MOVIE REVIEW – Valley of the Dead is certainly not an original zombie movie, but it’s not bad either. Set during the Spanish Civil War, this horror film combines comedy, horror and action, mixing the genres in significant proportions and with great skill.
The World War II zombie theme has been popular in horror films since the zombie add-ons in the Call of Duty games. There have been World War II (Overlord) and American Civil War (Exit Humanity) zombie films, and now the familiar undead have invaded the Spanish Civil War thanks to Alberto de Toro and Javier Ruiz Caldera’s Valley of the Dead. The film has nothing to do with Zack Snyder’s ongoing Army of the Dead franchise; the Netflix film is more reminiscent of John Carpenter’s classic horror creations. He plays another maniacal mad god, raising the dead and threatening humanity with an undead apocalypse, as we’ve seen many times before, only this time there’s an interesting European cultural context and historical period to the familiar zombie thriller plot.
Two soldiers on a suicide mission
Fifth Brigade captain Jan Lozano (Miki Esparbé) is about to be executed but is given a chance to redeem himself and prove his loyalty by accepting a suicide mission into enemy territory with his self-righteous young driver Decruz (Manel Llunell). Jan doesn’t miss the opportunity and finds himself caught between nationalists and revolutionaries as a courier. Still, it’s a zombie film, not a war film, so his mission is soon eclipsed after Jan is captured by revolutionaries, threatening their lives, and soon the undead on the loose, the result of Nazi experiments, appear.
The story then proceeds in the traditional vein of zombie road movies, with the usual attacks, the addition of new characters and the constant attrition of the team. The heroes, victims and villains, made up of various soldiers and civilians, are pretty interesting, thanks also to the fascinating historical period, which consists, among other things, of passionate revolutionaries, cynical and burnt-out nationalists and civilians who join one side or the other, or who happen to be from both sides. Of course, while there’s very little time to go into more detail about the movie’s era, the Spanish Civil War setting is still more interesting than the one that recently hit Netflix, the tiredly familiar Resident Evil. Perhaps it is due to this, or the Spanish crew, that there is none of the SJW, BLM, and other such modern, typical Netflix snowflake nonsense forced into the film. Even if most of the characters are somewhat clichéd, they are still more believable than, for example, in the aforementioned unfortunate Resident Evil. I should note here that there is more “Resident Evil” in this film (I mean, as far as the zombie theme goes) than in the series based on the Capcom franchise.
It’s pretty predictable where the Valley of the Dead story is going from scene to scene, which is a shame. The directors, de Toro and Caldera, follow the well-trodden path of classic zombie movies. If you’ve seen anything by George A. Romero, or any of the endless Romero copies, you’re two steps ahead every time Valley of the Dead moves forward in the story. Jan has to convince her captors that fighting together is the only means of survival, the group learns about zombie infestations in the midst of the fight, and various characters keep dying. Although screenwriters Jaime Marques and Cristian Conti seem to be adapting Manuel Martín’s novel Noche de Difuntos del 38 as if it were just another reboot of the zombie mythos, they are also treading the path blazed by countless previous filmmakers.
Nevertheless, Valley of the Dead still seems relatively novel in its use of the Nazi undead as biological warfare. Overlord was a much more drastic and epic Nazi zombie movie, but Toro and Caldera as horror directors have taken the easy way out.
Despite the funny and clichéd story, the message of the film is still relevant to us
Sticking to the usual zombie movie clichés, Valley of the Dead remains at the standard zombie war horror level. What remains relatively attractive, however, is the portrayal of various soldiers and revolutionaries, constantly bickering with each other, with opposing ideologies and beliefs, who, despite their views, are forced to unite and fight to the death against the zombies who are destroying everyone and the Nazis who control them. If there is an allegory that is a perfect fit for our country, it is this…