Death Valley [Blu-Ray]

Directed by Dick Richards

> > Dec 07 2012

Death Valley [Blu-Ray] - Directed by Dick Richards
By Robert BellIn titillating rudimentary emotions and visceral thrills, the slasher genre is, at its core, the most simplistic and sensationalist of genres, speaking generally. As such, it traditionally appeals to teenagers and socially isolated men, limited in emotional maturity, who are able to derive superficial pleasures from sheer sensory excess, not having a greater capacity to interpret the voyeuristic act of indulging in dehumanizing acts for what it is. In such, given the inherent inability, or refusal, to comprehend the greater human experience, this genre, known for blood and breasts — a pornographic metaphor, with murder substituting for the traditional male ejaculation — tends to also be the most moralistic, having a terrifyingly limited and judgmental spectrum, doling out punishment to anyone that doesn't adhere to traditional gender standards and social roles. In the case of Death Valley, this rigid, shockingly solipsistic sense of moral absolutism is particularly grating and appalling. The recently divorced Sally (Catherine Hicks) takes son Billy (Peter Billingsley) to Arizona to do a meet and greet with new beau Mike (Paul Le Mat), even though Billy isn't keen on the idea, as presented in the opening scene with his unrealistically perfect father (Edward Herrmann). What unfolds is a series of events, wherein Billy is threatened by a crazed serial killer (Stephen McHattie) every time his mother pays more attention to her new boyfriend than him. At first, he wanders into a strange trailer, where a topless girl was murdered just moments prior, which is seemingly the motivation for this killer to target a ten-year-old boy. Later, after Mike irresponsibly gives him a toy gun, Billy is attacked at a faux-Western saloon, which is mostly ignored when his mom leaves him with an obese babysitter for a night out with her new man. And since any woman that doesn't present symptoms of anorexia or mortal illness isn't considered a human being within this narrow male lexicon, the overweight babysitter is reduced to a candy-eating caricature and is graphically murdered near a snack machine to maximize childish body-type critique. Everything about Death Valley is exceedingly predictable and bland, even by 1982 standards. In fact, the only thing surprising about this film is that the divorced mother wasn't graphically violated and murdered for daring to express any sort of sexuality outside of the traditional family unit. Although, it is ultimately the child that is forced to murder the serial killer, suggesting that the lack of a male role model will inevitably lead to his social decline, which is even more sanctimonious and sly than punishing mommy for not sewing up her vagina immediately following her blasphemous divorce (which is, of course, entirely her fault). Only a TV spot and trailer are included with the Blu-Ray, but there's a quote on the reverse sleeve of the Blu-Ray that raves about Peter Billingsley's unpretentious performance. Yes, someone referred to a ten-year old's acting as "unpretentious."
(Shout! Factory)
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