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Friday, December 10, 2021

[Review] With Great Survival Horror and Action, Shudder’s ‘Death Valley’ Knows How to Thrill

When it comes to cool monster flicks, the name Matthew Ninaber should ring a bell. You may have seen him around this year already – not in his regular looking human body by any means, but all dressed up as the iconic PG of Psycho Goreman! Ninaber is much more than a supernatural powerhouse though, he’s also a director and writer. With several of his previous films taking on a sci-fi action approach, his latest work, Death Valley, embraces that trend – while also throwing a little monster madness into the mix.

A group of guns for hire are called upon to save a scientist named Chole (Kristen Kaster) from an old Cold War bunker. With the scientist trapped inside and a local militia working their way to break into the facility and steal some research, it is up to the group to extract the scientist and lead her to safety before it’s too late. But as the group come to find out, Chole is aware of a very dangerous secret – one capable of endangering the group’s lives, and that of the whole world.

Within the cinematic DNA of Death Valley, one will find strains of Resident Evil and Predator. The narrative surrounding the facility and the monster inside is a solid homage to the iconic bio-horror game, whereas several of the enemy confrontations the hired guns face off against make for riveting Predator-esque engagements. That said, those influences are only worn proud on the film’s sleeves, so to speak – for Death Valley’s blend of science-fiction, horror, and action stands on its own.

The opening displays the facility in full panic as Chole strives to escape, only to be locked inside with the monster. The monster itself makes for a cool presence throughout the film and keeps our characters on their toes with their backs against the wall. An interesting comparison that caught my eye – but the monster’s blindness, and even its physical design, share some similarities with that of Resident Evil’s Lickers. This isn’t a problem by any means – the monster of Death Valley is more of a hulking humanoid with its own means of causing mayhem – but the uncanny similarities did catch me by surprise. On an additional fun note, Ninaber adds another monster role to his acting career, given that he plays the monster!

– Death Valley – Photo Credit: Shudder

The more dramatic narrative beats of Death Valley are nothing too wild; besides some stilted lines of dialogue, each actor is serviceable in their role. Beckett (Jeremy Ninaber) and Marshall (Ethan Mitchell) are a good mix of humorous and cool – even if each can be a little cheesy in emotional delivery at times. With good bits of drama and comedy sprinkled there and then, Death Valley is at its strongest when focusing solely on the action. A big gun fight towards the beginning makes for one of the more riveting sequences of the film, whereas the monster focused sections bring about a new form of adrenaline. It’s a great shake up between pulse pounding moment to moment action, and that of a more survival horror situation.

A twist towards the end makes for an intriguing blend of drama and cheese, but that also speaks to one of the film’s greater qualities. With very few moments of melodrama, Ninaber maintains a narrative pace that delivers thrills and effective downtime; working with a solid script, each actor plays into the science-fiction mystery taking place within the bunker, while also exuding a careful balance of unease and tactical finesse while avoiding the monster.

In its runtime, the film sets up a lot of intrigue that has the means to pull the audience into its world. With what little world building is involved, I’d love to see how Ninaber could expand on concepts if he were to revisit Death Valley down the road. He has outdone himself here with a killer flick, offering viewers an action-packed rush – his creepy monster creation making for a brutal display of menace. In its riveting suspense and great science-fiction horror atmosphere, Death Valley is a wild time you don’t want to miss out on.

Death Valley is now streaming exclusively on Shudder.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3695444/review-great-survival-horror-action-shudders-death-valley-knows-thrill/

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