- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
Writer, director, and editor Ti West (The Innkeepers) pays homage to the westerns of Sergio Leone with his latest film, In a Valley of Violence. The results are expectantly explosive with sudden bursts of violence, yet not as exploitative as one might think considering the director’s former haunts and the fact that the film is released by Blumhouse Production, THE house of terror that Jason Blume has worked so hard to establish.
With all that in mind, West successfully breaks from the horror genre in his latest offering and takes a stab (pun intended) at going for a wider audience. In truth, this film - as B-movie-minded as it is - is definitely his first certified crowd-pleaser. Audienes will probably laugh and applaud themselves silly with this Tarantino-esque narrative. While the western formula might be fading from view, when it is brought back with the joy and dedication that’s on display here, it behooves us all to stop and pay attention. Sometimes the old way IS the best way forward.
Starring Ethan Hawke and John Travolta, In a Valley of Violence doesn’t toy with its audience. It wholeheartedly tackles the spaghetti western with confidence and gives us a protagonist - cloaked in dirty brown garb – that is worth cheering for as he takes issue with some of the meanest dudes around and promises them all some sweet, sweet revenge. Don’t ever fuck with this man’s dog.
After an engaging opening in which The Stranger (Ethan Hawke, doing a damn good Harrison Ford impression), and his dog, Abbey, cross paths with the alcoholic priest (Burn Gorman), the lawless themes of the picture are firmly established. We are then treated to an animated credits sequence similar to those found in Sergio Leone’s The Man with No Name films. If there’s no grin on your face at this point in the movie, well, I can’t help you.
There’s no Ennio Morricone, though, to help get us in the mood for rocking revenge. Instead it is Jeff Grace’s guitar-driven theme that shoves us straight into Hell itself and his licks absolutely work to create a mood of mayhem. Complete with hoots and hollers and a snake rattle or two, Grace provides the score West needs to sell this throwback feature to a modern audience.
Welcome to Denton. This godless town is home to one rule only and it doesn’t come from beyond the skies above. The law of the land is parceled out from the matter-of-fact nature of The Marshal (John Travolta). Carrying out The Marshal’s orders are his son, Gilly (a scene-chomping James Ransone whose black threats are soliloquys unto themselves) and his trio of dangerous dunderheads (Larry Fessenden, Toby Huss, and Tommy Nohilly).
Upending time itself and using drawn-out pacing as an element of humor at the beginning, West allies us to Paul (Hawke) and his talented dog as the two quickly find themselves in trouble with Gilly, who doesn’t take kindly to their silence AND their swagger. Throw a couple of women into the mix - Karen Gillan as Gilly’s fiancé and Taissa Farminga as her mousy 16-year-old sister Mary Anne, both working in their father’s hotel – and you have the proper recipe for one hell of a payback after Gilly and his gang take matters into their own hands.
And, yes, the revenge unloaded upon them is indeed a bitch. Don’t worry, though. They absolutely deserve what’s coming to them.
From the very opening, you know EXACTLY where In a Valley of Violence is going. There are few surprises and, yet, West – working with director of photography Eric Robbins – brings a dedication to the material and its landscape that is to be commended. Against a very bleak canvas, these familiar characters are resurrected to, once again, do their thing. It’s as enjoyable as it is unexpected as we descend into the autumn months.
West’s In a Valley of Violence is a western that both shoots and smirks at its audience. Its aim is true.
MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime: 104 mins
Director: Ti West
Writer: Ti West
Cast: Karen Gillan, Ethan Hawke, Taissa Farmiga
Tagline: In a Valley of Violence.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Hey fellas, I don't think this bum knows where he is."
Theatrical Distributor: Focus World
Release Date: October 21, 2016
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: December 27, 2016.
Synopsis: A mysterious drifter named Paul (Ethan Hawke) and his dog Abbie (Jumpy) make their way towards Mexico through the barren desert of the old west. In an attempt to shorten their journey they cut through the center of a large valley - landing themselves in the forgotten town of Denton - a place now dubbed by locals as a "valley of violence." The once popular mining town is nearly abandoned, and controlled by a brash group of misfits and nitwits - chief among them, the seemingly untouchable, Gilly (James Ransone) who is the troublemaking son of the town’s unforgiving Marshal (John Travolta). As tensions rise between Paul and Gilly, Denton’s remaining residents bear witness to an inevitable act of violence that starts a disastrous chain reaction, infecting the petty lives of all involved and quickly drags the whole town into the bloody crosshairs of revenge. Mary-Anne (Taissa Farmiga) and Ellen (Karen Gillan), two bickering sisters who run the town’s only hotel, try to find the good in both men, while desperately searching for their own salvation. Only the world-weary Marshal struggles to stop the violent hysteria, but after a gruesome discovery about Paul’s past…there is no stopping the escalation.
Home Video Distributor: Universal Studios
Available on Blu-ray - December 27, 2016
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, German, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; German: DTS 5.1; French: DTS 5.1; Spanish: DTS 5.1
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD-50); UV digital copy; iTunes digital copy; Digital copy
Region Encoding: Region A
We might be in the middle of a western revitalization, folks. From Slow West to The Magnificent Seven remake, it seems the genre is back on a trailblazing ride. It helps then that these films are being shot on 35mm film. While Universal’s transfer (presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1) of Ti West’s second non-horror film is bit desaturated when it comes to colors, there’s no denying that the 1080p transfer isn’t sparkling with grain and textures lacking in other digital efforts. There’s a realness that comes through time and time again throughout the transfer. From set pieces to exteriors and down to the fibers in the clothing, this is a solid release. Black levels are strong and lines hold their edges. The heat feels very palpable. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack is superb, making you feel each and every gunshot.
We get one supplemental item, outside of a digital download that is. It’s a quick 2-minute look at the making of the movie. Nothing special.
- Behind The Scenes Of In A Valley of Violence (2 min)