A fun but cliched zombie flick
Valley of the Dead is certainly not original, but it’s also not a bad zombie flick either. Set during the Spanish Civil War, Netflix’s latest Spanish romp combines comedy and horror together, walking a tightrope between both states – which it pulls off rather well.
The story never falls into the realm of outright comedy like something akin to Shaun of the Dead, while it doesn’t go all-in on its horror like the fantastic Train to Busan. Instead, this film carves a unique slice of the undead pie for itself tonally, although the flavours lack that spice needed to stand out.
The plot is rather straightforward, and essentially plays out as one big fetch quest. At the heart of this is Captain Jan Lozano, who’s on the verge of being killed when we first meet him. Lined up in front of a firing squad, he’s saved by his uncle, who just so happens to be a General.
After headbutting a judge and facing treason charges, Jan is given a get-out-of-death-free card. He’s tasked with traveling across to an officer on the other side of a Republican-held valley. Assigned a cowardly driver called Decruz, the pair head out…and immediately run into trouble.
Captured by Republicans, the duo find themselves in over their heads, as the dead start to rise and the two sides are forced to join into an uneasy alliance to survive.
This ultimately forms the crux of the narrative, with a story that balances action and drama. There are an equal number of shootouts with the undead as there are verbal disagreements between combatants. Interestingly, this also doubles up to learn more about the characters, which is a nice touch.
There’s a good deal of depth for some of these players too, while the usual archetypes like Brodski – a gruff, no-nonsense Russian – or “Priest Killer” – a badass female – diversify the group and stand out, despite their simplistic arcs.
As one may expect, not everyone makes it to the end, where the mission changes to finding a solution to this undead plague spreading across the land. I won’t spoil what happens here but suffice to say, the ending feels a bit perfunctory. Compared to the strong opening and the tone throughout, the final act hurries through to a resolution that may well leave you feeling a bit short-changed.
The humour itself is going to be a mixed bag but honestly, it’s actually pretty good. There are some genuinely good back and forth rapports with characters as they trade scathing quips to one another. Although this isn’t laugh out loud funny, this is at least more humorous than Thor: Love and Thunder, so there is that.
There’s almost a tinge of parody nestled in the screenplay too and whether intentional or not, the usual suspects like the obligatory “walk away from an explosion” make an appearance and work quite well.
Surprisingly, Valley of the Dead doesn’t actually have that much gore either. Given how these low budget movies tend to go, it’s not uncommon to find buckets of blood thrown everywhere for effect. Credit to the filmmakers then, this movie actually restrains itself and it’s all the stronger for it.
Speaking of effects, while the Spanish dialogue is obviously the more preferred option to watch this, the English dubbing is actually not bad. The characters follow the dialogue almost exclusively and don’t veer off into ad-libbing territory, which is a bonus.
However, this is also a film chock full of cliches. We still have the “evil Nazis” trope, the unstoppable undead only stopped by a bullet to the brain, and a McGuffin needed to fix everything. If you’re looking for something simple and easy to watch though, this film will certainly scratch that itch. Will it go down as one of the best zombie movies out there? That’s more debatable.
Valley of the Dead may not bring anything new or different to the zombie field, but that’s not to say it isn’t a fun ride. It certainly has some stand-out moments but doesn’t quite have the pizzazz to really shine against the mass of undead contenders in this field.
Read More: Valley of the Dead Ending Explained
Verdict - 6.5/10