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Home Vision Entertainment presents
Zero Day (2003)

"Life isn't fair, so we're going to even the score."
- Andre Kriegman (Andre Keuck)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: April 04, 2005

Stars: Andre Keuck, Calvin Robertson
Other Stars: Rachel Benichak, Gerhard Keuck, Johanne Keuck, Samantha Philips, Christopher Coccio
Director: Ben Coccio

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, brief violence)
Run Time: 01h:31m:50s
Release Date: April 05, 2005
UPC: 037429205426
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

In Zero Day, a pair of seemingly normal teenage boys have concocted a nightmarish plan to make a major assault on their school, to kill as many people as possible as not just retribution for what they perceive as some sort of lopsided injustice in the whole high school social order, but as a "wake up call" for the rest of us.

We learn of their intent through a series of assorted tapes the boys shot themselves—using their own video cameras—over an 11-month period leading up to their intended attack date. Some of the segments are instructional, such as the ethically questionable piece on how to build a pipe bomb, while others are random video diary admissions, where in disturbingly casual frankness the boys discuss why they must do what they feel they have to do.

Writer/director Ben Coccio employs what is often called "The Blair Witch" technique, opting to build an entire film made up of shaky, hand-held camera footage shot by the characters themselves. It is one of those potentially dangerous concepts that can easily go wrong fast if improperly used, but in Zero Day the effect works exceptionally well, with only a couple of scenes feeling slightly forced or out of place in the overall flow of things. It does, however, give the film an intentionally disjointed hand-made feel of a collection of individual tapes that in the end make up one slowly building narrative.

Andre Keuck and Calvin Robertson play the two leads, who are coincidentally named Andre and Calvin, and like all of the other actors in the film (most of whom are family members), have to deliver dialogue that at no point should sound like dialogue; the lines should sound random and spontaneous, full of the kind of naturally uneven cadence that sounds like two friends talking, with all the smart-ass asides and meandering comments included. Keuck and Robertson really make it look easy here, and it is completely effortless to buy into the concept that we're watching unscripted real-life snippets of two boys making carefully detailed plans to go on a killing spree.

I had some initial concerns of Zero Day eventually becoming a bloody high school shoot 'em up, and a film like this could have become tacky, insensitive B-movie stuff quite easily. We don't really need to see a fictional account of disgruntled teenagers shooting innocent teenagers to get our kicks, do we? The wounds of Columbine are still fairly fresh in a lot of minds, especially when reopened by headlines of yet another school shooting, and Coccio manages to sidestep this by using black-and-white security camera footage (much like what we saw on television news from Columbine) to tell that part of the story. It is a chilling, slightly distant and out of focus sequence that is effective without being overtly gratuitous.

Maybe it wasn't his goal, but Coccio doesn't really ultimately answer any questions about why Andre and Calvin made their pact. The media-savvy lead characters (Andre bequeaths their videotapes to reporter Wolf Blitzer) are quick to say it wasn't the influence of video games or movies that drove them to kill, and their home lives seem to be happy and normal.

In a way it is perplexing and incomplete, but the closest we get to an epiphany is late in the film when the perspective changes briefly and we seen things through the viewfinder of a friend of a friend's video camera. Those few minutes are key to understanding how Andre and Calvin are seen by their peers, and while it certainly doesn't condone mass murder by any means, it is an insightful glimmer of how the rest of their world looks at them.

According to Andre and Calvin, "Zero Day" is something that has to be done. Now that's scary.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The effective 1.33:1 transfer looks purposely rough and tumble, like it was shot on the fly by two teenagers on hand-held video under an assortment of conditions. Any imperfections only add to Coccio's documentary approach, and things like grain and pixelization only serve to make it seem more real.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is provided in simple 2.0 stereo that reflects the sound quality of the hand-held video cameras. Dialogue is clear, though occasional things like naturally occurring hiss, buzz or distortion add to the intentional lifelike qualities that Coccio tries to deliver.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
4 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Ben Coccio, Andre Keuck, Calvin Robertson
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Writer/director Ben Coccio and actor Andre Keuck provide a commentary (Calvin Robertson shows up later in the track) for what Coccio refers to as a "front-loaded magic trick." Coccio drives most of the talk, pointing out things like it was shot in Keuck and Robertson's actual homes in order to enhance the reality, and that an opening shot of a five-year-old Calvin looking positively demonic at his birthday party was actual home movie footage, and not a recreation (which is what I originally thought prior to listening to the commentary).

The Making Of (08m:22s) is essentially just a short hodgepodge of behind-the-scenes footage, and a strange Making the Crosses (:46s), featuring Coccio building the crosses used to mark those killed by Andre and Calvin, all set to a wacky music bed that is just plain odd. Screen Test (01m:42s) shows early footage of Keuck and Robertson, and Home Footage (02m:54s) gathers up some of the real-life home movie footage used in the film (such as Cal's fifth birthday).

The disc is cut into 24 chapters.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

My daughter starts high school next year. That thought kept roaring through my head as I watched Zero Day, and it scared the hell out of me. Are there kids like Andre and Calvin in my neighborhood? Probably. They are probably everywhere, the disenfranchised, the outcast, the angry. You just have to hope they don't act out on it.

Coccio draws amazing real-life performances out of his two leads, which helps to make this film a uniquely unsettling and terrifying experience.

Certainly a candidate for my year-end Top 10 list, this one is highly recommended.


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