Death Valley (2021) Shudder Movie Review – You might want to skip this mediocre monster movie

You might want to skip this mediocre monster movie

Shush. Don’t make a sound. The monster will get you if you create a noise. Can you guess the movie?

If you answered A Quiet Place, you would be right. However, you would also be right if you suggested Death Valley. This is another horror movie where the characters dare not make a sound but unlike that aforementioned title, this isn’t very good.

The movie follows two mercenaries who are tasked with rescuing a scientist who is trapped within a bioresearch compound with a creature of mysterious origins. As she is also under threat from a local militia group who are patrolling the forests outside, our heroes also have to deal with horrors of a human kind when trying to save the beleaguered boffin.

So far so good. The setup, while a little familiar, isn’t a bad one. Unfortunately, the director of this creature feature, Matthew Ninaber, doesn’t have the budget to match the story he is trying to tell. This wouldn’t be a major problem if the script and the actors were good but in this case, the movie falls down on both aspects.

The dialogue the actors are lumbered with is cliched and nonsensical so they can’t necessarily be blamed for their bad performances. They give it their best although it has to be said that their ‘best’ is far removed from what could be considered good acting. Without naming names, one of the actors is particularly bad but you will discover that for yourself if you decide to give this poor effort a go.

Despite these criticisms, the camerawork is quite good. When the characters are fleeing through the forests or trying to traverse a fast-flowing river, the director manages to raise some excitement. And when they are tiptoeing around a bunker trying to avoid being heard, he does manage to create the occasional moment of tension.

The main monster of the piece is quite effective too so the movie gets another plus point here. Admittedly, the creature looks like a humanoid prune with teeth but it’s still quite scary and will be even scarier if you have ever had nightmares about being eaten by dried fruit (perhaps that’s just me). The director dons the monster suit himself and deserves credit for providing a few moments of terror with his performance. He previously took on the guise of Psycho Goreman in the movie of the same name, so he’s clearly not afraid to bury himself beneath a rubber costume.

But despite the few positives that this movie does have, there is little else to recommend. Action fans might be interested to know that the opening of the movie has lots of explosions and forest-based firefights but expectations should be set to low as the practical effects fail to make much of an impact. At one point, the grass seems to catch on fire before an explosion takes place, so I’m assuming there was either a problem with editing or an issue with the explosives.

Despite the macho dramatics, as low-rent as they are, the story is muddled and boring. As it trundles on towards the end, it piles on cliche after cliché and you will be reminded of better movies you have seen before, such as Predator and Overlord.  Sure, you might appreciate the creature design and the sometimes decent set dressings but when the main characters open their mouths to speak, any hopes of a good time you may have had will quickly dissipate.

Of course, if you love bad movies, you might get more pleasure from this than those who don’t. In some ways, it is reminiscent of the Roger Corman monster movies that were made back in the 1950s, so if you enjoyed such titles as It Conquered The World and Attack Of the Crab Monsters, it might be that Death Valley is for you.

This might also be for you if you have a love of Steven Seagal and the bargain bin movies that he has starred in over the years. But if you have a low tolerance for such things, you might want to stay clear, as even a late-in-the-day twist isn’t enough to save this movie from painful mediocrity.

It’s a shame that this is so bad as the director clearly has some talent. With a better script and more talented actors, he could have made a decent film. Sadly, the finished product is a bit of a clumsy chore. Watch A Quiet Place again instead or better yet, give Psycho Goreman a go if you haven’t yet seen it, as that underrated monster gem is also streaming on Shudder.

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  • Verdict - 2.5/10

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