SCARE ZONE poster | ©2022 Terror Films

SCARE ZONE poster | ©2022 Terror Films

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Arian Ash, Chris Burns, Neil Brown Jr., Simon Needham, Michele Feren, Jordan Woods-Robinson
Writer: Jon Binkowski
Director: Jon Binkowski
Distributor: Terror Films
Release Date: May 27, 2022 (Terror Films Channel); June 3¸ 2022 (wide VOD and digital); original theatrical release June 10, 2010

SCARE ZONE is a solid (though not exemplary) example of the horror subgenre set at Halloween fright attractions. Originally released in 2010, SCARE ZONE is now being distributed on VOD and digital by Terror Films, which also hosts the movie on its own channel.

SCARE ZONE has the advantage, like 2006’s DARK RIDE, of being partially shot at a theme park, here Universal Studios Orlando. Director/writer Jon Binkowski gets a lot of good, grimy production value out of a number of well-designed sets. The premise is that entrepreneur Oliver Peters (Simon Needham) produces a strip-mall horror maze, the Scare Zone, which is open for three nights, culminating on Halloween.

This is Year Three of Scare Zone, as we are informed at the top by Spider (Neil Brown Jr.), Oliver’s right-hand man. Other Scare Zone veterans are performer Summer (Michele Feren) and goth cashier Claire (Arian Ash). Between them, they instruct “cast” newbies in their roles: vampire, mad doctor, living autopsy victim, and so on. There are also rules – no touching the customers, no going wild with the weapons, etc.

But even before Scare Zone opens for its first night of the new year, the audience knows there’s a killer on the loose. Who is it, and why are they on a murder spree?

The SCARE ZONE maze is respectable in of itself. However, Binkowski doesn’t use it in ways where main characters are confused as to what’s fake and what’s actual blood, limbs, and so on. This negates one of the prime story potentials of the setting.

In fact, Binkowski aims to do something more character-oriented than usual. His intentions are good, as is the performance of Ash as the troubled Claire. However, this goes just deep enough for it to feel like there ought to be a sturdier bridge between this aspect of SCARE ZONE and the motivations of the killer. Once revelations begin, we have more questions than we’d like.

The gore is plentiful and effective. Needham gives Oliver a type of sweet enthusiasm, which makes us believe in his “the show must go on” ethos. Brown also scores as the shrewd Spider.

In some ways, SCARE ZONE feels like it could be a lot older than it is. There are cell phones to let us know we’re in the twenty-first century, but a lot of elements feel like they could be from the ‘70s. The cinematography has the kind of bright look we associate with low-budget horror of that era, and the editing and pacing also feel retro.

This extends to sensibilities regarding women. There is also a running gag with Spanish-speaking workers that indulges in stereotypes, albeit not overtly negative ones.

What’s most odd, although perhaps in keeping with the way the plot doesn’t make the most of the setting, is that there aren’t a lot of jump scares. Binkowski scores a few, but often establishes where a threat will come from rather than go for surprise.

What’s best about SCARE ZONE is its love for the genre. It’s easy to imagine that the driven Oliver is a stand-in for filmmaker Binkowski, rolling with whatever obstacles come along to make sure his audience gets their Halloween treats.

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