If Scare Zone seems a bit familiar that’s not surprising. The debut film by Jon Binkowski (The Visitant, ReVisitant) has been around since 2009, playing festivals and streaming services such as Hulu as well as getting a DVD release. Also, its plot about real deaths in a Halloween Haunted House has been used in films many films such as Hell Fest, The Tombs and Haunt. Now, as in the days of drive-ins and grindhouses Terror Films has picked it up and is giving it a new release based on the success of Neil Brown Jr. (Straight Outta Compton, Seal Team).
It’s year three for strip mall haunted house The Scare Zone, and its owner Oliver (Simon Needham, Point of Contact, Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector) and his right-hand man Spider (Neil Brown Jr.)are looking to make “Scare ZoneIII: The Psycho-Splatter Raw-Topsy Slaughter Dungeon” the best and bloodiest version yet.
Apart from them the cast and crew include PJ (Pat McMahon, VS: The Movie) and Summer (Michele Simms, Red Tide, Sex Drive) who are getting married after this is over, and goth princess Claire (Arian Ash, Phone Booth, Out of Time) and Daryl (Chris Burns, Dropping Evil, No Postage Necessary) who develop their own attraction during the rehearsals. But somebody else has their eye on Claire and is willing to make this a real bloodbath if that’s what it takes to get her.
Scare Zone isn’t particularly original, even for its time. The characters are the usual gaggle of stereotypes, especially Claire. She’s the “spooky” girl into cemeteries and cutting herself who can’t understand why a decent guy would be attracted to her. We also get Spanish-speaking day labourers who insult Oliver in their language which he doesn’t speak. Similarly, the plot follows the same formula as similar films. A few crewmembers come to nasty ends and end up as part of the Scare Zone’s decor. The others notice their absence but not their head on a shelf. Similarly, actual killings are mistaken for part of the action as everything builds to a final showdown on closing night.
What Scare Zone does have that others don’t is its setting. Plenty of these films have been shot at real scare attractions, but this was filmed at one of the attractions Universal built for their Halloween Horror Nights event. Binkowski’s regular job involves building and running attractions like this and he put those connections to good use getting a great backdrop for his film.
His background also means the effects in Scare Zone are of the practical variety. They’re not overly elaborate, but they are well done and gory but not overly so which fits in with the film’s somewhat less than hardcore horror approach. And that approach may be the biggest problem a lot of viewers will have with the film.
While it plays its kills and other horror elements seriously, Scare Zone fills a lot of the space between them with lighthearted and outright humorous material. There’s even a couple of musical montages that really feel like padding. One of which features several shots of the guys spying on Margo (Michaela Stamm) and Tracy (Leigh Anne West) as they change that may not play as well today as they did in 2009.
But, despite its shortcomings, Scare Zone is an enjoyable watch. It’s hardly a lost classic but it does deliver plenty of the right stuff to keep viewers entertained. The setting is effectively creepy, there are several nice jump scares and just enough of the red stuff to keep fans happy without grossing out more casual viewers. And if you’re a fan of Neil Brown Jr., he does have a major role, not just a bit part as is the case with so many films that cash in on a star’s early appearances.
Scare Zone will be available on the Terror Films Channel on May 27th before its Digital and VOD release on June 3rd. You can check the film’s Facebook page or the page for Terror Films website for more information. And if you’re looking for more scares, check out FilmTagger’s suggestions.