Available now on dual format DVD/ Blu-Ray

Arrow Video continue to trawl the genre vaults; and while there have been some real gems worthy of the love and care they bring to their releases (Audition and Deep Red just recently), some were better left languishing in VHS purgatory.  Unfortunately, The Zero Boys falls firmly in the latter category.

A low-budget survival thriller-cum-slasher from 1986, it was written and directed by Nico Mastorakis, better known for the envelope-pushing video nasty, Island of Death.  Compared to the extremity of his earlier work, this is a rather tame affair.  It actually begins fairly promisingly, with a well-filmed shoot-out that turns out to have been a paintball match won by ‘The Zero Boys’, the local war games champions.

The three victors decide to celebrate with a trip to the mountains, accompanied by two girlfriends and a further girl (minor scream queen Kelly Maroney) the Zero Boys have ‘won’ from the losing team, somewhat unprogressively. From there the film dissolves into a clumsy miasma of slasher and survival horror tropes that pilfer extensively from Friday the 13th, Deliverance, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre among others, as our gormless heroes stumble upon a snuff movie operation being conducted by some hillbillies with a keen interest in archery.

Beyond the story, which appears to have been written by throwing every idea into a blender and painstakingly sifting out all the good ones, some really terrible dialogue, and some uncomfortable misogyny and homophobia, the film’s biggest failing is that it’s not quite bad enough to be an unintentional guilty pleasure.   On top of this, as the protagonists happen to have swapped their paintball guns for semi-automatic weapons (obviously ex-Boy Scouts in the prepared stakes), the balance of power is way too skewed in their favour to generate any real tension.  The opening scenes carried the seeds of a good idea.  If they were stuck with paintball guns, then that might have been worth watching; like a cross between Assault on Precinct 13 and Christopher Brookmyre’s novel, Be My Enemy.

The most notable thing about The Zero Boys is probably an early score by Hollywood fixture Hans Zimmer, although the cheese-laden synths  he utilised sound merely outdated compared to the retro-cool 80s shimmer of classic John Carpenter or Goblin’s contributions to Dario Argento’s classic gialli.  It’s certainly not his finest work.

Proof that some films are practically forgotten for a reason, The Zero Boys is a damp squib on almost every level after the mild promise of its opening scene.  In fact, the lack of any goggles being worn during the paintball match might be the most horrific aspect of the entire film for those with a keen interest in health and safety; or early-90s Byker Grove storylines.