I don’t relish ripping movies apart. If you’ve been reading my reviews for any length of time, you’ll see that I don’t do it very often. My number one goal in a review is always to be honest with readers, but if a movie is terrible, I often simply opt not to talk about it. It just takes too much energy that I would rather spend on films I find interesting and valuable. Plus, if the terrible movie I’m watching is a small indie effort, I rarely see the need to weigh it down further with a scathing review. If your harmless-but-incompetent labor of love is struggling for financing and recognition, I don’t want to be the one to hang another albatross around your neck. The key word here is “harmless,” though. Sometimes, a movie is so poorly made and so harmful that it deserves every thrashing it gets.
Scare Zone is that movie.
Before we get to the reasons why writer-director Jon Binkowski’s movie made me so angry, let’s look at how it works as a horror film. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t. The characters are as thin as tissue paper. The pacing is all over the place — the biggest surprise in the film is how many musical montages it fits into its sub-90-minute runtime — making it feel at least twice as long as it really is. What few laughs there are (“What’s your name?” “Tyler.” “Of course it is.”) seem to work despite the movie, not because of it, and none of the scares land.
I have a great deal of affection for low-budget horror efforts, but the key word here is “effort.” No care seems to have been put into the script, which often feels like it was written by a particularly obnoxious teenage boy from the ‘90s. Ableist, racist, homophobic, and transphobic “jokes” splatter the camera with far more frequency than fake blood. Scare Zone was originally released in 2009 (it hit my radar because it has been newly released to VOD), but it feels far more regressive than a 13-year-old movie has any right to. (Though that can unfortunately be said for a lot of aughts horror, particularly in the slasher subgenre.)
I usually say that the worst sin a movie can commit is to be boring. Scare Zone proved me wrong. It’s still boring, of course, but that is far from the worst thing about it. The most misguided thing about this movie is its sexualization of self-harm and its mockery of sexual assault. The Final Girl alludes to being repeatedly assaulted as a child and blames herself for it, saying that there is something inherently wrong with her that draws such horrible abusers into her life. The film then has the audacity to support her self-blaming stance by making the killer another man with predatory sexual designs on her. The Final Girl blames herself for all the murders, saying once more that it is her fault, that she is responsible for these vile men’s acts of violence simply by existing and being so desirable. Not content to blame victims for “asking for it” after this reveal, the movie then shows ANOTHER man who is drawn to the Final Girl, like a sociopathic moth to a flame, who is poised to go on his own sexually-fueled killing spree.
I can’t underscore this point enough. The Final Girl says that she is responsible for being sexually assaulted. She says that she is responsible for the killer murdering people in an attempt to woo her. And Scare Zone agrees with her. I would say that the wrong-headed ending must be seen to be believed, but there’s nothing remarkable about it except its brazenness. Victim-blaming is nothing new, but I can’t remember the last time I saw a film so blatantly and repulsively spell it out as being good, actually.
Reading this review, you might be tempted to check out Scare Zone just to see if it really is that bad. Please don’t. I cannot stress enough how uninteresting this movie is. It’s not entertaining enough to warrant a hate-watch; it is cheap in the least charitable interpretation of the word. Now, calling a horror film “cheap” isn’t always a criticism. Horror filmmakers have been making wonderful films on shoestring budgets for decades. Unfortunately, Scare Zone is as far from wonderful as you can possibly get. It is a misguided bore that offends more than it scares. It is cheap, not due to its budget, but because of its complete disinterest in anything resembling entertainment or decency.
It brings me no pleasure to trash a movie (and re-reading this review, I still feel like I’ve held back quite a bit), but it also brought me no pleasure to watch Scare Zone, so I feel like it’s my duty to warn horror fans not to waste their time with this dull, distasteful movie. It’s an unceasing series of bad decisions that add up to an infuriatingly bad, unwatchable movie. If you want to scratch the “haunted house attraction with real murders” itch, go watch Haunt instead.