TI WESTERN TI WESTERN TI WESTERN. See, what I’ve done is I’ve combined the writer/director’s name (Ti West) with a film genre (Western) to create a hilarious play on words, Ti Western. Do you guys understand how funny this is? It is incredible and I am glad to be the one to finally point out this wordplay to people. From The House of the Devil to The Innkeepers to The Sacrament, West has been on a great run of Horror features the last few years, so I always look forward to what he’ll do next. Hearing that West had cast Ethan Hawke and John Travolta in a goddamned WESTERN got me very intrigued, since I don’t normally like westerns, but was also exciting to see West getting some heavy hitters in his cast, which will hopefully lead to even bigger opportunities for his next film. Thanks to Hawke, Travolta, and the rest of the cast, In a Valley of Violence gives audiences an entertaining revenge thriller set in the Old West, which I know will appeal to many genre fans.
I should mention there’s a great dog in this movie. See it? See that great dog? It does a great job.
Paul (Hawke) really only wants to get to Mexico with his dog Abbey as quickly as possible, but that route leads him through a small valley, which I’m sure you could guess is the titular violent valley. His brief visit includes a less than pleasant altercation with Gilly (James Ransone) and his father, the Marshal (John Travolta), which causes Paul to move through town as quickly as possible. Unfortunately for Paul, leaving the Valley of Violence behind him is easier said than done, and Gilly has a score to settle with the stranger, following him out into the desert. Although Gilly thinks he’s taken care of the stranger for good, all he’s done is given Paul a reason to return to the valley to seek revenge and retribution, no matter who stands in his way. In a way, it’s almost like he makes the valley MORE violent, if you can even believe it! People die, others live, and there’s violence in the valley.
You tell ‘im, John! Tell him he needs to be nice to those ladies!
I know I said earlier that I wasn’t normally a fan of Westerns, but let me tell you, that opinion certainly has remained the same! However, In a Valley of Violence still has a lot going for it, most notably, its cast. Hawke, Travolta, and Ransome all play their stereotypical Western roles with authenticity, but it’s really the female characters that make the movie so entertaining. Taissa Farmiga plays the hotel clerk in town who hopes to convince Paul to stay a bit longer, while Karen Gillan plays her sister, Gilly’s betrothed who turns a blind eye to her husband’s behavior. Both of the actresses are tasked with delivering some of the more ridiculous lines of dialogue and must become the silliest of caricatures in the film, and both embrace the tone of the film with wonderful results. Although neither of them rely on a fainting couch or say anything about “the vapors,” the embrace the hopeless romantic longing to leave town and the spoiled southern belle archetypes with gusto and help break up a tale of terrible men being terrible to one another.
Taissa, if you’re reading this, which I’m positive you are, you did a good job in this movie. Keep it up!
Hey, listen, I know I’ve said a few times that I’m not an expert on Westerns, so feel free to totally ignore my opinion. However, this film has more to offer than Western tropes, so if you’re more of a genre fan, there’s still stuff to like! Ultimately, the story is about a man on a quest to begrudgingly seek revenge, but it just happens to take place in the Old West. I know that High Plains Drifter is cited as an inspiration, but for those who prefer more contemporary references, it’s like Death Wish or John Wick. However, rather than some balls-to-the-wall and blood-soaked festival of mayhem, it’s a slow, deliberately paced game of cat and mouse. West’s last three features and their emphasis on tone, atmosphere, and creeping sense of dread has often closely associated him with the phrase “slow burn,” which I pretty much cringe at every time I hear, but this film continues that streak. Despite the low body count and lack of graphic violence, this might be West’s most riveting film to date and the viewer can’t help but feel immersed in the bloodshed that’s unfolding in this small town. If you’re looking for a horror Western, you might have come to the wrong place, but In A Valley of Violence shows a restrained subtlely in West’s filmmaking and hopefully leads to him exploring non-horror genres further.
Wolfman Moon Scale