Night Zero is impressive, to start. I went in assuming that it was produced at a much lower budget than anything you'd find in theaters, and if that is true (I don't actually know), it doesn't show at all until pretty late into the film. It looks and moves in line with any horror film I've seen, and while I'm admittedly not a fan of the genre or of zombies specifically (I imagine there are a lot of viewers who are going to click with this film more than me), there's a lot to like here.
The smartest choice in my mind was that this isn't an important event in the world of the film. It's crucial to these characters, and not just because of all the bloodshed. But no one saves the day here, none of our leads unleashed these horrors, it's all incidental. I think anything more would have been overwrought, and by making the events of the story irrelevant to the crisis the government and society are facing, the filmmakers allow the much more personal crisis of CJ and Nina's marriage to surface to the fore.
The performances are all consistent-- each actor has maybe one line at most that didn't land for me, but otherwise are all very believable. CJ (Eric Swader) in particular comes off as very natural (I'd be interested to see the script of his initial scene in the car with Nina, because it didn't feel wholly scripted or entirely adlibbed).
There is one exception-- the husband in the couple that's hosting the dinner party. Pretty much nothing about this character clicked for me, but I also think that 1. it was an issue with the script, not the actor and 2. the writer was attempting something that needed to be attempted, so it doesn't feel right to blame them either. The atmosphere would have been oppressive without any levity, so there needed to be someone who could function as comic relief, but all of his lines felt so at odds with the tone of the piece, that it felt like he belonged in a different movie. I don't know exactly how to solve this, and I don't envy either the writer or actor-- it's a tough balancing act.
We eventually do see the zombies, and this is where the film's budget finally catches up with it. It might've been better if we never got a clear shot, because the zombie makeup and movements were unconvincing and really took me out of the film. Though as I said before, I already have a sort of anti-zombie bias, so I'm not sure there'd be any winning with me here even if the effect were perfect. Fans of the genre might have a higher tolerance than me here.
I was pleasantly surprised with how the film ended-- I expected CJ and Nina to escape to safety with a renewed intimacy and a willingness to try again. What we got instead was quite a bit more original, with CJ being zombie-d and Nina having to kill him herself, a sort of physical manifestation of her need to (and strength in) ending the relationship. The dialogue here felt a bit needlessly crude (as if trying to impress with its edginess), but I thought Swader found a way to deliver it believably. I don't know if it was intentional, but I found some interesting ambiguity in whether CJ had actually cheated, or if Zombie-CJ had fabricated it while searching for the words that would wound Nina most.
One last nitpick would be the sound mixing-- the dialogue was much too quiet, but I also found that any shouts or screams were much too loud-- I was fiddling with the volume throughout. I'm experiencing a similar issue with Luke Cage on Netflix though, so I'm finding this is an industry-wide issue.
I do think horror fans will find something interesting here. But it might also appeal to anyone working their way up in the entertainment industry, or who has an appreciation for those early works in an artist's career. Be they actors, writers, directors, makeup artists, editors, or what have you, artists are always learning and growing. I think Night Zero will be an informative time capsule of a moment in these artists' lives before they moved on to bigger things.
Review by jimchartley from the Internet Movie Database.