Val Movie Review

Written by Sean M. Sanford

Released by Dread

val poster large

Directed by Aaron Fradkin
Written by Aaron Fradkin and Victoria Fratz
2021, 81 minutes, Not Rated
Released on October 1st, 2021

Zachary Mooren as Fin
Misha Reeves as Val
Kyle Howard as Officer Myers
John Kapelos as Bryan Foley
Erik Griffin as Freddy

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People steeped in desperation. They’re out there. Everywhere. Hearing an alert, Killer on the run, is likely to get one’s blood flowing. Do you remember that REM video "Everybody Hurts"? It’s footage of a traffic jam with subtitles of what everyone’s thinking. There’s one that shows a man, looking at the people surrounding him, all trapped, thinking to himself, If I had a gun. This image got me thinking when I was young, Holy shit, there are crazy people out there in the world, desperate folks, who are ready to cap a fool. Right now, there is a person somewhere  driving, walking, sitting, standing – who, if were to come across him or her, I’m as good as dead. Such was a new feeling back then, as people were generally less prone to think of guns as an option as they are today. Somewhere, gazing out the window above the TV, at my small town, out there.

Val opens with a comparable realization. Cops on the lookout. Somewhere there’s a man. Obviously crazy. Out here (guns drawn), amongst us. He’s killin’ fools. Said killer is Fin, and he’s on the run. But for us, the omnipotent viewer, we get to see Fin (*phew*) as he exacts his getaway. He’s found a place to hide. A magnanimous abode. Victorian mansion not far from where the cops were just poking around in vain. But he soon discovers the mansion isn’t empty. Nor is it an idle glimpse of history. No, the mansion is very much in use on the regular by a hard-working woman, Val: an abode of the escort variety. The sort of establishment where high-paying gentlepeople step into the shadows and do all the freaky shit they can possibly dream of with the woman of their dreams, Val.

But now there’s a killer in her midst. Hiding in her establishment, and he’s none too friendly. I mean, he did just kill someone…right?

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Val is the kind of movie where nothing is quite what it seems in the beginning…middle, or end. It starts out with a pretty run-of-the-mill situation. A guy’s on the run for murder, he takes an escort hostage and aims to de-furnish her cash savings in the basement to fund his getaway. But as things move along, we see that the cat just might be the mouse, and the mansion that was allegedly his temporary oasis, has many shadows that contain an entire network of surprises. Including the fact that Val and Fin are not alone.

The movie feels like a play, with a minimal cast and one predominant setting. Most of the revelations come from dialogue, and oh what tasty dialogue it is. Both Misha Reeves (Val) and Zachary Mooren (Fin) carry the movie with illustrated revolutions from hero to villain and back again.

It also has vibrant cinematography that does well to italicize the use of color and shadow in and around the mansion. The way the situation and the story unfolds is deliberate and tactful, including the way they unveil an alleged truth behind every curtain. Which includes the swaying facts behind both Val and Fin.

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One foundational truth about the movie? Misha Reeves as Val is an incredible badass. She carries her scenes with strength and grace. She brings forth a character who is nary to be trusted with anything she says, while issuing a philosophy that can lend credence all on its own.

Or can it?

See? I still can’t decide if I love her character or hate her.

Please don’t tell her I said that.

Val is a thrill from beginning to end, and blurs the lines of hero and villain with perfection. Now I gotta go. I just heard there’s a killer…deal at the liquor store downstairs.

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Movie: 4.5 Star Rating Cover

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Sean M. Sanford
Sean M. Sanford
Staff Reviewer
Sean M. Sanford was born and raised in the Sierra foothills of California on a haunted ranch that was constantly trying to remind him how wonderful it is being scared shitless. He later moved to San Francisco where he currently resides in an apartment that may or may not be cursed. With so many horrific dimensions to his life, Sanford has been known to revel since birth in scary movies, novels, comic books, and tales told by friends and loved ones. He writes fiction for the skateboarding magazine Lowcard, through which he has a collection of stories and photos called A Manbaby’s Requiem. He also wrote fiction for the online periodical Defiant Scribe. He writes book reviews for Night Worms, and Horror Oasis, and has written horror movie articles for the website, The Infinite Eleven. He has an Instagram account all about books, called @skaters_who_read. He and his wife Candice have started a homemade incense company called Effin Relax, and he’s been known to burn said fragrances during the scariest of movies to help calm his nerves. He looks forward to being the most freaky and creative spirit once he’s left this mortal coil.
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