Horror-comedy Val (2021), directed/co-written by Aaron Fradkin, is a film whose story and production far surpassed its low budget, full of angles, and color, and layered characters that all culminated in a rousing good time of supernatural mixed with home invasion danger. Its film score builds intensity and comedy in perfect synchronicity, its color palette explores every color of the rainbow, and the characters seemed as well rounded as the views that Fradkin gave while shooting from so many different perspectives. This new horror-comedy is one to watch when it gets its limited theatrical release October 1st and its subsequent VOD release October 5th — a supernatural, home invasion film just in time for the Halloween seen.

A desperate man named Fin (Zachary Mooren) attacks the CEO of his work, who he believes has stolen money from his employees. After going on the run from the police, he decides to hold up in a nearby mansion where Val (Misha Reeves), the homeowner who moonlights as a hooker and becomes his helpful hostage. Fin and Val get to know each other over a series of unfortunate events that just get weird and weirder — Fin must figure out which one of them is truly a captive as he tries to discern whether it is his head concussion causing hazy hallucinations, or if something more devious is afoot.

Films like Val teach one to not judge a book by its cover, or rather, its film tape, as Val looks homemade and amateur at first glance, which would assume similar attention to the screenplay, however, Val was quite the pleasant surprise. Fradkin turns out a colorful and tense film despite his obvious lack of access to production funds. The money that was available was well spent, setting the story in an opulent home that added character to both the film and its occupant. Misha Reeves as Val was wonderful, bringing beauty and brains to her character performance, which was brilliantly written to be both an alluring but comedically charming mix of femme fatale.

Furthermore, writer/director Aaron Fradkin showed off a distinct style of creating pictures and stories, using many close-up character shots, some of which were lit absolutely beautifully, and often indulging in hues of red that went along with the lusty and bloody aspects of the story. What’s more, additional pieces of Fradkin and a passion for pop culture and film seem to seep through the dialogue of the characters, as I picked up on quite a few references, which usually ended up being comedic relief at points in the conversations.

I have to say, I had the lowest of hopes for Val, as the camera quality looked to be just a step up from shot on video, but the story grew on me with each new clever conversation, outfit change from its mysterious but somehow seemingly open characters, and its eclectic mix of music genres to capture different atmospheres for each scene. The directorial choices only briefly lapse, but do so at crucial points and feel curiously different from the other well-thought-out conversations in the film. Had Val done a few things differently it would have been a lot more memorable.


6.75 out of 10 Pretentious Broken Records


Runtime: 1 Hr. 21 Mins.
Directed By:
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About the Author

Adrienne Reese is a fan of movies - the good, the bad, and the ugly - and came to the horror genre by way of getting over her fear of... everything. Adrienne also writes for the Frida Cinema, and in addition to film enjoys cooking, Minesweeper, and binge-watching Game of Thrones.
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