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Death Valley (1982)

A divorced mother, her young son and her new boyfriend set out on a road trip through Death Valley and run afoul of a local serial killer.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Sheriff (as A. Wilford Brimley)
Jack O'Leary ...
Gina Christian ...
Kirk Koskella ...
R.V. Boy (as Kirk I. Kiskella)
Frank J. Cimorelli ...
Arnold C. Waterman ...
Fred W.S. Newton ...
J.P.S. Brown ...
Roy Gunsberg ...
Tour Guide (as Roy S. Gunsburg)


A divorced mother, her young son and her new boyfriend set out on a road trip through Death Valley and run afoul of a local serial killer.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Not even a scream escapes... See more »


Crime | Horror | Thriller


R | See all certifications »




Release Date:

7 May 1982 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Death Valley - Una Vacanza Nell'Estremo Terrore  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The make and model of the mysterious car was a gold 1958 Cadillac Series 62 sedan. It's license plate was "HEX 576" suggesting that the vehicle was in fact a "hex". See more »


[Billy has locked himself in the bathroom]
Hal: I'll tell you something, Billy...
Billy: What?
Hal: [starts to force door with knife] We got a hollow door here. It's made in Japan. Billy, I could bust through this really easy, but it would cause a mess. So, what I could do is, I can get the molding off, and I think that's the way to go. Are you all right in there? So, we got a little problem here, but I'll get you out. You stay calm in there. Remember, most accidents happen in the home. There it is. I don't ...
See more »

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User Reviews

It's really no surprise if you haven't heard of this one
9 April 2014 | by (Austin, Texas) – See all my reviews

If you'd heard nothing about 'Death Valley' and never seen the poster, you'd get about a quarter through the film still thinking it was an overly angsty kid's movie about dealing with divorce. To your surprise, you'd find that the film is one of the most gussied-up, glitzy actor'd, low-brow slasher flicks every made.

Despite an impressive cast, it's really no surprise if you haven't heard of this one – I hadn't and I'm a child of the 80's. In 1982, with slasher films reaching their apex of interest, and audiences demanding more and more outlandish scenarios, director Dick Richards (better known for westerns and noir) set out to make a serious suspense thriller told from a young boy's perspective. Fortunately (or otherwise), he succeeded only in finding a bizarre new genre-limbo somewhere between 'Kramer vs. Kramer' and 'Slumber Party Massacre'; 'Death Valley' is a bit of an awkward fit.

Billy, played by Peter Billingsley ('A Christmas Story'), is as sublime a 'natural' as ever there was in the role of the young boy in question. He lives in Manhattan with his father, a rather sophisticated businessman played by Edward Herrmann ('The Lost Boys') and is about to take a vacation out west with his mother (Catherine Hicks – 'Child's Play') and her corn-fed boyfriend (Paul Le Mat – 'American Graffiti'). There's no question that Billy is none too pleased at the prospect but he's immediately shown to be both mature and intelligent enough to cope.

Aside from Billy's misplaced distrust of his mother's new beau, the newly-formed family unit begins a trek across the deserts of Arizona with only the mildest of dysfunction in tow. Our first hint that the story will dive into dread comes when Billy notices an ominous old Cadillac passing on the highway; the scene recalls Spielberg's 'Duel' or Carpenter's 'Christine'. From here the film spirals down into a bloody-red murder mystery with Billingsley as the hunted witness and Wilford Brimley ('The Thing') as the bumbling highway cop without any hope of protecting this unsuspecting family from a mysterious killer.

There really is a punch about a third of the way into the film (around the time we see a completely obligatory topless vixen and tomato-soup-red blood pouring from the neck of a victim – whose killing has no motivation by the way) that the whole tone turns on its head. 'Death Valley' feels a bit like 2 movies with 2 different directors - who have vastly different goals - just collaged together without much care or purpose. It's no wonder that Universal didn't really know what to do with this one; it sat in a can for over a year before it was released. Purpose aside, I sat down and tried to figure out why this film doesn't work and, in doing so, I found myself with a list of all the reasons it does: big names, epic cinematography (filmed almost entirely on location), Wilford Brimley, 1980's nostalgia (see 'SIMON'), unapologetic child-in-peril scenario, and neon-orange blood splattered across half of the movie. What's not to like?

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