OK, kids. Let's make a nifty little feature, but since we have no money, what do we do? We do, of course, what the Blair Witch filmmakers so craftily did: embrace a concept that demands messy camerawork, choppy editing, available lighting, largely non-professional or unknown actors, a script that actually benefits from flubs and improvisation, and shoot in mundane settings.
Such is the m.o. of Ben Coccio, whose first feature has made the festival rounds and copped some awards from several of the less trafficked of these events. His Zero Day, a mock video diary of high-school seniors Andre Kriegman (Andre Keuck) and Cal Gabriel (Calvin Robertson) as they prepare for and carry out the slaughter of classmates in the school library, is from the no budget, garage-band brand of filmmaking, but not without interest.
Keuck and Gabriel, who do a lot of talking to the camera, are convincing enough, which might have provided their parents with considerable anxiety were it not for the fact that the onscreen parents are played by the boys' real-life parents, Gerhard and Johanne Keuck and Pam and Steve Robertson.
But bringing on board the actual families is just another clever cost-cutting move that actually enhances credibility. But the gimmick--neatly set up and, ahem, executed as the two perps, in countdown fashion, share with the audience the many details of prepping for what they have designated as 'zero day'-- wears thin.
Along the way, we see how the two boys learn about weapons and steal them from Andre's gun-loving cousin Chris (Chris Coccio). We watch the pair interact with family and friends. They appear to have normal relationships with the parents and Cal has even formed some kind of bond with likeable classmate Rachel (Rachel Benichak). Andre seems to be more of the loner, but certainly not pathologically so.
As Zero Day gets closer to zero, interest in the film also diminishes. Even the library massacre denouement, as captured by the school's video monitors, becomes tiresome, no thanks to the emotionless drone of a 911 operator (Samantha Philips) who provides the play by play.
Most egregious of all, filmmaker Coccio provides no clue as to why the two seniors are so murderous and nihilistic. While his film may operate as an expression of Existentialism at its bleakest and of the philosophy's 'act for an act's sake' gratuitousness in the amoral, godless world it embraces, such laziness and negligence are a copout. Whether it's heavy metal, a video game, violent movies, or bad parenting, bad genes or bad medication, audiences deserve at least a few cc's of motivation that may enrich the characters they are asked to consume.
The acting is fine, as is tape-to-film transfer. But television news and reality TV are more compelling.