Listed Run Time: 88 minutes
Actual Run Time: 82 Minutes.
Cast: Chelsea Jean, Denise Boutte, Jeremy Bouvet, Gregory Bastien, Matt Marraccini, Kandis Erickson.
Director: Byron Werner.
MPAA Rating: R
- Full Screen
- Behind the Scenes
- Zombie Dance (Still Gallery)
From director Byron Werner in conjunction with The Asylum through Digiview Entertainment comes this amazing $1 DVD value purchased from Wal*Mart. For those who ignore dollar DVDs here's one whose cover blurb: "Don't Miss This Nail-Biting Modern Horror Classic!" is partly accurate. It's definitely worth watching, though it's not quite a nail-biter. Too, the DVD has some nice extras. Alas presentation is full screen but the picture is crisp and the sound is clear. As for the movie. .
With a titular villain loosely based on an actual historical figure, William "Bloody Bill" Anderson, this is not your run-of-the-mill indie horror movie with a made-up bugaboo out to kill clueless teens for no reason. Well, okay, I admit that I had no clue who "Bloody Bill" was until I lazily went to google for info. And teens, or at least post-adolescent youth, do seem to get killed off at the drop of a hat. But otherwise DEATH VALLEY has few surprises in store.
The first thing I noticed upon removing the cellophane was the distinct smell of burnt plastic. So not only was this only a dollar it apparently came fresh from the factory, you got to love that. The second thing I noticed upon popping the DVD into my player was, after 40+ seconds or so it went into auto-play and began with, of all things, the trailer for DRAGON! Having just recently watched (and reviewed) said movie that put a smirk on my face. As soon as the trailer finishes the main movie starts.
We see two cars. The guy in car #1 (hereafter referred to as "the druggie") is snorting some white powder, looks up to the gal in car #2, makes a suggestive comment. The gal in car #2 smiles then whips out a badge. OH SNAP!
And we're off. That's right the credits haven't rolled yet and we've got ourselves a car chase. Before you can say Dukes of Hazard the druggie's gone off-road, through what looks like a canyon (?) and out onto a dry desert lake bed. The chick cop, chattering way on a radio, looks peeved. Obviously she had not planned to chase Mr. Druggie through off-road hell in her dinky little car and, eventually, he outpaces her. .
Which is when the druggie's troubles really begin. .
His car breaks down. Being out in the middle of BFE nowhere that means el hombre druggie has to hoof it through dry dust and deserted, wait, what's that? Why it's a GHOST TOWN shimmering out of the heat haze like a beacon to weary travelers. .
And what a inviting name, "Sunset Valley"; Population: 99. What luck! Or is it? Sunset Valley, tourist trap or trap ala Brigadoon?
Monsieur Druggie saunters into a saloon, walks up to the bar, smacks up a small dust storm as he arrogantly begins to demand beer. He continues his demand until, OH SNAP, that's not a bartender it's a g-d's forsaken ZOMBIE and he looks hungry! What's more he has friends, lot's of them!
Thus ends the tale of the druggie and so rolls the credits to hard rocking heavy metal sound. Then the movie starts, for real. And what is the movie about? Why a small group of young adults. They seem to be packing up a van to go on some road trip. Hmm. I wonder what's going to happen next?
My guess was they'd get a flat tire or run out of gas in the middle of BFE nowhere and end up wandering into the aforementioned ghost town and get chomped on. Well they do eventually end up there but not at all how I expected. It's a interesting little twist that I didn't really see coming. And, yes, there's plenty of zombie action, or rather young adults trying to avoid becoming zombie chow action.
This movie is cheesy, silly, and the dialogue quirky but I enjoyed every minute of it. The pacing was quick, when the actors weren't slowing everything down to deliver their lines, and the action had the vibe of a quick paced music video. However, as a zombie movie, it probably leaves much to be desired. Gore hounds will likely be disappointed and nitpickers will have a field day mocking the zombie make-up, but at least they'll have fun doing it. Too, I noticed that quite a few F-bombs were dropped but you didn't hear them, so this dollar edition appears to be sanitized.
The dialogue is a bit stilted and the actors interactions, at times, incongruous but the movie comes at you like a hurricane. For every slow dialogue scene there's a hard rocking metal blaring action sequence to keep you awake. Another fun thing is to watch the folks playing the zombies. Some shamble, some run, a few look confused and one young woman, bless her heart, seems to be barely restraining herself from bursting into a fit of giggles. The cast and crew obviously had a lot of fun shooting this and it shows.
As with DRAGON this title has received at least two R1 DVD releases, including the dollar version reviewed, and one R2 (UK) release. Similarly online sources do not indicate any major differences between the various editions, save perhaps in content of the extras. Additionally DEATH VALLEY was released on VHS and has a R0 PAL DVD release with English and Thai sound and subtitle options.
Like DRAGON this was originally released by The Asylum, their logo even appears on the DVD below the Digiview logo on the back of the jacket sleeve, which also lists this as being R-rated. However, as previously mentioned, whenever actors drop the F-bomb only their lips move. Not sure if anything else has been edited out or sanitized but, and this is important for gore hounds, as presented this is more of an action movie with zombies in it. There is not a lot of gore present and there's no nudity. In fact there's nothing much here you probably haven't seen in a episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Still for a low budget indie horror movie DEATH VALLEY is tremendous fun.
Alas the zombie make-up is adequate but nothing special. The movie has a hard rock music video vibe so before you have a chance to get bored with the bits and pieces of back story or attempt at plot development the soundtrack kicks in and the action propels you with wailing guitar riffs at hurricane force speed to the next scene. So unless you loathe hard rock music this is definitely worth the dollar price tag.
In short DEATH VALLEY is an hilariously inexplicable mix of almost awesomeness mixed with just enough bad to make this one heck of a fun action packed hayride. And did I mention it's only a dollar? Recommended.
Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan
This is where I'd normally put a link back to the original review at the main Mise-en-scene Crypt blog. Alas Yahoo 360! can't decide whether the review exists or not so don't be surprised if you click through and find nothing: link.