SALEM HORROR FEST: Val (2021)

Man, this movie got me.

It starts as a simple criminal — Fin (Zachary Mooren) — on the run caper. He’s just gotten out of a deal gone wrong and ducks away from the cops and into a mansion, where he thinks he’ll have some time for the heat to die down. That’s when he learns that he isn’t alone.

The house belongs to Val.

Expertly played by Misha Reeves — who was also in Electric Love, another movie directed by Aaron Fradkin and co-starring Mooren — Val starts the film very matter of factly explaining her work: she entertains men, gives them a fantasy and often finds herself breaking down the most physically imposing men and making them crawl around on a leash. Kind of like Freddy (Erik Griffin, Montez from Workaholics who, yes, was also in Electric Love), who bursts into the house with one eye whited out and a body full of threat and swagger before being laid low by just a word from the redhead spitfire that’s really running things.

That’s the thing. Fin thinks that he’s in control, but he’s been continually led around (mostly by his girlfriend Jenny, who is played by co-writer Victoria Fratz), lied to and used. Even if he grabs that ceremonial dagger that Val for some reason keeps in her kitchen, it’s going to take more than that to get past one of the smartest women he’ll ever meet.

If she is a woman. Because by the end, we learn that she just might be Valefar, the patron demon of thieves, the one who encourages them to have a good relationship with one another. She keeps offering Fin choices, like the opportunity to be hers, and the chance to stop the spinning wheel that is his life and actually be like her and call the shots. Not everyone is cut out for that.

By the end of the film, it’s become a broad — yet gore-drenched — comedy with a cop’s live head on a plate and Fin being given one last opportunity to live his own life. Unless he just wants to serve in Heaven, rather than rule in Hell. But one gets the feeling that Val isn’t one to share the throne.

I loved everything about this film, from its bold colors to its throwback to another era of snappy dialogue back and forth between its leads. Much like the character that it’s named for, Val will slowly win you into its confidence and then own you. And hey — it’s only 81 minutes long, so it’s not that Faustian of a bargain.

You can learn more at the film’s official site. It’s currently available for streaming on a variety of providers and will be available on blu ray November 2.

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