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'Death Valley' Premiere Episodes Review

About.com Rating 2 Star Rating


'Death Valley' Premiere Episodes Review
Photo courtesy of MTV

The Bottom Line

Death Valley mixes comedy and horror in a mostly feeble way, with weak humor and minimal scares. Its world of cops fighting zombies, vampires and werewolves has hints of an original mythology, but spends more time focused on lame jokes.


  • Premieres August 29, 2011, at 10:30 p.m. EST on MTV
  • Stars Tania Raymonde, Bryan Callen, Caity Lotz, Bryce Johnson, Texas Battle, Charlie Sanders
  • Created by Curtis Gwinn


Probably no one ever watched Reno 911! and thought that it would be improved by the presence of zombies, vampires and werewolves, but that’s essentially what the awkward horror-comedy Death Valley amounts to: It has the same mockumentary format (aping long-running reality series Cops) as Reno, with a crew of similarly clueless, self-centered officers (although Valley’s cops are a bit more competent) goofing off and screwing up as often as they succeed. The difference is that Valley’s threats are a lot more serious than the absurd criminals on Reno, and so the show tries for suspense and shocks as its characters take out all manner of the undead.

But it’s hard to take this stuff seriously when the overall tone is so goofy. This isn’t a real horror movie (or even a horror TV series like The Walking Dead), so we know that none of the main characters is really in danger. There are various background characters who are prime fodder for getting bitten, eaten or dismembered, but their deaths don’t have any sort of impact. The opening sequence of each episode explains that the supernatural creatures descended on California’s San Fernando Valley a year ago, leaving scientists baffled about their origins, which is an easy way to get out of having to come up with any kind of coherent back story.

At the same time, Valley’s creators clearly don’t want the show to just be a goofy comedy that happens to feature the undead, so they drop little hints of a more elaborate story in the background. The most interesting element of the three episodes available for review features rookie Undead Task Force member Kirsten Landry (Caity Lotz) going undercover at teenage vampire parties and learning about the creatures’ culture from the other side. Those scenes have an effective little Buffy the Vampire Slayer vibe, but they’re easily overshadowed by the many scenes featuring the more experienced cops bumbling through their investigations of zombie infestations at doughnut shops and vampires knocking over blood mobiles.

There’s certainly enough ridiculousness in the horror and urban fantasy genres for a comedy series to parody, and there’s potential in a clever drama about investigators who take on the paranormal. But pairing the goofy comedy with the supernatural world-building takes a delicate balance, and Death Valley, with its juvenile humor and half-hearted plotting, doesn’t have the intelligence to pull it off.

Disclosure: A review screener was provided by the network. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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