Shudder - Death Valley : Let’s talk with Matthew Ninaber

By Mulder, Los Angeles, 02 december 2021

Shudder, AMC Networks’ premium streaming service for horror, thriller and the supernatural, announced today that it will release the original film Death Valley in North America, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand on Thursday, December 9.  Written and directed by Matthew Ninaber (Psycho Goreman), who also appears as the frightening monster in the film, the adrenaline-fueled action horror stars his brother Jeremy Ninaber (Escape the Dark), Ethan Mitchell (Escape the Dark) and Kristen Kaster (If I should Die). 

We had the opportunity to interview the screenwriter and director Matthew Ninaber about his upcoming movie #DeathValley 

Q :  hello Matthew, Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background ?

Matthew Ninaber : my name is Matthew Ninaber. I am an actor, director i've been  working in various films most recent one was Psycho Goreman which i learned a lot about monsters and now i took all I learned there and made a movie called Death Valley which is a kind of a monster horror action film.

Q : After Last Run, Extraction Day, Transference: Escape the Dark , Death Valley is your new movie, please can you talk to us about the origins of this movie ?

Matthew Ninaber : so for Death Valley, a lot of it came from i wanted to make an action film and after being on PG i really wanted to make a monster film. So, i decided to take kind of the two of them merged them together and i was playing with the idea. I didn't know when i was going to do it but then the pandemic hit and there was no acting there was no jobs everything. I was kind of unemployed and then I’m just i don't know how long this pandemic's gonna last I might as well make a movie while we're here so with 12 other friends and cast and crew we just set out to make ourselves a monster movie and the rest is kind of history.

Q :  In a few words, can you talk to about the main plot of this film ?

Matthew Ninaber : the main plot of this film. It follows two mercenaries who get called to do a rescue munition and upon arrival into this valley every step they take things just get worse and worse and worse and once they enter the facility, they kind of feel like they're home free and things just turn on their head even more. It's a funny movie, it's an adventure movie, it's a horror movie, it's a mashup of a lot of things that i truly love as a filmmaker all wrapped up into a 90-minute adventure.

Q :  What were your main sources of inspiration, some movies, some books  to create this one ?

Matthew Ninaber : so i had a lot of inspiration i wanted to kind of make a bad boys meets alien covenant meets overlord meets resident evil with a little bit of a hacksaw origin in there and i kind of borrowed a little bit with a thing i kind of bored a little bit from each of those films and I wanted the banter like the buddy cop vibe but i wanted to have the action scenes of like hacksaw ridge and then I want obviously the monster scares and the atmosphere of alien and the thing and that's kind of like how i approach the movie taking some of my favorite parts of those films and trying to find a way to make my own spin of it.

Q :  What can you tell us about the main cast of your movie Jeremy Ninaber, Ethan Mitchell and Kristen Kaster ?

Matthew Ninaber : so Jeremy, Kris and Ethan are amazing they are so much fun to work with. We filmed this movie on weekends and every weekend was just a blast hanging out with them i would say Kristen is just such a delight she did not know what she was getting into. I think if she knew what she was getting into i don't know if she would sign up because she was just covered in blood almost every single day on set head to toe and that stuff is sticky. It just like it gets to a place that you can't even move and Jeremy was more than just an actor he helped me build all the sets like Monday to Friday. We'd build the sets for the movie and then on the weekend we'd film and he would just be there like two three in the morning helping me paint and on top of that learning his lines and he is just he's such a trooper he also did all the choreography for the film so all the fight scenes in the movie he sat down and did the choreography for and then Ethan is just who he is on screen is who he is off screen. He's uh he's a great loving guy who's just these guys they're just they're so much fun to work with and all of them have been acting and just working on the craft and we've just kind of known each other over the years and went the pandemic hit i was like do you guys want to make a movie and they were all in so secret government was an excellent surprise and as an actor you bring this character real cool.

Q : Psycho Goreman was an excellent surprise and as an actor you bring to this character a real soul. You play the monster again in this new movie. What do you like so much in this kind of character ?

Matthew Ninaber : i think monsters are fun. I like anything with a mask i like that you can just kind of create your own person like these guys are kind of like this is you know the one the one head it's like these are i don't know i look at them as like extensions of myself that PG over here like i love these guys you get to be you get to be a different version of you and i think that's my favorite part of playing these monsters. I don't know what the word is you get to explore a different way of acting that you would not be able to do with any other character like i don't get to roar at somebody you get to go into more primitive zone so i love monster work I think it's so much fun getting the suit is horrible and that part i don't like and the long hours of being in the suit but when you actually get to see yourself move and you get to create those characters there's it's  very special and it gives me an appreciation for some of the movies I watch like cowboy pants labyrinth where you see these monster creatures and you're like man the time they sat in the suit to make that performance come true so. It makes me appreciate those films more. There's not a lot of people that do it so there's a little bit of like i don't know it's fun it's a lot of fun.

Q :  I really like the actions scenes and the rhythm of your film. Watching it, we think a little about the resident evil World (games and movies). Do you like video games ?

