Archive for March 12th, 2018

by Jared Dec

Zero Day – Ben Coccio

US 2003 92 min.

p Richard Abramowitz, Adam Brightman, Ben Coccio, Barney Oldfield d Ben Coccio w Ben Coccio, Christopher Coccio photo Ben Coccio edit Ben Coccio, David Shuff

Calvin Robertson (Calvin), Andre Keuck (Andre Kriegman), Rachel Benichak (Rachel), Josh Bednarsky (Josh), Gerhard Keuck (Andre’s father), Johanne Keuck (Andre’s mother), Madelyn Robertson (Calvin’s sister), Pam Robertson (Calvin’s mother), Steve Robertson (Calvin’s father)

In high school, you’re taught you can do anything you put your mind to…

“What?!” I hear many cry in disbelief. “An American film from the 21st century? How can this be obscure enough to warrant a mention in The Fish Obscuro?” Admittedly, this film has far more ratings on imdb than other previous mentions, but I can guarantee that almost no one reading this has ever heard of this film. I remember when I sent Allan my top 100 as a senior in high school, this was the only film on it that he had yet to see nor had he ever heard of it. I remember him asking me what this film exactly was and me being far less articulate or able to come up with erudite commentary on the merits of a film on the fly, I failed to impress on him the need to see it. Perhaps I will do better this time with a larger audience, but it should be said that Zero Day deals with extremely heavy subjects. This is not a film to just be watched in a light mood. And perhaps, I am in a unique position to approach this film. As an American who grew up in Post-Columbine America, I remember from the time of kindergarten being in classes participating in ”lockdowns” where we would simulate a school shooter invading the campus. At the same time, at least once a month or so, there would be some story of some college student, high schooler, or even middle schooler somewhere in America carrying out a violent shooting and killing dozens. The fact that these events became so regular in my childhood made me more and more jaded to this concept. Perhaps that is why Zero Day holds so much power for me. Despite its micro-budget, Zero Day manages to capture exactly why a high schooler in one of the wealthiest countries in the world born to a loving middle-class family decides one day to violently massacre their fellow classmates, and to me this film is one of the most important made in modern America as a result.

Andre and Calvin are two high school seniors at a high school in America. Where doesn’t matter as we have learned such a story can happen anywhere here. The film is told entirely from the perspective of Calvin and Andre’s home video diaries of their lives in the days before “Zero Day”. Calvin and Andre are bullied and somewhat outcasts. They are young, impressionable, and confused about their position in the world. This sense of isolation causes them to lash out slowly at the rulers of their high schoolers first with innocent enough pranks like throwing rotten eggs at a bully’s house. But slowly a far more sinister plan begins to form in their minds, which is to murder as many people as possible in their high school. We see Andre and Calvin interact with their friends and family. The dialogue is incredibly authentic and convincing, which makes sense as it turns out that the parents of Andre and Calvin were played by their real parents. The rapport seems completely natural which makes the film believable to an extent that is disturbing. Andre and Calvin slowly build a collection of guns, either bought legally or taken from Andre’s father’s gun safe (to non-Americans, yes quite a few Americans have guns in their houses making this quite plausible in reality). The final 15 minutes of the film are told from the perspective of the school’s security cameras watching Andre and Calvin carrying out their destruction and facing their inevitable end.

This film’s greatest asset is how believable the whole thing is. Found footage is a mixed bag in film and fails as often as it works. However, unlike the main usage of found footage which involves horror or some supernatural element, Zero Day works because it has only realistic elements and no reason why the characters shouldn’t still be filming (unlike Cloverfield, The Blair Witch Project, or countless other examples). Ben Coccio casts two actual high school students and filmed the exteriors of the high school at a local high school, and as mentioned previously uses the actor’s real parents and films in their real houses. The whole element of this is just a movie and not actual found footage collapses. I will not get political in this review but I think everyone regardless of political affiliation can agree that gun violence in schools is not something that should happen, but all too frequently does. America has a problem with its youth, and though the solution is not agreed upon, the fact is both sides too often ignore the human element as to why this sort of thing happens. Youth is a period of self-discovery and emotional turmoil that comes from a lack of stability in their future. Too often, this leads to confusion and discontent. This discontent can easily lead to violence, something I can attest to being just a few years out of high school. Zero Day manages to do what Gus van Sant’s higher-budgeted and more-acclaimed film, Elephant, failed to do when it was released the same year, capture why two middle-class and comfortably well-off teenagers may throw their lives away for senseless violence. The similarities to Columbine are deep: The real Columbine shooters kept video diaries of their planning for their attacks and their daily lives which have still not been released to the public, both the character Andre and the real Columbine shooter Eric Harris worked in pizza restaurants, the characters often refer to the theory of natural selection which the Columbine shooters also did, and character Calvin and Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold attended the school prom just days before their respective massacres. However, what Zero Day has to say can apply to almost any school shooting that has happened in this country for almost twenty years, and for that is one of the most important American films of its time. The sad thing is that Ben Coccio’s film was not appreciated at the time, managing to only gross $9,000 off of its $20,000 budget, and Coccio has gone on to do almost nothing else in terms of directing films. Perhaps the lack of professional cameras throughout the runtime or maybe the fact that what this film has to say is so real, no one wanted to confront it. All I know is that Zero Day is far more horrifying than any horror film of its time, and has more to say about the reality of suburban American life than Linklater did. This film has kept me up at night and I have seen it several times over the years. Its power never wanes, and all I can say is this film is not for everyone but for those willing to brave its horrifying truths, they will find a profound statement about a major problem in America today.




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The gang with “Killer Klowns” lead cast members Grant Cramer and Suzanne Snyder in Cherry Hill for Monstermania convention.

by Sam Juliano

The Greatest Television Series Countdown Part 2 is underway with a splendid launching post by Adam Ferenz on a Danish series.  With two breaks for the Tribeca Film Festival and the Allan Fish Online Film Festival in late April and late May the project will run through mid July.  In is widely anticipated this encore will focus on shorter reviews than those posted in the first and defining countdown.  Thanks to the writers and site readers for their hard work and support for another successful endeavor here at Wonders in the Dark.

My entire family attended the Monstermania convention in Cherry Hill, New Jersey on Sunday, March 11th.  We met and chatted with the two lead players of the 1986 cult classic Killer Klowns of Outer Space, and crossed paths with John Carpenter, Richard Dreyfuss, Joe Pantoliano and two of the actors who played Jason in the Friday the 13th franchise.  We paid a visit to the Asbury Park Pinball Museum on Friday night as well in a return engagement after our New Year’s Eve foray. (more…)

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