Friday, October 28, 2016

[Review] In a Valley of Violence

Acclaimed indie-horror master Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers, The Sacrament) deviates from his usual scary tricks and tries his hand at a Western with In a Valley of Violence. The film stars Ethan Hawke, Taissa Farmiga, Karen Gillan (Oculus), and yes--John Travolta. And it's a pretty doggone decent time, even if it isn't as distinct or memorable as West's past work.

The drifting ex-soldier Paul (Hawke) and his trusty sidekick--a sweet pup named Abbie, are heading toward Mexico. But on the way, they have to pass through the town of Denton. Paul swears he doesn't want any trouble, but trouble seems to find him as he butts-heads with the town's slimy tough guy (played by James Ransone) and his father (John Travolta), who happens to be the town Marshal.

Set amidst crisply wide 35mm views and some far out zoom-ins, In a Valley of Violence is a fairly straightforward homage to classic spaghetti Westerns. All the genre elements, beats, and tropes are there--from the cartoon credits sequence to the orchestral cues. It's populated with shady characters, typical scenes that slowly escalate into predictable confrontations, and the sweet smell of revenge. For those hoping for a few horror twists, there's not much to be found here, aside from one flashy nighttime dream sequence and a somewhat heavier lean on blood and brutality.

In fact, the film doesn't stray too far away a'tall from Westerns of past, or even some of the more recent ones. The story is simple but effective with its John Wickian theme of don't come between someone and their pooch, especially if said person is trained to swiftly blow your head off or slit your throat. The lead-up to the film's pulpy climax is easily the highlight, flaunting some seriously funny shouting exchanges between Hawke and Travolta during the heat of a standoff.

I wish there were more style and panache In a Valley of Violence, but at least it's not a bloody waste.

( 7/10 )

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