Thursday, May 17, 2012

Death Valley – season 1 – review

Director: Various

Release date: 2011

Contains spoilers

This was a comedy show that has aired in the States and received a DVD release over there and it is a comedy. Of course, as I often repeat, Comedy is very subjective and this one really hit home for me. In essence it is like the documentary ride-along Cops, with a massive dose of “Police Squad!” and zombies, werewolves and vampires.

Essentially, a year before the series, the three types of monsters started appearing in the San Fernando Valley and, in answer, the LAPD set up the UTF or Undead Task Force. During the length of the series the UTF have a camera crew on ride along documenting their exploits (the wall to this is broken often by having situations where the crew wouldn’t be, but given the OTT nature of the comedy that works in itself).

a werewolf
So, we have three types of monsters and the easiest to cover are the werewolves. They have very little exposure in the show – there are a couple of werewolf moments but they don’t form part of the overriding arc. Werewolves have to place themselves in lockdown during the full moon and the UTF have to tranquilise and bring back any who don’t. It isn’t explicitly stated but suggested that the closer they get to full moon the less likely they are to cooperate.

a fresh zombie
Zombies come in two varieties. Someone who is bitten contracts the zombie virus and quickly turns (the cops will execute someone with a bite before turning). Initially they are running zombies – and at their most dangerous. As they rot they slow and become the more familiar Romero-esque shambling zombie. At one point we see a shambling zombie on the floor, bloated with gas and exploding when poked with a stick.

lamp stake
Vampires are our focus, of course, and are the main focus of the series. They have fangs, glowing red eyes and are much stronger than humans. They are also depicted along the lines of organised crime families. They burn in sunlight (the UTF have UV guns) and can be killed with a stake in the heart (the UTF also have stake nightsticks). Incidentally, a staking with a lamp has to enter the "top stakings ever" list.

turning party
Their funeral practice includes cutting a dead vampire up and sucking the marrow from its bones. They produce a narcotic substance in their saliva (we see a GBGB party – give blood get buzz, in which girls donate a syringe of blood and then the vampire passes them their saliva through a kiss) and turning appears to involve multiple vampires biting the victim/volunteer.

extreme zombie slaying
Their crime focus include stealing bloodmobiles, heisting blood from hospitals and sex for blood prostitution. They, during the course of the series, end up in a war with the UTF and we see one of their other powers, zombie control. They can make a zombies head explode ala Scanners but they can also control the direction they go in. Add a bomb to the zombie and you have a bombie. There is a fourth type of monster that we see at the end of the series but I won’t spoil that.

Stubeck and Billy
The joy of the show are the members of the UTF, all more or less poured from a “Police Squad!” mould. There is rookie Kirsten Landry (Caity Lotz), with a mean line in unarmed combat (unnoticed by the others) and still a virgin, she is not yet trusted by the squad. Horn dog Billy Pierce (Bryce Johnson) is partnered with dad and family man Joe Stubeck (Charlie Sanders). John 'John John' Johnson (Texas Battle) is partnered with, and in love with, Carla Rinaldi (Tania Raymonde), who happens to be gay.

Bryan Callen as Dashell
The comedy often stems from the banter between these partners but one of the great sources, the most “Police Squad!” of all the characters and a constant source of hilarity is the absolutely OTT Captain Dashell (Bryan Callen). For me the star of the show, his appearances cement every episode. The episodes themselves are only around 20-25 minute mark and so never outstay their welcome and have to pour in the comedy in concentrated dose, throwaway lines are superb throughout.

Caity Lotz as Kirsten
The effects are varied. The vampires – being vampires – are easy to do. The werewolves look a bit fake and the zombies hover between but, again, if you can see the joins it just adds to the comedic value and nothing is too bad. Unfortunately, as far as I am aware, it was not picked up for a second season (though I’d love to stand to be corrected). Comedy – I repeat – is subjective; this hit absolutely true for me. 8 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK


Unknown said...

Another great review! I've been watching it this week since I saw that you gave it high marks, and it is a fast favorite. This show really had me laughing. And I agree about the captain 100%. Pure comic genius! I'm sad this only had one season, as it is a show I would love to see more of. Thanks for the recommend!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

thanks Margaret, glad you enjoyed it :)