Zone Troopers

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Zone Troopers (1985) is the follow-up collaboration between filmmakers Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo, Richard Band and actor Tim Thomerson after their cult success with Trancers (1984). Both films are relatively low budget science fiction films that draw heavily on youth oriented science fiction stories and comics from the fifties and sixties. Zone Troopers pays direct homage to these sources of inspiration in several ways; most notably in the film’s final shot.

Thomerson plays Sarge, a hard boiled G.I. Joseph leading the remains of his squad behind Nazi lines. Joey Verona (played by Timothy Van Patten who would go on to a career directing television), and Mittens (Art LaFleur) round out the squad with Verona as the adolescent heart that guides them and Mittens as the comic relief. While lost behind enemy lines they uncover a UFO crash site and must team up with a gnarly looking alien, that appears as a cross between a bug and a teddy bear wearing pajamas, to thwart Hitler’s attempts at obtaining intergalactic laser weapons.

To Zone Troopers‘ credit the film does feel like something one would read in an old comic book. The issue is that Zone Troopers doesn’t maintain the pacing required for its material. At moments that should move fast and get the adrenaline pumping Zone Troopers slows to a crawl. The fact that the opposite is also true has the effect of making the film feel slapdash and unconsidered.

Most of the performances are fine enough, but where Zone Troopers really excels is in the creature effect for the main alien. This insect/teddy bear hybrid looks moist, creepy, eerily emotive and more alive than some of the actors playing the Nazis. It’s a pretty brilliant looking alien and the campiness of its wardrobe only helps to sell the vintage comic milieu.

This milieu is only interrupted a handful of times; usually by wacky Nazi hijinks. The most blatant interruption of the aesthetic at work in Zone Troopers comes in the scene where the alien trades Mittens a holographic mind projector for cigarettes to eat. All of the sudden a femme fatale type appears and is all too willing to get it on with Verona.