Selected by: Herbert van Thal
First published by Pan Books in 1959 / Reprinted: 2017
THE GHOSTS OF SENSIBILITIES PAST
Having released their first mass-market paperback in 1947 (Ten Stories by Rudyard Kipling), publishing giants Pan are this year celebrating their 70th anniversary with a series of reissues of their most popular and iconic titles. Piquing my interest among the twenty classics receiving a new lease of life was a reprint of the first ever volume of collected horror stories; 22 macabre tales from authors renowned (Bram Stoker, Peter Fleming, C.S. Forester) and unheard of.
… Keep Scuttling!
18 – 89mins – 1985
“This is not a picnic!”
A team of teenage Rambo-wannabe war game champions, their girlfriends and Kelli Maroney (Night of the Comet) happen upon a lived-in but deserted farmhouse in the middle of nowhere and spontaneously decide to squat in the vacant space to spur on their sexy post-paintball celebrations, scarcely sparing a second thought for the absent owners, who are more than a little hacked off when they return…
“It’s not a game anymore!”
While the often snowy image on this recent Arrow Video 30th Anniversary remaster does almost as bad a job of disguising the age of the film print as the horrendous hairstyles, short shorts and cringeworthy political incorrectness (“faggots,” “raping Mother Nature,” “I’m crippled!”), cult director Nico Hired to Kill Mastorakis’ trashy action-horror is such a product of its time that the wear and tear (even on crisp blu-ray) actually aids the retro charm. If, indeed, you can label a film with torture and slaughter charming!
While the puffed up blurb on the back lauds The Zero Boys as “genre-bending”, I would go even further in christening it a treasure trove of trusty terror tropes. From yokel maniac stalkers chiefly shot in smoke-shrouded silhouette, to storm-stranded survivalists separated and strung up by their own stupidity, Mastorakis mashs it all into a relentless multitudinous scream-fest.
If The Evil Dead, Red Dawn and Last House on the Left were to have a threesome, this would be the ungainly bastard hybrid offspring. There is Zero originality or subtly in these Boys‘ stumbling struggle for survival against sadistic slashers, nevertheless, with its cocksure and outright ballsy 80’s attitude and smorgasboard of excess exploitation, this is still a riotous retro watch perfect for a Friday night beer and pizza marathon – laughable shoelace-scuppering silliness, dire-logue and all!
CR@B’s Claw Score: