DEATH VALLEY: THE REVENGE OF BLOODY BILL
Release year: 2003
WARNING: this review contains spoilers.
It may be hard to conceive it now, but there actually was a time when zombies weren’t everywhere, and any zombie movie was cause for some excitement. Yes, indeed: there was a time before The Walking Dead and the undying surge in zombie popularity caused by the TV series based on the graphic novel of the same name.
One of the cornerstones of modern zombie horror, 28 Days Later, was released in 2002. Long before The Walking Dead, that signalled a small resurgence for zombies: a zombie movie that was positively received. Two years later, the remake of Dawn Of The Dead was released; ignore the naysayers, that one is actually a bona fide good movie.
And, chronologically, between them: this movie. Released in 2003, it’s obvious that the creators had seen 28 Days Later. Why? Well, there are running zombies here, and everyone knows it was 28 Days Later that popularized them. Sadly, the producers were unable to copy the most important aspect of said movie to their bastard abomination: quality.
The background story is fucking stupid, but decent b-movies have been made from worse. So, apparently, during or after the civil war, a confederate general named William T. Anderson aka Bloody Bill (a historical character, by the way – but the real Bloody Bill has nothing to do with the bad guy of this movie) terrorized the small town of Sunset Valley. After a while, the townsfolk grew tired of his bullying ways and killed him. Apparently no other means worked except impaling him with his own sword – the rationale behind this is never revealed. Then they burned the coffin to prevent him from coming back.
Of course, and you already knew this, it didn’t work. He came back and cursed the townsfolk to serve him in death as bloodthirsty zombies.
Enter a group of modern day college kids – a debate team, none the less! – who’re forced to enter the cursed town of Sunset Valley after being kidnapped by a small-time drug pusher searching for his partner and, more importantly, a big wad of cash and lotsa cocaine. As the unwitting fools enter Sunset Valley, Bloody Bill and his bloody buddies come back to life to dine on living flesh. Moderate amounts of cheap bloodshed ensues.
Death Valley: The Revenge Of Bloody Bill is replete with the basic elements of a low-budget c-movie. Of course the actors are bad. Naturally the props are cheap and unconvincing: the guns are obviously plastic. The gore looks bad and the zombies cheap. Unsurprisingly, the town of Sunset Valley is full of small details that are not consistent with a late 19th century setting, when the town was supposedly abandoned. And so on. These are things you expect from a cheap movie like this, and are ready to forgive if there are other redeeming factors.
Of course, you guessed it: there aren’t.
The by far biggest flaw of Death Valley is a complete and utter disregard for any kind of continuity. It ranges from the small details to major plot elements.
For example, it is revealed that Bloody Bill became angered with the town, and started to subject them to his wrath, after they killed his sister. But they killed his sister to avenge Bloody Bill’s violence towards the town. Contradictory much?
Other inconsistencies and points of discontinuity pop up all of the time. For example, at one point we see a shot of one of the teens with a half-devoured, bloody and messed up face. In the next scene she is OK, and it takes a good ten minutes before the zombies get her – and indeed, chew up her face. At another point, one character shoots a zombie in the head, only to pick up an axe from that same zombie’s head in the next scene. Or maybe it was a revolver that shoots axes? And at one point, one character picks up their car keys from inside a building, only to inexplicably be outside of it in the next, running around the corner towards the door. And those car keys are one item that is subjected to continuous discontinuity; they move themselves from place to place and person to person magically.
Really, the movie is so full of continuity issues that they start to seem deliberate. Or maybe just nobody, and I mean nobody, involved in the production gave a fuck about how this turd turned out.
Discontinuity is the single biggest flaw of the movie, but there are other things as well. Classic ones, really.
For one, the writing is extremely sloppy. How does the drug dealer – Earl – know how to look for his friend in this god-forsaken ghost town, when the opening scenes clearly show said friend wandering into the town entirely on random, without even calling anyone? How can the sole survivor trick Bloody Bill into believing she is her long-lost sister when Bill clearly sees her escape into a room with a single door? All she needs to do is pull on some gown and speak in the most phoney southern accent I ever heard. Why does Earl the kidnapper let one kid flee (ostensibly to look for help), but throws a shit fit when another one tries to? And so on.
Another classic element is the lack of physicality. Shooting consists of little more than pointing a piece of plastic in a direction, with a sound effect added later on. When the main actress beheads Bloody Bill in the end, she obviously swings at thin air. There’s no connection between gun and zombie, sword and Bill, and as a result all of the action is thoroughly unconvincing.
One thing worth special mention is the music; drab industrial metal/rock that’s not godawful, but very silly. The reason I bring this up is because it’s maybe the movie’s single claim to fame: the music was made by one-time The Scorpions (yes, that The Scorpions!) bass player Ralph Rieckermann. Seriously, quitting The Scorpions to make music for movies like this? Don’t do it, man.
Death Valley is a classic turd. It’s shittiness consists of an endless amount of small things and a complete disregard for basic things that would event potentially have made the movie, well, half-decent. The senseless plot, the lack of continuity, the horrible acting, the inconsistencies, the sloppy writing, the overall cheapness; everything is just testament to the fact that nobody gave a fuck. They went in to make this movie without any illusions or ambition to make good or even decent movie. No passion, no dedication – and, obviously, no talent.
And, really, I love that. That lack of ambition and effort. If you can go low, why not see how low you can go? In the case of Death Valley, pretty fucking low.