Loosely based on Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, “Zero Day” focuses on a couple of high school kids who decide to march into their school, armed to the teeth, to shoot anyone that crosses their path. This isn’t exploitation; this is a look at how things may have been with Harris and Klebold, and how something like this could easily happen again.
High school outcasts, Andre Kriegman and Cal Gabriel, are sick of the cruel world they live in, so they decide to make a bloody departure, never to return, but not before taking out as many of the people who keep them down as possible. You know the story and “Zero Day” does have that brutal outcome we’ve all become familiar with since the Columbine shootings, but the focus here is on the events leading up to the massacre. The bulk of the film has us follow Kriegman and Gabriel through their video diary entries as they prepare for, what they have deemed, “Zero Day.” The scariest thing about this journey is that these kids seem like any others you would see wandering around your neighborhood. They’re not even made to look like punkers, gothics, skinheads, anarchists, or very naughty trick or treaters. They look like your average, straight-laced kid. Sure they have an affinity to playing with guns and explosives, but they still mind their parents, and one of them even goes to the school prom.
The film is careful as to where it points the finger…if it’s pointing a finger at all. Yes, these kids are shown to have an extensive knowledge in how to make explosives and firearms seem to always be in reach, but it’s mostly the uncomfortable feeling they have around their peers and the belittling they receive because of it that seems to push them over the edge. If guns weren’t around and they weren’t able to fashion their own bombs, these kids would’ve found another way to strike violently at their enemy. One point the film makes load and clear, however, is that the media is not responsible for these teenagers’ actions. In a scene where the two teens are placing entry tapes of their video diary into a safety deposit box, which will be bequeathed to news outlets upon their deaths, they talk about how everything they’ve done and everything they own will be placed under the world’s biggest microscope after Zero Day has come and gone, including all of their CDs, video games, and DVDs. Not wanting anyone to be so stupid as to blame their violent act upon games, music, and movies, they’re shown burning all of these possessions in the next scene.
“Zero Day” is a tough ride to handle, yet it doesn’t hit you over the head with its dark tone. A good part of the film deals with the tight friendship between Kriegman and Gabriel and their somewhat warm
relationships with their folks. You may even forget, for a brief moment, what’s imminently coming down the line, but then a mention of Zero Day or the image of the teens shooting at targets in a field snap you back into the film’s cold reality. A lot of people are going to have a problem with this film. There are no easy answers as to why s**t like this happens and if there is any message at all, it’s a bleak one. Love it or hate it, “Zero Day” will stay with you for a very long time.