Nobody Wins

Seemingly put together entirely with first takes, Kill Zone’s dreadful, clumsy action doesn’t help this low budget, post-Vietnam anxiety action flick. Borrowing liberally from Rambo: First Blood (even the music compositions), Kill Zone isn’t without heart so much as funding.

Not entirely wasted, Kill Zone does build a (slightly) convincing bond between its two heroes, projecting the camaraderie found in battle. Mitchell (Ted Prior) stands by his friend Jason (Fritz Matthews) as he suffers a psychotic break, believing himself back in Vietnam after a rather bizarre, torturous training regimen.

At Kill Zone’s heart is an aggressive anti-authority streak, and the script uses that to build its villain

At Kill Zone’s heart is an aggressive anti-authority streak, and the script uses that to build its villain, Colonel Crawford (David Campbell). Equally psychotic, Crawford kills to hide the evidence of his “training” method, although how this was ever government funded isn’t clear. Crawford starves and deprives his men of basic necessities under the delusion of preparing them to be POWs. It’s absurd, but the unknown isolated location (Los Angeles, if the shooting location counts) allows leeway in the budget. Kill Zone mostly takes place in empty forested areas.

While Kill Zone succeeds – albeit in a ridiculous, decidedly ‘80s way – in depicting a soldier’s willingness to never leave someone behind, it’s a dreadful bore. Much of the budget appears to go to the action’s finale, a helicopter chase that’s so haphazardly edited to hide seams as to be impossible to follow; it’s random footage stitched together without any continuity to build drama.

Dismal bit parts, especially two tourists (writer Jack Marino plays the husband), crush any credibility established in the opening act. Kill Zone more than borrows from First Blood, but outright takes ideas, including the forest traps that pierce multiple foes. The rest plays like a slasher movie wherein the killer serves as a hero rather than a villain. Attempts to legitimize PTSD and its role in military life deserve credit, although Kill Zone isn’t anything more than hollow exploitation for the (then) thriving video store market.


From the scratch-and-dent corner of the vault, the print used shows definite wear. Scratches, dirt, and flicker hamper the proceedings throughout, but to varying degrees. Generally, it’s acceptable and unobtrusive. Preserved grain maintains texture from a rudimentary source that’s rarely high on definition or sharpness at the source. Clean encoding doesn’t diminish things further.

Bland color reproduction minimizes the jungle greenery, and flesh tones wander. Kill Zone’s faded print shows its age, if to no surprise; it’s doubtful Kill Zone was well preserved, and already looked low-budget to begin with. Contrast fares better than almost non-existent black levels, although the brightness isn’t special either.


A mess from the outset, the excessive popping on the soundtrack joins brief dropouts on the PCM track. Static varies, from severe to unnoticeable. This, joined to the dull fidelity thanks to the rotting treble doesn’t help. Volume fluctuates, sometimes leaving some quieter lines unintelligible.


Producer/co-writer Jack Marino pairs with host Heath Holland on a commentary track that’s also an optional video commentary. Marino returns for a 36-minute interview, along with producer Steve Latshaw. MVD includes the original VHS version too (why not?), then trailers.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Kill Zone
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A bizarre take on the post-Vietnam genre, Kill Zone echoes Rambo, but on the slimmest budget.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 30 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray:

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