Bullet Points: The Zero Boys
Have you ever been watching one of those slasher movies and wondered what would happen if the homicidal maniac in the movie had to match up against a bunch of college kids who were really good at survival games instead of the usual college kids who are good at premarital fornication and beer pong?
The 1986 movie The Zero Boys gave us that exact scenario, with a trio of backwoods maniacs terrorizing a trio of survival game enthusiasts and their lady friends.
- Survival Games: As the film opens we are introduced to The Zero Boys (Steve, Larry and Rip) doing what they do best, playing survival games! Later in the film we learn that they weren’t always the best of the best, in fact the reason they got the name The Zero Boys is because they had ZERO wins to their credit. But with plenty of practice and the determination to win the trio turned things. The survival games depicted in The Zero Boys felt like mash up of paint ball and those Civil War reenactments, which is apropos considering The Zero Boys is a mash up of the action and horror genres. The battleground for these games is in what could best be described as an old west ghost town. The team opposing The Zero Boys is captained by a dude named Casey (John Michaels) who is dressed in full Nazi regalia. At the conclusion of the games we find out that Casey and Steve (Daniel Hirsch) made a little side bet that if The Zero Boys won, Casey’s girl Jamie (Kelli Maroney of Chopping Mall fame) would accompany Steve on a camping trip with the other Zero Boys, Larry (Tom Shell) and Rip (Jared Moses) and their girlfriends Trish (Crystal Carson) and Sue (Nicole Rio). I thought it was odd when Jeff Wincott wagered his lady in Deadly Bet, but apparently this is a more common practice than I was aware.
- Getting To Know You: Jamie was less than thrilled with Casey, but seems intrigued to get to know Steve, the man who beat her boyfriend in the survival games so she agrees to go on the trip and she piles in with Steve and the gang and it is off to the woods. Once they arrive, Jamie and Steve strike up a conversation. Sadly, Jamie does not ask Steve why he wears short shorts, but does drop the bombshell that she does fuck on the first date and Steve quickly realizes that Jamie is precisely his cup of tea. But before this becomes a romp in the woods movie, a scream is heard in the distance and Jamie swears she saw a woman running in the woods. The sextet goes out looking for the mysterious woman who may or may not have been a figment of Jamie’s imagination and happen upon a cabin in the woods. When they determine nobody is home, they all decide to crash there for a while and we have officially entered the horror movie portion of our film.
- Rockwell Was Right: It isn’t long before Trish and Larry excuse themselves and go up to one of the bedrooms to profess their love for one another in a carnal way. But their fornication in a strangers bed is interrupted by something even stranger, when Trish believes there was somebody watching them through a hole in the ceiling. Trish is freaked out, Larry is high and dry and everyone decides it may be time to head out and hit up a bar… but remember we are in the horror movie portion of our film so when the three couples head outside, it immediately starts to rain, then Steve’s truck won’t start. This is followed up by some shocking discoveries… like skeletal remains, a torture room, and a TV with a top loader VCR that has a tape in it of the most recent torture session done in the torture room… play time is officially over and The Zero Boys now have their greatest test of survival ever!
The Zero Boys walked the fine line and managed to keep our protagonists likable and not a bunch of horny kids the audience wanted to see offed by the killers in some spectacular fashion. One way the movie accomplished that goal was by not glorifying the killers… these were just three creepy guys in the woods, not larger than life hockey mask wearing monsters, so at no time does the audience become too intrigued by the psychopaths.
If genre mash ups are your thing, then I think you’ll enjoy the hidden gem that is The Zero Boys. If Bonus Bullet Points are your thing, keep reading…
- No Relation: I was relieved to learn that Daniel Hirsch, who played Steve, is no relation to that sad sack Judd Hirsch.
- Definite Relation: One of the killers in The Zero Boys was played by Joe Estevez. Joe Estevez is most certainly related to Martin Sheen (Joe’s brother), Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez (Joe’s nephews).
- Always Prepared: The Zero Boys must have been Boy Scouts when they were younger. They had their entire arsenal (with live ammo, not the paint balls they play survival games with) stowed away in Steve’s truck. These weapons obviously came in handy in the final act of the movie.
- Pop Culture References: The movie mentions two of Hollywood’s most iconic characters, the first being John Rambo and the second being Jason Voorhees.
- Soundtraxx: One of the real highlights of The Zero Boys for me was the music used in the film. Both Hans Zimmer and Stanley Myers are credited for providing the music for the film. Myers is probably best known for being the composer on The Deer Hunter. Hans Zimmer is now a go to guy for big budget blockbusters but it was nice to listen to some of his early work in The Zero Boys.