Death Valley, a horror film released in 1982, is a movie about a serial killer and if one were to really call it a horror movie, it would be more horror-lite than anything else. There is not a lot to be frightened of in this picture and it features no scares to be had whatsoever though the situation itself is one that is disturbing. More than anything else, this film could be called a thriller and when stacked up against other movies released in the same year like The Thing, Poltergeist, Basket Case and so many more, it ends up being fairly tame.
The story concerns a little boy as played by Peter Billingsley, who travels to Arizona with his mom on holiday where she meets up with her new boyfriend Mike, played to perfection by Paul Le Mat. Billy is none too thrilled with the situation as he would rather his father and mother get back together and so it seems like the trip will be a bust. Things soon get better, though Billy notices some strange happenings like finding an abandoned motorhome which is soon learned to have been the scene of a crime and so forth. Soon Billy is the target of a killer who believes Billy to know too much and it looks as if he will not be walking away from this unless he gets a little help.
While the movie might be light on horror, it is suspenseful and keeps the viewer engaged once it gets going. Billingsley is surprisingly good and manages to hold his own as the lead of the film. Also starring is Catherine Hicks as Billy’s mother, Edward Herrmann his father and Stephen McHattie as the villain of the piece – the three rounding out the cast quite nicely. Even Wilford Brimley manages to put in an appearance, the man seemingly in every movie or show at the time and his presence, though short as it was, made the picture that much better for it. The performances are good, but it is Billingsly and McHattie that the movie is mainly centered on with Le Mat and Hicks bringing up the rear to make it all quite entertaining.
There are little special effects to be had, though the music by Dana Kaproff is good and that in itself could be considered one as it really bolsters the film and keeps things going, enhancing both the tension and drama present. While it is a thoroughly enjoyable experience, Death Valley is nothing a person would not end up seeing in a movie of the week affair on one of the major networks. Altogether, Death Valley is not a great film, but a good one and worth checking out if given the chance.
3 out of 5