Homicidal Maniacs. Slashers. Vampires. Voodoo Dolls. Possessed spirits. Scare Zone has them all.
Of course it does. It’s the premier Haunted House in Florida! Owned by the passionate Oliver and managed by the cocky Spider, Scare Zone is about to open for its annual three-day run. Tyler, Jake, Bart, Darryl, Margo, P.J. and Tracy are the new crew members, with Summer returning against her will as a performer. Summer wants to get out of the show, run off to Vegas and get married. They’re joined by the makeup and fashion expert, Claire, who wants everything to be authentic. The commercial tone of the haunted house pisses her off and the animosity between her and the rest of the staff is evident from the first shot.
Unlike most horror flicks which rely on the usual bevy of co-eds as targets, Scare Zone’s co-ed cast are the employees of the haunted house. Now, this is a group of co-eds in a slasher flick, so naturally, they’ve got to get singled up and slaughtered. The first victim gets whacked before the gig even opens. As the bodies start to pile up, the big question is who’s doing the killing? Is Oliver so obsessed with horror that he’s actually homicidal? Is Claire so pissed at the attraction that she’s offing the help? Is it the scrawny goof new to the staff? Everyone has a motive, and plenty of opportunity. Who’s the killer? Which questionable personalities are just red herrings?
Of course, subplots make for additional opportunities to be creative, and the stoners who try to break in and tag the joint provide writer/director Jon Binkowski the chance to add some gore to the show.
Scare Zone is only open three nights, and the finale’ takes place on Halloween. Finally, on All Hallow’s Eve, all the questions will be answered.
Simon Needham (Health Inspector) is hilarious as the obsessed owner of the Scare Zone. There is something well over the top about his love of scaring his paying guests. Neil Brown, Jr. (Fast and Furious, Battle: L.A.) is good as the charismatic Spider. Arian Ash (Phone Booth) keeps the mystery around her Claire as the bodies keep piling up. Chris Burns is funny as the naive Daryl, and Justin Bowen hams it up as the geeky Bart.
Scare Zone has as many laughs as jumps, by design. As Needham says in the extras, the film will be a “horror/comedy” to some and a “comedy/horror” to others. The pacing is steady, and at 88 minutes, it’s a great popcorn movie. The cast is surprisingly talented for a low-budget film, and the writing is chock full of jokes. It’s not a scary movie, but it’s not intended to be. Scare Zone looks to entertain. The textbook haunted house just happens to be the backdrop of choice. Fans of “Dead and Breakfast” will appreciate the blend of gore and guffaws. The pay-off is delightful (especially the fight scene) and even savvy fans will enjoy the resolution to the whodunit.
Scare Zone was filmed on location at Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights on the “Body Collectors” set. Director Jon Binkowski features a number of shots of the studios’ fun scenery, combined with some mid-range and skewed angles to keep things warped and twisted on the set. Ashley Hooker’s make-up, Beverly Safier’s costume design and Carl Carden’s production sound help to create a cohesive audio-video experience for the viewers.
Scare Zone was a winner at the 2009 Terror Film Festival, Freak Show – the best Florida Horror Film 2009, and won the Best Actress award at the 2009 Chicago Horror Film Festival.
The DVD includes a few deleted scenes, a trailer, a commentary track with Binkowski, Ash, and art director Steven DeWoody. There are also “Behind the Screams” features on makeup, the director, cast interviews, making of a flashback, and the musical score. Fans of the film will be delighted by the amount of extras included on the DVD release.