The romantic horror flick Zero Avenue is the feature-length directorial debut of Daniel Frei and the first full-length movie written by Braeson Herold. Herold stars as Joshua, who is celebrating his 40th birthday. As has become a tradition at this point, he’s hired a dominatrix, Veronica (Allison Siko), for some rough roleplay sex. But, shortly after she gets to his place, Veronica falls down and hits her head.
While unconscious, Veronica has some odd dreams that involve Joshua is actually 400 years old and that he cannot be harmed. Veronica also comes to believe that Joshua wants to sacrifice her because of a demon who is controlling his life. But, after each odd vision, she comes to, and Joshua is as goofily sweet and concerned about her well-being as ever. Did Veronica’s fall mess with her mind, or is the seemingly affable Joshua out to harm her?
Zero Avenue begins a bit stiff, with Joshua looking confused in a coffee shop. He stops and asks Veronica for help, who then leads him to a place wherein she slaps him, strips, and demands he walks upstairs. At this point, it is unknown that she’s a hired sex worker, so their purposefully stilted dialogue just comes across as awkward. Once the reveal happens, it all clicks into place, but this opening does not make the strongest impression one’s first time through.
“…Veronica also comes to believe that Joshua wants to sacrifice her because of a demon..”
But it takes very little time for the film to put its best foot forward and become an engrossing, mindbending horror picture. Siko plays the confusion of her character perfectly while believably being unsure if she should trust her mind or Joshua. Herold is both unnerving and bumbling enough to make Veronica’s confusion all the more real. The two’s rat-a-tat chemistry (after their initial, prearranged meet-up) sells the reality and fantastical all the more.
Zero Avenue is a low-budget affair, but thanks to the tireless work of the crew, you’d never know it. Frei and Stanley Reisen’s editing finds a rhythm early on, and they maintain it to bone-chilling effect. Jenelle Pearring works wonders as the director of photography, framing each scene to either maximize the eerie atmosphere, further blur the lines between reality and fiction, or both.
The finale of Zero Avenue is as brutal and wild as one would hope. Even though the first five minutes are a little patchy, the rest of the film easily overcomes those issues. The two leads are great, the plot is very original and exciting, and the director maintains a tense atmosphere. This film signals great things for all involved in the future.
To learn more about the mysterious happenings of Zero Avenue, check out its official site.
"…very original and exciting..."