‘New approach to suspense’
Raccoon Valley is a 2018 American science-fiction horror film written, produced, edited and directed by Turner Clay (The Blackwell Ghost and its four sequels; Disaster L.A.; State of Emergency). Clay also handled the score, sound and VFX. The movie stars Terri Czapleski (The Blackwell Ghost), Justin Ray and Nick Cafero.
A plane carrying a biohazard crashes into a town. A deaf woman has to navigate her way through the aftermath of the accident…
Sensory disability horror, which started with Wait Until Dark (1967), was given new life in Don’t Breathe (2016) and achieved conspicuously hyped-up critical acclaim with A Quiet Place (2018), makes another appearance here, ostensibly riding a trendy wave that’s quickly losing its dewy freshness and could soon become a venal pandering contest if horror filmmakers don’t watch out.
Terri Czapleski plays a deaf woman – she remains unnamed – who is suddenly trapped in a quarantine zone after a plane full of toxic chemicals crashes and contaminates the area’s water supply, turning the remaining residents into shambling, white-face ghouls right out of Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls (1962); as a result, her character is virtually the only one in the movie, which means she has to carry it.
This is unfortunate because her acting range consists entirely of what the supposedly hipper crowd refers to as “resting bitch-face”, a character trait perfected by the wooden duo of Jennifer Lawrence and Brie Larson; this is apparently supposed to denote some kind of mystical inner female strength but instead makes the character look like a puerile cypher.
In order to flesh the woman’s role out and emphasise her deafness, Turner Clay, the one-man creative force behind Raccoon Valley, fills the background with aural flashbacks, sounds from her past echoed through her head. It does very little filling-in and actually becomes a nuisance early on. Meanwhile, the story itself is nearly non-existent, consisting of lots of wandering around and long, stony looks.
There’s very little in the way of original material here; as stated before, the deaf motif has already been done; the smattering of creatures that make an appearance are direct steals (homages?) from Carnival of Souls; even the main buzzy riff in the soundtrack is lifted directly from The Book of Eli (2010). Beyond that, the story is built upon movie logic as opposed to real-world logic, with an ending that suddenly jumps to a real-world conclusion, essentially providing a punchline and making everything prior to that moment moot.
Technically, the movie is impressive, considering the brazenly low $175 budget (it’s in the end credits, just so we know), with every creative aspect of the film – from writing and directing to the sound and special effects – handled by Turner Clay. Visually and aurally, Turner is incredibly talented; but he needs more work when it comes to plot construction.
When all’s said and done, Raccoon Valley can be thought of as a remarkably professional demo reel for him. It’s quite amazing what you can do with Blender, a GoPro, and a strong visual sense. Let’s hope Clay can bump his writing up to the same level as his technical skills with his next project.
Ben Spurling, MOVIES and MANIA
Aspect ratio: 16:9 HD
The film’s budget was apparently just $175.00