Directed by Eric Appel
Presented by MTV
After a wildly successful first season run for “Teen Wolf,” MTV is giving genre fans another brand-spanking new series to feast their horror-loving eyes upon: the 30-minute horror comedy series “Death Valley”, which follows the Undead Task Force (UTF) throughout the San Fernando Valley as they capture, chase and kill various monsters they find roaming about the streets they’ve sworn to protect.
Clearly a genre-infused send-up of reality show pioneer “COPS” with hints of “Reno 911”-esque hilarity thrown in for good measure, “Death Valley” is shot documentary-style and gives viewers a bird’s-eye view of the world if indeed zombies, werewolves and vampires lived amongst us and how law enforcement would have to handle problems like vampire prostitution rings or zombies lumbering about the local Yum Yum Donut Shop.
The UTF officers themselves are almost caricatures you’ve seen in every single cop movie done in the last 30 years; however, the incredibly talented cast MTV has assembled handle the material in such a way that breathes new life into the idea of a mockumentary-style cop series and setting it apart from the aforementioned “COPS” or “Reno 911.”
The UTF team is led by nut-job Captain Frank Dashell (Callen), who’s kind of like Mel Gibson from Lethal Weapon at times when it comes to taking down the undead. Other members of the team include force veteran Officer Stubeck (Sanders), his wanna-be actor partner Officer Pierce (Johnson), sexy and sarcastic Officer Rinaldi (Raymonde) and her baseball bat-wielding partner Officer “John John” Johnson (Battle) as well as UTF rookie Officer Landry, who can kick more ass than the Captain ever gives her credit for.
In the first episode we see Officers Stubeck and Pierce take down a menacing zombie outside of a convenience store before they head out to bust a vampire prostitute and her pimp (played by the always awesome Derek Mears!) during a hotel sting operation. We also see Officers Rinaldi and Johnson handle a bit of a zombie problem at a donut shop while trying to keep the sound guy safe in the process. Back at the station Captain Dashell does his best to relate to eager rookie Officer Landry but fails miserably.
Part of what makes “Death Valley” work is that the show isn’t just a one-trick pony only looking to cash in just on cheap laughs when the cast members provide their own unique twists on several modern horror movie conventions. Sure, there are a lot of genre-related comedic moments peppered throughout the first episode, but what appealed to me to me the most was watching the way these zany and outlandish characters settle into each other’s worlds. That’s where a lot of true comedic gold is- those little back-and-forth moments in between the UTF’s monster dealings is where this cast shines the most and won me over as a new fan.
If you were afraid to check out “Teen Wolf” because it looked a little too teen-angsty for you, then “Death Valley” is going to be right up your alley. The kills are graphic (which left this writer pleasantly surprised), the language is almost as graphic as the gore is and the tone is darkly comedic and rather edgy for a network that caters to a younger demographic. Whether or not the risk on this kind of cutting-edge programming will pay off in the ratings for MTV remains to be seen, but regardless, I applaud them for taking a chance with “Death Valley.” It’s a gem of a show that deserves to find a huge audience regardless of demographic challenges, and I look forward to seeing where the show takes us in the first season.
Pretty much if you read this site or follow the horror genre with any sort of enthusiasm, then you’ll definitely want to check out MTV’s “Death Valley” when it premieres on Monday, August 29th at 10:30/9:30 pm CST. While it’s not nearly as polished or “refined” as other genre shows out there like “The Walking Dead,” “True Blood” or “Dexter,” it’s the show’s gritty approach coupled with both a talented cast and a wildly funny script that has now made me a believer in “Death Valley.”
Now, who wants a Choco Taco?
4 out of 5