DEATH VALLEY (2021)
Directed and written by Matthew Ninaber.
Starring Jeremy Ninaber, Ethan Mitchell, Kristen Kaster, Matthew Ninaber, Matt Daciw, Jacqueline Ninaber, Jonah Fortin, Melissa Joy Boerger, Justin Moses, Jeff Waters
Beckett (Jeremy Ninaber) and Marshall (Ethan Mitchell) are a pair of guns for hire are sent into a foreign country to recover a scientist Chloe (Kristen Kaster) in an underground bunker surrounded by armed militia. Attempting to avoid the militia, the two mercs break in through the backdoor and descend into the darkness not knowing that there is both an infection spreading to those alive in the bunker as well as a large monster killing anyone who isn’t infected.
DEATH VALLEY is about as middle of the road as you’re going to get. It doesn’t have over the top action or astounding new ideas. The story is hardly original as it mixes some PREDATOR with a little ALIENS with a standard jungle action movie tossed in. There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with the film, but it never goes out of its way to do anything truly spectacular. Still it is highly watchable. While the story is quite predictable, it still isn’t bad enough to turn off. That might not be the best compliment for the film, but it also shouldn’t steer you away from DEATH VALLEY, but that’s what it is.
Jeremy Ninaber is likable enough as our chiseled lead. He spouts lines well and looks stern while aiming his rifle, yet allows the audience to see his softer side as he promises to come home to his wife after this one last mission. Ethan Mitchell is passible as well as the wise-cracking sidekick with a quip for everything, even when he’s wounded and bleeding. These two try to make their characters less than cliches but the film really doesn’t do much to help them.
The monster itself (played by writer/director Matthew Ninaber) looks decent enough, but again, it’s anything that’s going to knock your socks off or send you under the covers. He’s a drooling tumor in a KY slicked-up body suit. It reminded me of a less exaggerated Pumpkinhead with a bit of the titular character from the old sci fi movie THE CREATURE. The workable jaw gives it some ways to emote and growl, but his head is so undiscernible, it looks more like a turd than anything else.
It may seem like I’m being hard on DEATH VALLEY. It isn’t a bad film. More of a decent afternoon time waster. It’s aspiring for greatness and maybe if it had the money to afford a larger scope, more distinctive effects, and maybe a recognizable actor or two, it might have been something special. As is, I’m giving DEATH VALLEY a mild recommendation for not doing anything wrong, but not necessarily doing anything worth cheering about.