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  Death Valley Resident Devil
Year: 2021
Director: Matthew Ninaber
Stars: Jeremy Ninaber, Ethan Mitchell, Kristen Kaster, Melissa Joy Boerger, Matt Daciw, Shemora Davy, Jeremy Dueck, Jacob Fortin, Jonah Fortin, Tyler Garton, Connor Mitchell, Justin Moses, Jacqueline Ninaber, Matthew Ninaber, Mike Ninaber, Dan Siswanto
Genre: Horror, ActionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: A long, dark tunnel, and two people running down it, with a large man standing at the other end - the way out - who has drawn his gun and obviously has no intention of allowing them to reach the door as it begins to close. The woman approaching behind sees her companion brought down by a bullet, but doesn't give up until another bullet hits her in the leg, and she tumbles to the ground, whereupon the gunman turns away as the door closes for good. Then it is a matter of the woman returning the way she came and she has to do that as fast as she can, despite her leg, as the door at the other end of the tunnel starts to close. She manages to get through, but the injured man grabs her foot as she does - then is dragged back under by something fearsome.

So what's that all about? Could it be the latest instalment of the Resident Evil franchise? Death Valley blatantly had aspirations to be that, which made it unfortunate there was a fair-budgeted reboot of Resident Evil released the same month that got the publicity, but really we were in the territory of Alien opening in cinemas and the likes of Roger Corman producing rip-off after rip-off to cash in on its good name. Whether the computer game-based franchise actually had a good name to cash in on was more debatable, but it had managed to rack up a collection of very similar-looking action horrors that had generated a loyal cult following of fans who could, at a push, tell you the difference between one entry in the series and another. Would they be fooled by this item?

It was oddly titled, you had to say, since the name Death Valley evokes sunblasted desert locations and most of this took place in a Canadian forest when it was not in a scientific bunker. Also, it was a title already well used for a number of other exploitation flicks, so something more distinctive would have been advisable. Its director, Matthew Ninaber, had been the monster in instant cult favourite PG: Psycho Goreman the very same year, and while he portrayed the creature here too, there was nothing like the personality from that to be seen in this, no matter that the lead actors Jeremy Ninaber (lot of Ninabers in this cast) and Ethan Mitchell had a fair line in jokey banter to lend themselves a few rough edges. In case you thought they were simply cannon fodder, that was: the cannon fodder were the Russian soldiers who have trapped the woman (Kristen Kaster), a scientist, in the bunker with the creature.

That creature was a familiar design too, a sightless, toothy horror with long claws which despatched any human it encountered and turned them into bitey zombies; the scientist puts out a video message that only she can save humanity from the trouble brewing under the ground, which is why the duo of likely lads (soon joined by others) are trying to rescue her and not be shot by the Russians in the process. There was a bit of business on the subject of conscience when it came to putting a bullet between the eyes of someone who has been trying to kill you, but it didn't take too well, especially when most watching this were hoping for some good old fashioned blood and thunder, not a morality lesson. The director did a decent enough job on relatively slender resources, but there was nothing surprising about it, nothing inspired, and it quickly settled into a runaround with added chomping and shooting, much like every Resident Evil movie did. They got that right, if indeed it was their inspiration (it could have been coincidence, one supposed), but it's not as if it's impossible to concoct something original within these means, and Death Valley failed middlingly on that count.

[Death Valley - Shudder Original
New film premieres 9th December 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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