Death Valley Review
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Movies and TV shows often show the glamorous side of Hollywood—the celebrities, the relationships, and, of course, the outrageous parties. But in the indie thriller Death Valley, a wild night in Hollywood turns into a deadly day in the desert.

Death Valley begins with two couples racing to Las Vegas on a deserted highway after a night of partying in Los Angeles. Hollywood hotshot Billy Rich (Lochlyn Munro) is drunk at the wheel, eager to marry Annie (Katrina Law), a pretty young actress whom he just met. Tourists Roy and Jamie Dillen (Nick E. Tarabay and Victoria Pratt) are along for the ride. But then a mysterious woman appears out of nowhere, shooting at Billy’s car. Billy hits the woman and kills her, spinning out and destroying his car in the process. And the four revelers end up stranded in the desert, battling each other as they fight for survival.

As the characters wander off into a strikingly desolate landscape, hoping to find the main highway—and a passing motorist to help them out—the suspense builds and the dangers increase. It soon becomes clear that the dead woman in the street wasn’t alone—and there could be a killer nearby.

The story that plays out, then, is one of ambition and survival. None of the characters here are especially likable. Billy is all ego, worrying more about himself and his career than about the dead woman in the street. Roy has more than his share of dark secrets. And Annie is so vain that she insists on hiking through the desert in heels because she likes how they make her legs look. And even though Jamie seems to be the most sensible of the four, her obvious hatred of the others doesn’t exactly make her a pleasant character.

Still, there’s something about these four self-absorbed characters that gives the film a different kind of tension, making it stand out from the typical thriller. Apart from Roy, who’s had some kind of experience in the wilderness, they’re completely out of their element. As they march off into the desert, popping pills (for the pain, of course), guzzling even more booze (to stay hydrated), and acting like it’s all one big party, you probably won’t be rooting for them. In fact, it’s more likely that you’ll not-so-secretly hope that they get what they deserve. And as, one by one, they turn up dead, you’ll be more intrigued by the building mystery than heartbroken by the loss. The conclusion is rather abrupt—tying up the loose ends in the quickest way possible—but the journey is still an entertaining one.

By placing a group of troubled, self-centered characters in the middle of a life-or-death situation, Death Valley tells a quietly suspenseful story about the quest for survival in the desert. It may not have quite the same polish as a big-budget release, but it’s a tense and gritty on-demand thriller.

Ed. Note: Death Valley is now available for streaming on demand through services like Amazon Video.

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