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Death Valley

June 10th, 2008 by unkle lancifer · 6 Comments

death valley

A trillion years ago I remember seeing DEATH VALLEY some late night in the early days of cable. I remember being a bit bored and disappointed by the fact that it was not the slasher flick I envisioned it to be in my head. Well let this be a lesson to you folks, watching it again some decades later with little memory of it and the lowest of expectations, I have to say I enjoyed the hell of it. Admittedly, I was off to a bad start, the film’s cute opening montage in New York is set to music that veers way too close to the opening theme to my own personal kryptonite, mid-eighties HOWARD HESSEMAN sitcom atrocity HEAD OF THE CLASS (a cold shiver just went down my spine). Happily the intellectual New Yorker divorcee rom-com vibe is quickly dropped and we are whisked to Arizona and are witness to something that could be likened to “Circus of the KINDERTRAUMA Stars.” Having already been graced with LOST BOYS heavy EDWARD HERRMANN, as the Princeton Professor pop, and Messy Marvin/BOB CLARK protégé PETER BILLINGSLY as the soon-to-be-terrorized tyke in trouble, the appearance of Chucky fodder CATHERINE HICKS as mom, walrus-faced THING-a-mabob WIFRED BRIMLEY as the Sheriff, and my new favorite lizard-person LOOK WHAT’S HAPPENED TO ROSEMARY’s BABY‘s STEPHEN McHATTIE as the kooky psycho just seems to good to be true. The story is simple; during a road trip, while adjusting to the presentation of his recently divorced mother’s new beau (STRANGE INVADER‘s PAUL Le MAT) little Billy gets his nose stuck in the business of a raving psychopath who must now dispose of the kid who knows too much and anyone else who gets in his way. Expecting no thrills or kills, I was surprised that there were actually several. They’re mostly straightforward neck slashings but one person’s demise, I have to admit, really caught me off guard. McHATTIE is great as the psychotic threat. His piercing presence is almost RUTGEUR HAUER-hypnotic, in some ways he’s like a deloused and properly exfoliated JAMES WOODS. Movies that feature kids in harms way are practically illegal these days which makes DEATH VALLEY seem all the more original. Although parts of it are too subtle for its own good (BILLINGSLY‘s transformation from timid in an early confrontation to someone who is willing to blast away his aggressor is too underplayed), this is a unique addition to the horror road-movie sub genre with some surprisingly clever direction that routinely uses the audience’s expectations against them.
indelible scenes
  • Scary car with HEX license plate
  • The motor home kills; sorta tame, but orchestrated well, Slasher fans are even thrown a couple boobs for their troubles.
  • Pleasantly plump babysitter is lured to her death with the promise of a free sody pop
  • MACGYVER-like toxic bomb created by a shower cap filled with shampoo, perfume and other assorted toiletries
  • Contrary to it’s earlier subtle tone a super obvious shocking reveal at the end is presented in hilarious slow-mo and freeze-frames to give the audience time to process what they’ve figured out an hour ago


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Tags: Tykes in Trouble

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 mamamiasweetpeachesNo Gravatar // Jun 10, 2008 at 10:18 am

    Wait a minute….”Ralphy” from A CHRISTMAS STORY is in this? SOLD!

    * NETFLIX doesn’t have it: How would one go about seeing this movie?

  • 2 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jun 10, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Mama. Alas, this one is not on DVD yet. There are some used vhs tapes on Amazon but they’re pretty expensive. Hopefully this will get a proper DVD release real soon.

    I did find this link to a DVD available on ioffer but I’m not sure about how that system works or about the quality…


  • 3 IrvingWallaceNo Gravatar // Jun 10, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    I had to dig through many old vhs bins to find this one! I love this movie! i saw it on tv actually a long ass time ago when i was like 10 or something, i was like hey its Ralphie…what the hell? This movie is so good, its one of my favs. Indelible Scene: Wilfred Brimley gets an axe in the chest! what more could you want?

  • 4 mrcanacornNo Gravatar // Jun 10, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Holy cats!  I remember Death Valley fondly.  I was young, but I remember being totally shocked by the twist at the end (My mom, on the other hand, has no excuse for not catching on)!

    As a kid, I always wanted to get trapped in a bathroom by some psycho (that sounds really wrong) because I knew just what to do thanks to this movie.

    Thanks for reminding me of another kid in peril classic, Uncle Lancifer…you’re the best!

  • 5 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jun 10, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    @ I.W: “one person’s demise, I have to admit, really caught me off guard…” That was Wilfred’s pick ax through the chest scene! It’s brilliant. There’s little or no build-up just the tension between the two guys then as soon as the tension breaks and it seems like we’re in the clear it comes out of nowhere. It really got me. I also loved the switch at the end when you think the kid is being run down by the guy in the car and then…O.K., I don’t want to ruin it but there are a bunch of great twists here that I wasn’t expecting and I should mention by film’s end there really is a point to it all as well. One more thing, after the family leaves the kook’s pad and it seems like he’s dead you see the lights turn off one by one revealing that things are not over yet, very simple and very effective.

    @Mr.Canacorn: I should state that my having figured out the ending might be due to the fact that I saw this before! Still, that slo-mo was way out of control!

  • 6 mamamiasweetpeachesNo Gravatar // Jun 11, 2008 at 8:44 am

    HAHAHAHA! I love the way MRCANACORN thinks: Hoping to get caught in a bathroom one day just so he can hone the ass-kicking survival skills he learned from “Ralphy”!

    For YEARS people have asked me why I watch Horror movies and just recently I’ve come up with The Answer That Shuts Them Up: “When the zombies attack I’LL know what to do!”

    Dumb-Ass Friend: Why do you watch EVIL DEAD?
    Me: When the zombies attack I’LL know what to do!

    Dumb-Ass Friend: Why do you watch INVASION OF THE BODYSNATCHERS?

    Dumb-Ass Friend: Why do you watch THE SHINING?
    Me: When Jack Nicholson attacks I’LL know what to do!

    Dumb-Ass Friend: Why do you watch ICE CASTLES?
    Me: OhmyGod….who told you I watch ICE CASTLES??? I am so friggin embaressed!

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