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FILM REVIEW: Scare Zone (2009)

Scare Zone - Now Streaming Review

Director: Jon Binkowski

Starring: Arian Ash, Simon Needham, Chris Burns, Michelle Simms, Neil Brown Jr.

Written by: Jon Binkowski

Produced by: Matt Durfee

Cinematography by: Mike Gluckman

Original Score by: Stephen O'Connor


A team of misfits come together to help launch a brand new version of a classic Scare Zone attraction, but the horror turns real very quickly when they realise they're being hunted by someone...or something


Low budget filmmaking and horror often go hand in hand. It’s a staple of the genre that bare boned scary movies can often bring the birth of visionary directors, using all of their talents to entertain with their limited box of tools. Films like ‘Halloween’ and ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ are examples of this, giving us classic characters like Michael Myers and Leatherface. Even films like ‘The Blair Witch Project’ or ‘Paranormal Activity’ had limited sets and were still able to use them to their full effect, creating horror in places we often feel safe in. So, what would you do if you had access to one of the biggest haunted attractions in the world and a sizable budget to craft your vision and break into the film industry? Fish in a barrel, surely? Well for director Jon Binkowski, he misses the mark so much in his debut feature that I don’t think he’d be able to shoot a fish if he brought a minigun to an aquarium.

In this re-release of a 2009 “classic”, a group of 20 somethings work at the city's most popular scare attraction Scare Zone III: The Psycho-Splatter Raw-Topsy Slaughter Dungeon but things take a turn for the worse when an actual killer starts prowling the halls. It's a good premise and one that’s been executed well in films like ‘Haunt’ or ‘Hell House LLC’, unfortunately here with ‘Scare Zone’, we are given the worst possible version of those movies. The cinematography here is similar to something like ‘Saved by the Bell’ and the acting isn’t much better. Boring flat shots with bland lighting makes for a dull viewing experience. With such great dialogue as “Wow, is that a real toilet?” I sometimes felt bad for the actors in the movie having to put up with such a terrible script. Actors Simon Needham (Burn Notice) and Neil Brown Jr (Straight Outta Compton) are definitely the highlights of the film, taking what awful lines they have and hamming it up.

I went into the movie giving it the benefit of the doubt. I love a filmmaker that can use what they have at their disposal and craft an interesting story around it. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be interesting, a cool killer and some creative kills can take a DIY movie a long way. It’s clear to me that director Jon Binkowski should stick to making theme park stage shows. If you know the term “Couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery”, Binkowski couldn’t make a horror movie in a haunted house. The movie doesn’t know if it wants to be a horror comedy or an 80’s college sex romp or a serious slasher. The worst offence is half way through the film, after several “comedy” montages, we get a back story of how one of the characters enjoys self-harming, with graphic close ups of old and new scars. At that point, I was done.

Having such fantastic set locations like Universal's Halloween Horror Nights and wasting it like this is an absolute tragedy. Many low budget filmmakers would kill for such an opportunity, yet Binkowski finds a way to make a film that slacker BTEC film studies students would be embarrassed to call their own. I wouldn’t be surprised if the actors in this project wanted this film scrapped from their IMDB pages. What could have been a fun, atmospheric throwback slasher ends up as an unfunny, scare-free mess.

Don’t be telling Jon Binkowski about the ghost train at Barry’s (sorry Curry’s), it’ll only turn his hair white.

Verdict: ½

- Adam Neeson

'Scare Zone' is available to stream on the Terror Films Channel right now and available on VOD worldwide from June 3rd.

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