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.
- 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