In “Overlord,” the Germans invade Madrid during the Spanish Civil War.
I’ve seen zombies tear through World War II (Overlord), disrupt the American Civil War (Exit Humanity), and now I’ve seen them wreak havoc during the Spanish Civil War thanks to Alberto de Toro and Javier Ruiz Caldera’s Valley of the Dead. There is no connection to the Zack Snyder-led Army of the Dead franchise; rather, according to its creators, Netflix’s import takes inspiration from John Carpenter’s horror films. Another lunatic plays god and reanimates bodies in an attempt to destroy humanity, just like we’ve seen a million times before, only this time there’s European cultural context.
The battle leads to the capture of Maj. Diego de Lozano (Miki Esparbé), Captain of the Fifth Brigade, by the opposition. If he volunteers for a suicide operation into enemy territory with his skittish young driver Decruz (Manel Llunell), he’ll be given a second chance to redeem himself and Jan is caught between Nationalists and Republicans when he hires a delivery man. Still, this is a zombie film, so you’re right to assume his goal is jeopardized when Nazi research unleashes walkers on the field — which becomes even more challenging when Jan is captured by opposing militants who don’t trust the situational turncoat.
It’s not difficult to see where Valley of the Dead is heading from one scene to the next, which is a failing. Carpenters isn’t known for his zombie contributions (which suggests). If you’ve ever seen anything by George A. Romero or one of the many Romero imitators, then you’ll be two steps ahead when Valley of the Dead spins its tale forward. Jan must persuade his captors that fighting together is their only means of survival, the group learns about zombie infestations mid-battle, and not everyone will.
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However, despite the fact that Valley of the Dead is a competent retelling of zombie beliefs based on biological Nazi warfare, it nevertheless makes sense. Overlord is the far nastier, more spectacular Nazi zombie creation, but de Toro and Caldera are seasoned horror filmmakers. Valley of the Dead lives up to its basic wartime horror expectations by following tropes that never deviate from rank or formation. Action sequences pit zeds against bickering platoon soldiers with contrasting views, emotional moments sacrifice squad members for the greater good of on-camera martyrdom, and hordes of shambling monsters chomp flesh. Additionally, Valley of the Dead adds to its period appearance through fortified barbed-wire bases and shabbily clothed military zombie flicks like Day.
You’re right that this isn’t a particularly joyous review, but it doesn’t negate the terms “capable,” “robust,” and “approvable.” Valley of the Dead won’t make anyone’s top 10 zombie films list, but it’s still watchable and more interesting thanks to its World War II backdrop. Commentaries are a good way to get in on the trending news. As demolition experts and sharpshooters put their political differences aside to recognize that the bloodshed that has marred their country presently means nothing, zombies become a routine foe. Undead sieges on train station depots demonstrate how Republicans and Nationalists pray to the same god for survival. As the narrative belittles the arguments between Spain’s divided people, however without as much horror-focused blood beyond those brightly crimson clouds of headshot spray, this comedic action-hero collaboration forms.
The Valley of the Dead is a decent addition to zombie lore that floats no boats and exploits historical precedence to its advantage. The overall period vibe adds value to the envelopment, and the horror investigation and climactic finales are shallower. You’ve seen Valley of the Dead before if you’ve seen a zombie movie before; nevertheless, Alberto de Toro and Javier Ruiz Caldera succeed in their objectives. It’s a film that, while it may be too polished or filled with zombie clichés shot full of holes by less patient crowds, is nevertheless successful in executing what’s promised on the cover.
Javier Ruiz Caldera
Alberto de Toro
Jaime Marques Olarreaga
Alberto Fernández Arregui
Cinematography Kiko de la Rica
Music by Javier Rodero
Cactus Flower Producciones
La Terraza Films
Distributed by Sony Pictures
8 October 2020 (FICFC)
11 March 2022 (Spain)
Running time 102 min