Low budget films sadly don’t have the best reputation. And to be fair, there are thousands of horrible low budget films for the handful of gems hiding in the muck. Once you find a good one, though, it gives you hope that others are still out there. Ginger Snaps and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are my classic examples. Now, I can add Scare Zone to the list. It’s fairly straightforward as slashers go, with the slight setting change of a haunted house where the performers find themselves being offed by a masked killer. One mistake that horror films often make is failing to own up to their own premise – and on occasion, their own ridiculousness.
Scare Zone knows exactly what to do with a low effects budget, great actors, and a decent set. It plays everything 100% straight and – even better – isn’t afraid to laugh at itself. Furthermore, it’s genuinely funny. It knows all of the horror tropes and plays around with them, both in the running of the haunted house – things aren’t all that scary backstage – and in the actual plot of the film where things are…also not that scary. But very fun.
Full disclosure, this is not a scary movie. It’s comedy dressed up in horror tropes and aesthetics. And that’s okay! It works very well. Some of the best scenes involve the performers trying to deal with cheaply made props and the very real job hazard of being punched in the face by an audience member – something real horror films don’t show.
The only bad thing I can say about Scare Zone is that the characters aren’t especially nuanced. There are hints of backstory and motivations, but aside from the final girl, we never really figure out what drives these characters. Some of them clearly hate their jobs. Others love their jobs. A few take it a little too seriously. We never really find out why, one way or another. Scare Zone does have a surprisingly realistic take on self-injury. While it doesn’t glorify the act, it does take care to explain why self-injury might be used as a coping mechanism – however flawed – for someone going through a tough situation. It was handled with more tact than I’ve come to expect from any film these days, let alone a low budget slasher.
Go see Scare Zone. It’s a lot of fun.