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‘Death Valley’ review: Great effects carry monster movie

Great special effects.

Death Valley is a creature feature with an action-adventure slant. Chloe (Kristen Kaster) is a bioengineer trapped in an underground facility. When she sends out an emergency distress signal, it attracts a team of mercenaries and an armed militia with opposing motivations. The lab is also set to be destroyed in 24 hours. On top of everything else a terrifying creature roams the bunker.

Things get off to a quick start with Chloe running and hiding from something in the dimly lit underground lab. There is plenty of blood and gore along with the monster. Death Valley appears to be settling in for a dark and tense ride. The film quickly switches to a brightly lit airfield. As it turns out, Death Valley is not going to be a straightforward horror. Much of the first act takes place in the forest and involves the two weaponized groups. Those looking for scares will be caught off guard.

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It is not long before Death Valley changes gears again, however. The film still has a few gunfights up its sleeve, but things take a much more frightening turn. The monsters are introduced along with a possible explanation for their existence, and a horrifying game of cat and mouse begins. Things also return to a darker more dread filled environment.

There is no denying the film is derivative. It more than pays homage to Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing while it is filled with tropes. This is not so much a knock against Death Valley as it is a fact. One of the reasons this never becomes an issue is the great creature design. Wisely, Death Valley shows the monster early. Building to a reveal is the norm, but in this case, showing off the effects early helps paper over the thin story. 

Death Valley is filled with some gruesome kills. There are some brutal stabbings even by horror movie standards and there is always the chance someone is going to be ripped to shreds. The surprisingly action packed final fight is part of another tonal change before things close on a standard horror twist. It is shockingly depressing, but it also fits into the all over the place nature of the film.

Death Valley comes to Shudder December 9

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