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Directed by: David A. Prior
Starring: Fritz Matthews, Ted Prior, David Campbell, Simon Rhee, and William Zipp
“Cut the chatter and listen hard”
Welcome to “Scare Camp”, a military training area designed in every detail to resemble the horrors of Vietnam-era POW camps. It even includes torture. All this to prepare the minds and bodies of soldiers for potential capture. The camp is run by Col. Crawford (Campbell), but Crawford gets a bit over-zealous, and one of the soldiers, McKenna (Matthews), finally snaps and totally flips out. He now thinks he’s actually back in ‘Nam and begins killing everyone in sight. Now Campbell has a big mess on his hands and he feels the best way to deal with it is to have McKenna eliminated. But one of McKenna’s buddies, Sgt. Mitchell (Prior) believes in him, and wants to bring him back to reality safely and not kill him. So now it’s a race against time between the two buddies and the people that want to destroy them. THIS military training exercise just got real.
This effort was only the second movie from the Prior brothers, and the first in a long line of jungle war tales. While resembling the same year’s Missing In Action II: The Beginning (1985), it couldn’t possibly be a knockoff, though Killzone has a much lower-budget feel to it because it didn’t have Cannon money financing it. Even AIP had technically yet to be born. But besides the Priors, it has other mainstays of their movies such as Fritz Matthews (who would really come into his own with Hell On The Battleground, 1989), William Zipp, and David Campbell. Even Simon Rhee is credited as being one of “Crawford’s Men”.
Combine the aforementioned MIA II with later Prior movie Deadly Prey (1987), and you have some idea of what’s going on here. Killzone is most definitely a dry run for the wonderful Deadly Prey, seeing as it has a similar cast, a similar plot, and some of the same silly violence. But DP is probably the pinnacle of the AIP/Prior canon, so it’s hard to compare anything to it, really. The first half-hour of Killzone is the Prerequisite Torture we’ve seen many times before, but here they get it all out of the way right off the bat. It makes sense, because we need to see what would make McKenna go nuts. Thanks to the way it was shot, Killzone has a more professional look than some of the later AIP output. And considering they were just starting out, this is a really great effort. Looking back today, you can see the direction they would later take, and that’s quite interesting.
Just check out that great cover art for the VHS release. How could you not want to rent that? And the icing on the cake is that it was released on one of our favorite labels, Vestron. To date it has not been released on DVD so if you see it anywhere, definitely pick it up. AIP fans or fans of low-budget action/war cinema also take note.
Killzone pointed the way forward for AIP so even as simply a historical lesson, it’s worth seeing. But put Ted Prior and Fritz Matthews in the woods with some machine guns, and there’s your movie right there.
Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett