Miracle Valley marks the directorial debut of Greg Sestero. You may remember him from The Room, or the book and movie he wrote about the making of that film, The Disaster Artist. He’s also no stranger to horror films either, having appeared in Infrared, Cyst and Retro Puppet Master among others. So it’s not that much of a surprise that he, like so many others, would turn to the genre for his first film. In this case a throwback to the films of the 70s. In particular, the infamous Invasion of the Blood Farmers and desert cult films such as Race With the Devil, Enter the Devil, and The Brotherhood of Satan.
The prologue, in which Erika (Louisa Torres, Phantom of the Community Theatre, Beauty and the Beholder) is abducted off the deserted streets of a small town recalls another non-desert set cult film from that era, Messiah of Evil. That gives way to credits and a song that seems to have stolen the organ riff from The Door’s “Break On Through” which is from 1967, close enough to the 70s to count.
After that, we meet our leads, David (Greg Sestero) and Sarah (Angela Mariano). He’s a photographer who seems a bit more concerned with getting a shot of a rare hawk than the state of their relationship. She’s not happy that he insisted she join him on this trip rather than stay at the hospital with her terminally ill mother. Her mood isn’t improved when she finds out that, despite what he said, his friends will be joining them on the trip.
Sestero sets things up nicely if a bit obviously through Miracle Valley’s first act. David has been given use of the house by an anonymous couple who are fans of his work. The house itself is located in a valley with a history of ghostly activity and more recently a cult that vanished after a violent clash with locals. So when Father Jake (Rick Edwards, Hearts and Armour, Santa Barbara) turns up talking about Sarah’s “incredible aura” and invites them to “The Great Awakening” you know bad things are about to happen.
Unfortunately, as Miracle Valley goes on it starts to waver between interestingly weird and incredibly obvious. One of its major plot points comes about via such a blatantly staged bit of manipulation I couldn’t believe the character involved didn’t notice it. And that’s not the only moment where characters have to act in absolutely unbelievable ways to move the plot along.
The plot itself has its own issues as Miracle Valley turns into a weird mix of The Manson Family and mad science revolving around bloodlines with magical properties. I did mention Invasion of the Blood Farmers, didn’t I? While it lacks that film’s poverty-stricken charm it makes up for it with a splatter-filled finale that sees limbs hacked off and a head literally torn from its body.
I admit I went into Miracle Valley half expecting a trainwreck. But, while the film has its share of problems it’s not actually bad. Mostly it suffers from, as noted, badly written plot devices. Sestero also needed to figure out if he was making a serious horror film or an enjoyably cheesy exercise in bloodshed. The repeated shifts in the film’s tone kept pulling me out of the film.
There’s still enough that works to make Miracle Valley worth watching. The characters get annoying at times but it’s never dull and it does have some good effects. Sestero shows some potential as a director and I’ll be watching for his UFO film Forbidden Sky.
Although it isn’t billed as an original or exclusive, Tubi seems to be the only place Miracle Valley is available to stream. It is however available as a Blu-ray directly from Sestero’s website. And if you’re looking for more films like it, FilmTagger can suggest a few,