Having burst into the straight-to-VHS scene with the 1983 shot-on-video “classick” Sledgehammer, director David A. Prior upgraded to actual 35mm film for his sophomore effort, Killzone. The man-on-moon leap in image quality is its only superior element to Prior’s prior engagement.
With opening credits complete, Killzone zones in on an Asian military leader (Daniel Kong, Surf Nazis Must Die) teasing a bunch of white American soldiers with drinking water. It’s a hot day, see, and they’re bound to wooden poles, like prisoners of war. This, however, is no war — it’s a mere training exercise, but either someone forgot to tell McKenna (Fritz Matthews, Prior’s Killer Workout) or the man just has snapped. (Considering viewers aren’t privy to this info for a long while, I think it’s a toss-up.) The scenario prompts McKenna’s Vietnam flashbacks to feel like Vietnam here-and-nows, so he starts fighting back and killing for real.
This deviation from the rules doesn’t sit well with the cigar-chomping Col. Crawford (David James Campbell, Scarecrows); rather than just bitch-slap McKenna back into reality, he orders his men to shoot to kill. But this plot begs the question: Are McKenna’s flashbacks of Crawford killing our hero’s wife and child legit or phony?
Actually, I take that back; I don’t need to know. If Prior doesn’t aim for clarity, why should I ask for it? Viewers of his Deadly Prey will note Killzone’s eerie resemblance to that 1987 flick’s look, feel and cast (including Prior’s bro, Ted, and the aforementioned Campbell, who plays the same part in everything but name), but this one is missing that one’s overall shot of cutout-bin adrenaline. Only in the third act, when McKenna booby-traps the jungle (including the world’s most perfectly and conveniently timed death by boulder), does Killzone catch up to Prey’s pervading sense of fun. —Rod Lott