‘The Life Zone’ Review: Ken Del Vecchio’s Controversial Pro-Life Horror Film
Marlow Stern talks to the politician behind ‘The Life Zone’ and its stars.
“I don’t think art changes anything,” the late Sidney Lumet, director of social realist classics like 12 Angry Men and Network, once told The New York Times. Kenneth Del Vecchio, a 42-year-old crime author-turned-filmmaker and former State Senate GOP candidate from New Jersey, would beg to differ. “I think Mr. Lumet’s incorrect,” said Del Vecchio, clad in a shimmering Ed Hardy t-shirt in the back room of a Midtown Manhattan steakhouse. “It’s obvious that the two most powerful functions for change in the world are the media and the arts. They shape people’s views.”
Del Vecchio is the writer and producer of The Life Zone, a pro-life horror film about three women who are abducted from abortion clinics by a sadistic doctor, and forced to bring their babies to term. In an apparent nod to A Clockwork Orange, during their incarceration the women are subjected to a series of videos espousing pro-life and pro-choice views, and experience recurring nightmares, including images of Hitler, swirling bees, and foreigners shouting “abort me” in their native tongues. Ultimately, the Shyamalan-esque twist is that all three women died on the operating table at abortion clinics, are in purgatory, and were given the choice by the devil (Oscar nominee Robert Loggia) to repent for their sins. Two of the women repent, so they ascend to heaven, and one woman refuses, and is doomed to hell.
After The Life Zone premiered recently at the Hoboken International Film Festival, which Del Vecchio runs, the Internet was abuzz with criticism, and even Stephen Colbert mocked Del Vecchio’s film on The Colbert Report, saying, “How about… a movie that protects traditional marriage where a gay guy and a lesbian are stitched together, junk-to-junk, by a mad, moralistic scientist until they realize how good it feels?”
Angela Little, a former Playboy model who plays one of the pregnant women in the film, was blindsided by all the controversy. “I’m in the middle of a couple of deals and a couple of networks are vying [for my talents],” Little told The Daily Beast. “When I started reading all the pro-life interviews, I was like, ‘Ken, what the hell? I didn’t know this was going to be a PSA for pro-life?’” She added, “I just don’t talk politics much, so maybe that’s something that’s my bad and might bite me in the tail for doing this movie.” Robert Loggia, the star of movie classics like Big and Scarface, also played The Life Zone’'s devil, and doesn’t see what all the fuss is about. “I don’t see [abortion] as a controversy, I see it as a dilemma,” Loggia told The Daily Beast, adding, “It makes me emotional that abortion, taking a life, is the right thing to do. I don’t quite see that.”
Del Vecchio, then a New Jersey attorney, gained nominal acclaim in 1996 when his debut novel, Pride & Loyalty, sold about 60,000 copies. The next year he wrote his first screenplay, a low-rent comedy, Rules For Men, and sent the script off to The Howard Stern Show, where it was well received, and eventually found financing. He has since made over a dozen films, despite an admitted lack of film expertise. “I don’t have any talent whatsoever on the technical side,” said Del Vecchio. “I don’t know how to handle a camera. In the editing room, I don’t even know how to turn on Final Cut, but I know how to tell them what I want.” Del Vecchio’s been married 12 years, and has a son, Mario, who is almost three years old. “He’s quite an energized politician, which he applies to films, and he gets them done,” said Loggia.
An apparent conflict of interest arose when, while serving as a part-time judge for the state of New Jersey, Del Vecchio wished to promote his 2009 film O.B.A.M. Nude, a thinly-veiled critique of President Obama about a cocaine-snorting socialist college student who strikes a deal with the devil to become the next president. He was promptly sent a one-paragraph opinion letter by the state legislature saying, “As a sitting judge, you should not engage in any publicity or promotion with regard to your upcoming movie O.B.A.M. Nude.” After four months on the job, Del Vecchio resigned. “They were censoring me because of my speech,” he told The Daily Beast. In early June, he ran as a GOP candidate for New Jersey State Senate’s 38th district as a “pro-constitution, less government, pro-life Republican option,” according to Del Vecchio. He lost in the primary to John Driscoll, receiving just 33 percent of the vote.
With four states now—Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, and most recently, Wisconsin—signing bills to defund Planned Parenthood, the abortion debate in America is heating up, which pleases Del Vecchio, who believes that “abortion is the most important social issue that the world faces.” Del Vecchio says he’s trying to send the message that “if you have an abortion, and recognize you’re killing a human life, you’re going to hell.” Indeed, he doesn’t even support abortion in cases like that of the protagonist in Precious (whose repeated rapes by her father result in two mentally handicapped children being brought into a poor, abusive home). Del Vecchio remains convinced that his film, which features a few talking heads—including his own—“cuts straight down the middle and clearly gives both sides of the coin.”
Like it or not, Kenneth Del Vecchio will not go quietly into the good night. The filmmaker recently signed a three-picture distribution deal with Moving Pictures Film & TV Distribution, which will distribute The Life Zone, and the upcoming films The Great Fight, a film about an autistic, bullied Latino student who becomes an MMA fighter, and The Grand Theft, a gonzo comedy about a group of renegade filmmakers who stage a jewelry heist posing as a film crew to fund their pet project—a political thriller about how moon landings are faked. Naturally, all of these projects will attempt to inform the “ignorant” masses in their own unique ways. “People want to believe things that are convenient for them, like slavery,” said Del Vecchio. “It was convenient for people to make themselves believe that certain races weren’t human beings in the same sense as Caucasian people. I would have died as an abolitionist to free slaves, and at the same time, I think I have to utilize my abilities that most people don’t have—the ability to make movies with stars in them, and get them seen—because I think I can effectuate more direct change and make people’s lives better.”