Valley of the Dead is certainly not original, but it’s not a bad zombie movie either. Netflix’s latest Spanish spoof, set during the Spanish Civil War, blends comedy and horror, walking a tightrope between both states—and it’s pretty well done.
The story never descends into the realm of Shaun of the Dead-esque comedy, nor does it contain its horror like the fantastical Train to Busan. Instead, this film tonally cuts a unique slice of the undead pie, though the flavors lack the spice needed to stand out.
The plot is quite simple and essentially acts as one big quest. At the center of this is Captain Jean Lozano, who is on the verge of being killed when we first meet him. Lined up in front of the firing squad, he was rescued by his uncle, a general.
After headbutting a judge and facing charges of treason, Jan is given a get-away-from-death card. He was instructed to go to the officer on the other side of the valley, which was controlled by the Republicans. Assigned a cowardly driver named Decruz, the pair set off and immediately ran into trouble.
Captured by the Republicans, the duo find themselves in over their heads when the dead begin to rise and the two sides are forced to form an uneasy alliance to survive.
This is ultimately the essence of narrative with a story that balances action and drama. There are an equal number of gunfights with deaths due to verbal disagreements between the combatants. Interestingly, this also doubles as learning more about the characters, which is a nice touch.
There’s a fair amount of depth to some of these players, too, while common archetypes like Brodsky – the gruff, no-nonsense Russian – or The Killing Priestess – the badass woman – make the group diverse and stand out despite their simple arcs.
As expected, not everyone makes it to the end, where the mission shifts to find a solution to this undead plague that is spreading across the earth. I won’t spoil what happens here, but suffice it to say, the ending seems a little odd. Compared to the strong opening and tone, the final act rushes to a resolution that may leave you feeling a little short-changed.
The humor itself is going to be a mixed bag, but honestly, it’s actually pretty good. There’s a really good relationship with the characters saying nasty things to each other. While this isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, it’s at least more humorous than Thor: Love and Thunder , so there’s that.
There’s almost a hint of parody in the screenplay, too, and whether it’s intentional or not, the usual suspects like the forced “walk away from the explosion” make an appearance and work quite well.
Low Budget Movie
Surprisingly, there isn’t actually that much blood in the Valley of the Dead. Given how these low-budget movies go, it’s not unusual to find buckets of blood thrown everywhere for effect. Credit to the cinematographers then, this film actually holds its own and is all the stronger for it.
Speaking of effects, the English dub is actually not bad, although the Spanish dialogue is the more preferred option to watch this one. The characters pretty much just follow the dialogue and don’t jump into the area for ads, which is a bonus.
However, it is also a film full of clichés. We still have the love of “bad Nazis,” unstoppable immortals stopped only by a bullet to the brain, and needing a McGuffin to set things right. Although, if you’re looking for something simple and easy to watch, this movie will certainly scratch that itch. Will it go down as one of the best zombie movies out there? This is more controversial.
Valley of the Dead may not bring anything new or different to the zombie realm, but that’s not to say it isn’t a fun ride. It certainly has some highlights, but lacks the pizzazz to really shine against the crowd of undead contenders in the field.