Death Valley follows two mercenaries who attempt to rescue a bioengineer from a mysterious underground lab housing a killer creature.
[This movie was viewed via Shudder.]
Death Valley Review
Something I've always found rather brave and respectable of the Shudder streaming service is its willingness to be open and transparent with its comment section just below every movie's details section. There you will find a wide spectrum of thoughts and feelings that cross a massive spectrum from loving a movie to threatening to leave Shudder for curating/creating such garbage. Personally, I refuse to judge a streaming service that is clearly trying its darnedest just because it doesn't hit it out of the park for my specific preferences every time. That's an impossible feat. And Shudder does a dang good job of giving something that a lot of different horror fans can appreciate. So, such comments enrage me almost more than two-sentence reviews that drop major spoilers unexpectedly. But that's neither here nor there...This time I actually agree with almost all comments I saw.
The general consensus for this film is that it has some decent creature design and a respectable commitment to good effects work, but is just absolutely awful in the arena of acting and writing. I about 90% agree with this assessment, but unfortunately that 10% of disagreement is not in this film's favor.
While I did appreciate the film's commitment to practical effects, I found the creature design rather bland and unoriginal. Sure, it has that grotesqueness and texture you hope to see in any practical effects attempt, but it also doesn't have any definable qualities we haven't seen 100 times before tracing back to the 80s. It's briefly intriguing to examine, but as soon as you get your long look (of which there are plenty of opportunities), you realize it's not all that special.
On top of the unoriginal design, the body suit actor gives a performance that is even more predictable than the creature itself. You get the usual mannerisms with a slouched/crouched posture, slow grasping motions whenever the creature enters a room, and the occasional twitch like its fighting off flies in a barn. While I am essentially singling out this movie for this derivative behavior, this has been a problem in most monster movies. There is some kind of blueprint for how a monster must move and it is rarely explored for variety, which is unfortunate. It's a problem in this movie, but this hardly the only creature feature with such an issue. Thankfully for the body suit actor, his performance might be the best of the bunch.
The acting is pretty bad. It's hard to get through at times. But the actors were dealt zero favors from the script. It is derivative of any scifi-action/scifi-horror flick with a military presence to an embarrassing degree. There is virtually no original scene, as "witty banter" that has been heard dozens of times before is defiantly treated like it wasn't blandly read from a first draft from a tired Die Hard sequel. It's bad enough that it feels like a parody, but the fact that it clearly wasn't designed to be makes it cringe-worthy.
Despite its massive flaws, I didn't struggle to make it through the film. It's a tight runtime and it has decent pacing, even though it spends too much time with its mercenary objective subplot that eats up almost the first half of the movie. It's almost like they tried to replicate the magic of the original Predator, but without the means and skill to pull it off. It just comes off as a poorly executed homage to too many scifi-horror films that are far superior. Which is unfortunate, as that is generally my favorite genre and Shudder has been hitting so well lately. But that's okay, they can't all be Anything for Jackson. And at least we got a decent monster with some mindless action along the way.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 7/10
Horror Quality: 5/10
Film Quality: 3/10