‘The mission has gone to hell’
Death Valley is a 2021 Canadian monster movie about a bioengineer and mercenaries who are attacked by a creature in a cold war bunker.
Written, directed by Matthew Ninaber (director of Transference; Extraction Day; Last Run). Produced by Chad Archibald, Cody Calahan and Matthew Ninaber. Executive produced by Matthew Ninaber, Ira Levy, Michael McGuigan and Patrick Ewald.
The Black Fawn Films–Breakthrough Entertainment-High Rise Studio co-production stars Jeremy Ninaber (Escape the Dark), Ethan Mitchell (Escape the Dark), Kristen Kaster (If I Should Die), Matthew Ninaber (Psycho Goreman; Death on Scenic Drive), Justin Moses, Melissa Joy Boerger and Matt Daciw.
When a secret experiment goes horribly wrong, bioengineer Doctor Chloe (Kristen Kaster) becomes trapped inside a secret underground facility. With only 24 hours before a fatal decontamination protocol destroys the entire lab, Chloe deploys an emergency distress signal before a terrifying creature (Matthew Ninaber) of unknown origin can consume what’s left of her.
Alerted by the distress beacon, battle-weary guns for hire, Marshall (Ethan Mitchell) and Beckett (Jeremy Ninaber) are commissioned to carry out a covert operation to extract the imprisoned scientist. Upon deployment, the team is ambushed by another heavily armed militia hell-bent on finding a way into the compound themselves.
Severely outnumbered, the mercenaries find entry to the bunker through an unsealed emergency hatch only to find themselves in a horrific fight for survival. With time and ammunition running out, the team must locate Doctor Chloe while also navigating the underground maze of corridors before they’re hunted down one by one…
Death Valley is a formulaic sci-fi horror flick that recalls countless 80s/90s Alien rip-offs, certain Syfy movies and the Resident Evil franchise. That said, the monster looks cool, the plot moves fairly quickly and it’s all done with a certain amount of aplomb.
So, despite a slightly overlong running time, some painful shenanigans with annoying Russians in the woods, Biblical bullshit and dubious ‘heroes’, it’s at least slightly better than average and may be worth a watch. Approach with caution and in a forgiving mood.
Adrian J Smith, MOVIES and MANIA
“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 […] 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.” AIPT
” …closer to an 80s creature feature like The Terror Within so either be warned or be pleased. Audrey Barrett […] created an amazing monster costume, however, Sure, all it does is repeatedly throw people into walls, but it’s a gorgeous practical suit, yet another throwback to the glory days of direct to rental 80s VHS […] I just wish it had a movie to go with the great effects.” B&S About Movies
“A twist towards the end makes for an intriguing blend of drama and cheese, but that also speaks to one of the film’s greater qualities. With very few moments of melodrama, Ninaber maintains a narrative pace that delivers thrills and effective downtime; working with a solid script, each actor plays into the science-fiction mystery taking place within the bunker…” Bloody Disgusting
“Unintentional cheesiness and spotty performances take the biggest chunks out of its credibility. Sloppy small details add splash damage too, like the word “Initiative” repeatedly misspelled, including on an embroidered patch worn by the scientist in distress. But I can’t give Death Valley a failing grade either. The creature looks cool, certainly good enough for an X-Files monster of the week.” Culture Crypt
“The cool gore shots, occasional jolts, and sometimes compelling monster scenes can be truncated to just two minutes. The rest is padding. Padding with uneven audio mixing, arbitrary editing, and a soundtrack that thumps like every other sci-fi/horror hybrid […] It’s so misguided in its earnestness and efforts at appearing cool, it alienates the audience.” Dread Central
“Technically competent throughout, and there’s decent creature design to help, Death Valley just can’t do enough to overcome its limitations. And it doesn’t seem to try hard enough. Even the “rules” we’re told about the creature don’t seem consistent, or interesting enough to help this stand out from a crowded field.” For It Is Man’s Number
” …Ninaber threads this critter walk with just enough morsels of story (some hokum about the monster being the biblical Nephilim) both to keep our curiosity burning and justify making Kaster’s character what initially appears to be just another box-ticking kick-ass lady […] Death Valley is never fully disturbing, but enjoyably gross is good enough.” The Guardian
” …it had a truly impressive production quality when it came to the action scenes […] This time around, it just became a strange hybrid that didn’t really work as the monster-horror movie it should be. Having stated that I was pretty disappointed with the overall experience, I do also recognize that someone else might have a blast with Death Valley.” Heaven of Horror
“This is definitely a Ninaber family affair, with Ninabers popping up throughout the cast and crew. It works relatively well on a pure meathead level, but we expected something more original from producers Cody Calahan and Chad Archibald, who teamed together on inventive films like Vicious Fun and The Oak Room. Just a so-so time-killer.” J.B. Spins
“Death Valley is certainly a step up from Transference and Ninaber certainly seems to have a feel for monster movies. I do wish he’d managed to make the feeling of being trapped underground come through a bit more, the base should have been a more claustrophobic and menacing setting […] Despite that, Death Valley is an enjoyable bit of monster mayhem…” Voices from the Balcony
Death Valley was acquired by Shudder is available for streaming in North America, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand on December 9th 2021.
In the US, Death Valley will be released on Blu-ray and DVD by RLJE Films on May 17, 2022. Special features:
Audio commentary by cast and crew
The Making of Death Valley featurette
Cast and character:
Jeremy Ninaber … Beckett
Ethan Mitchell … Marshall
Kristen Kaster … Doctor Chloe
Matthew Ninaber … Monster
Justin Moses … Moses
Melissa Joy Boerger … Jessica
Matt Daciw … Olek
Jacqueline Ninaber … Rachel
Connor Mitchell … Flight Attendant
Dan Siswanto … Alpha 1
Jeremy Dueck … Cadaver
Mike Ninaber … Russian Man
Jeff Waters … Preacher
Julie Murphy … Dead Woman
Tyler Garton … Flame Thrower
Jacob Fortin … Jacob
Jonah Fortin … Jonah
Shemora Davy … Alpha 2
1 hour 33 minutes
Not to be confused with horror-thriller Death Valley (1982).