“Fin is a criminal on the run, wanted for the murder of his boss and the accidental shooting of an officer. He breaks into the home of a high-class escort, only to discover that you get more than you bargain for with Val, short for “Valefar” – a demon who offers to make all his problems disappear if he agrees to follow her rules. But in Val’s world there are no accidents, and as Fin meets her other “customers”, he learns that Val was expecting him all along, and it isn’t easy to escape Val’s dungeon.”

Val 2021 is a dialogue-driven game of ‘cat and mouse’, but constant role reversals make it difficult to distinguish who is playing prey or predator. However, the audience would be mistaken to just assume it is a ‘talking head’ movie, as the location work, cinematography, and performances provide the production a needed sheen in style. Still, and despite the clever touches that give the production a polished result, the experience can feel barebones. Thankfully, a few twists, which all lead to a cataclysmic conclusion, bring the production together in a novel fashion.

Heavily focused on dialogue, the importance of engaging performances is key to realizing the comedic wit of Aaron Fradkin & Victoria Fratz’s script. Thankfully, they have found ideal counterparts in Zachary Mooren as Fin and Misha Reeves as Val – the two bring an abundance of charm to their respective performances. In particular, Misha Revees conveys a glee of immersing herself in the character of Val. Notably, her transformation from a pleasant eccentric into a daunting sinister persona drives the film to its macabre conclusion.  If anything, the success of the film rests in these two fantastic performances which both actors undeniably deliver.

For the most part, Val 2021 plays possum as a crime thriller, but genre fans can rest assured that there’s definitely more going on than first implied – this is not just a rogue episode of CSI set from the criminal’s perspective (even if that is what it feels like at first). The intuitive horror fan will notice sprinklings of the uncanny, contributing towards the horrific conclusion as a clever build-up. These flourishes will certainly keep viewers on their toes using unsettling imagery and narrative intrigue. 

Arguably, Val 2021 is a production that saves its most poignant and shocking attributes to the very end of the production – making what came before it feels slightly disjointed and meandering. Nevertheless, it’s worth taking the time to get there, thanks to the playful script and strong performances from Zachary Mooren and Misha Reeves. Ultimately, the film feels more apt for the small screen than part of Grimmfest 2021 – all the more reason to check it out on your own at home!

We watched Val 2021 as part of the 2021 Grimmfest line-up

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