what a springboard this film was for many. I love the fact that Mastorakis explains the lack of blood and violence as a case of redeeming himself for another film made ten years previously. Like the film itself this was a fun feature and we can hopefully look forward to more instalments in the future. After this there are shorter interviews with two of the main cast Kelli Maroney (who also does the feature commentary) discusses perms, hair disasters, sharing one trailer, lack of drugs & orgies and taking clothes off. Nicole Rio talks about working with the director as well as a rattlesnake and the overall effectiveness of the movie. Obviously they enjoyed their time fast though it was shot over 17 days and look back on it with genuine fondness. Finishing this off there’s also music videos for Zimmer’s Main theme and genius he may be but it’s still 80’s cheese through and through and his more creepy suspense theme.
Fancy a trip down memory lane? Be a zero or a hero at the following link