Flipping through the bumblebee, trying to decide what to watch for Day 2, I spied a movie called Death Valley…because I’m a bit obsessed with Death Valley, CA and I was just there 6 weeks ago, I got inordinately excited about it. Would my excitement be rewarded or would Death Valley crap on my neck? Well, lemme tell ya, I became even more optimistic as the credits began to roll and names like Catherine Hicks of television’s 7th Heaven, Wilford Brimley, and Peter Billingsley rolled by. That’s Ralphie of A Christmas Story to you chum, in an early screen appearance. Oh yes, this was gonna be good.
Billingsley stars as Billy, a smart little kid who’s trying to deal with his parents’ divorce. Billy’s hopes of a reconciliation are soon evaporated when mom (Hicks) whisks him away from New York so the two go on a vacation out west with her new boyfriend. Their itinerary was to include Arizona, the Grand Canyon, gold mines, and of course Death Valley; man, it was like watching my life unfold right before my very eyes! Except…you know, different because it was taking place in 1982 instead of 2006 and it featured Catherine Hicks of television’s 7th Heaven instead of suntan lotion. But still, it was eerie!
Eventually Billy and co. are toodling around the desert in a station wagon and Billy spies out the back window a very evil looking old car with a shadowy driver. The car zooms past but you totally know it’s bad news, right? Yeah…so does Billy.
Before you know it, Billy is the target of a serial killer operating in the desert. Will he escape Death Valley with his life and/or sanity intact? Sheriff Wilford Brimley sure won’t…he gets a little too close for the killer’s comfort and ends up with a pickaxe in his chest.
This made me sad because for once Wilford Brimley wasn’t acting all cranky and really didn’t deserve a pickaxe to the chest. His tone in those diabetes commercials and those oatmeal commercials is another story, however.
Death Valley is a pretty decent thriller that would have benefited from a tighter script. As it stands, too much information is given away early on that takes away the impact of the ending. What works in this movie really works however: the eerie music, the stark setting, some tense cat-and-mouse sequences, and little itty bitty Peter Billingsley in a cowboy outfit. I'm not one to go crazy over kids whether they're cute or not...but c'mon. I just want to put him on a keychain!
I enjoyed Death Valley a lot (I tend to really dig this kind of horror/thriller), and not just because I’ve been there, I swear. There are some genuinely unnerving moments, but it’s just shy of being great. I give it 7.5 out of 10 did you know that the kid who played Flick in A Christmas Story went on to star in such porn films as The Wrong Snatch? It’s true!s. I wanna go back on vacation to Death Valley, serial killers or no serial killers!