Take the Donner Pass or The Dark Valley?

The Dark Valley (Das Finstere Tal) and Donner Pass are currently on instant Netflix

The Dark Valley


The Dark Valley (2014) – Not rated

A mysterious stranger arrives in an Alpine town and quickly wears out his welcome, but he won’t leave until he’s unleashed a series of deadly events.”

I do bemoan the fact that they just don’t make Westerns any more. I think the last good one I saw was Appaloosa. Well, the last good one until The Dark Valley. The Dark Valley is set in the Alps and is in German but don’t let that fool you, The Dark Valley is an old-fashioned revenge Western. It doesn’t break any new ground and plays out very much like two particular Eastwood westerns.

The Alpine scenery is spectacular and serves a useful purpose as the sheer monotony of winter there is an integral portion of the plot. I loved some of the winter touches such as the protagonist breaking the ice up in his bowl before he could wash and shave. The protagonist is suitably enigmatic.

As long as you don’t mind reading subtitles, The Dark Valley will fit your Western needs.

Donner Pass


Donner Pass (2012) – Rated R

More than 150 years after the gruesome incident at Donner Pass, a group of teens discover that someone in the area still has a taste for human flesh.

Definitely take The Dark Valley over Donner Pass. Donner Pass does have the sense to not overstay its welcome. It runs slightly less than an hour and a half and part of that is devoted to a brief retelling of the Donner party story (albeit with far fewer characters).

Unfortunately Donner Pass does rely way too much on the slasher formula as we have the obvious final girl, the sensitive loner, and pretty much everyone else you want to see die. These consist of a bunch of high school students in their 20s and some appear to be in their 30s. I understand low budget features have a smaller cast pool to choose from but the script could have been rewritten to accommodate these obviously older actors.

The old horror tropes are trotted out one-by-one. The jocks are very aggressive bullies. The three women break down into the standard triumvirate of final girl, nasty queen bee, and sexually active girl. The loner suffers in silence but could he be hiding a secret? Much alcohol is consumed, games are played, hot-tubbing occurs.

The unfortunate thing is that, amidst all this dross, there are things to like about the film. It is not a standard slasher, as you might guess from the setting. The winter setting is well used (though not as well as in The Dark Valley). There is a great idea for a subplot (no spoiler) that could have been better handled but was still interesting.

Donner Party is a passable waste of an hour and a half if you keep these things in mind but be aware that there is a (non-graphic) sexual assault that occurs in the film.

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