Matthew Ninaber : i'm a huge gamer. i grew up on playing Halo, Gears of war. I really wanted to have that feel of those early video games in this movie the way the characters work. it's very much they get more guns as they level up and they get better guns as they level up and so it is structured kind of like a video game and chapters and it keeps getting worse and worse and worse so there's a lot of references to video games in this movie and another game called fear which terrified me as a kid when i first played i was like this is terrifying I’m like i want to bring some of those elements into my movies because i thought these games are so great so in short yes huge gamers still play.

Q :  What can you tell us about your filming locations ?

Matthew Ninaber : so the filming locations. I kind of work backwards for this movie i kind of drew a circle on a map where i lived i'm like what do i have access to all the interior scenes are filmed in my brother's garage so we would build a set Monday to Friday we'd film on the weekend i take a break on Monday tear it all down Tuesday and then start building again and so all the tunnels all the only tunnel that we didn't do is like the big opening tunnel at the beginning of the movie that was actually filmed in Ottawa because we actually have a fallout bunker here called the defense bunker and so that was the only like location that we rented outside of that it was all friends families backyards and just really finding locations that worked and then building the rest like i learned so much from building sets and i sat down and i watched behind the scenes of all the alien movies and how they built the sets for those and then started watching as much behind the scenes just to get ideas on how  to build a set because this was like again everything I’m doing I’m just learning from scratch I’m like okay let's get into this.

Q :  What was the most difficult scene for you to shoot in this film and why ?

Matthew Ninaber : the corridors were actually really difficult because again in my naivety i didn't build it originally so you could open it up i was just like oh you get the camera in there but then I realized since you got the camera in the corridors and those little tunnels like this doesn't work so it was a good learning experience for me of like redesigning the set to making it that was all modular everything was hinged so you could open it up but the actors they were like in so much pain because they have to crawl through and they're like all right we do it again and i got to crawl backwards and then you don't think it's a big thing but being on your hands and knees and crawling through those it like everyone was getting bruised and I remember the lead Kristen she actually it's the only time i've ever seen her angry and she was angry she was like i don't know what I’m doing in the corridors and it was a good bonding moment we all became like a tight family but i thought those scenes would be a lot easier to film than because again it's just like a little tunnel and i thought other scenes would be harder but it was actually the corridors that i struggled with the most .

Q :  Which are for you the good ingredients to create a good horror movie as this one ?

Matthew Ninaber : if you don't have if one of them are not good then the rest of it fails if we didn't have a good monster it would have been game over if we didn't have good sets game over if the actors didn't put in what they did so it's just like i look at such a whatever the thing that's most important is the thing that's the worst at the time, going into this movie sets I knew were going to be so important and that was going to be that's the weakest part for me is because i had no experience building sets so a cool little thing a cool fact is from the movie Psycho Goreman i worked on they're throwing the set out and i said can I have the set and so i went got a U-Haul picked up the whole thing and kind of just looked at all the pieces and trying to reverse engineer how they were building stuff and then from there use that as the backbone for most of this movie so that was a huge help of just like you know taking other people's garbage and then repainting it and just learning how to texture different things to make it look different so that that for me was a really big growing spot as i was writing the film I was doing zoom rehearsals with the actors because i had this gift that nobody was doing anything so the idea of hanging out and working on a movie for people who are locked in their houses because of the pandemic was so exciting to them and so i really got to play jokes i kept on writing jokes for Ethan's character and awe had to cut out most of his jokes just because of time just because like we got to get this movie going but i think the gift i was given is that there was nothing else to work there was nothing i was taking my time so i was able to build all the sets be able to shoot it be able to edit it be able to like cut it all together and do everything just because of the time that we're coming through .

Q :  What can you tell us about the special effects of this movie ?

Matthew Ninaber : so there's a lot of everything is practical very proud of that I’m not a digital artist and the idea was i was doing everything myself so I’m like it's gonna look best if it's in camera so we learned a lot the explosions outside those were so much fun to do and not that somebody should do this but i found out that if you took really hot waxed and then if you dropped a water a cold water balloon in, it gives a mushroom cloud effect so we're able to do what they're called wax bombs and uh and by the time it lands on you again I’m not telling anyone to do this I’m just telling you what i've learned myself is that by the time it landed on you it's dry so our guys would be running through these explosions with water balloons dropping down and blowing up around the time it landed on them they're just like oh it's all this dry wax but look it looks so good and for the most part it was really safe and then there's other scenes that it was just a spray bottle a match and gasoline i mean just to do things so that's how we did a lot of the outside scenes and then the flame thrower that's a real flamethrower that's there's like we just hose the set down before we used it cleared everybody out and that's just my little brother and me in in the room I’m filming he's using the flames for having  the time of his life and I’m like if anyone gets hurt it's just you and me in here so we'll figure it out and  so yeah everything everything's done practically which it just sometimes it made us go a little bit slower but i think that's why it feels so feels so good and i'm very proud of that .

Q :  The music is important in this movie, what can you tell us about your collaboration with the composer Sean Croley ?

Matthew Ninaber : he actually had Kevin and Tony come along and what is amazing is that they had two weeks to compose this soundtrack so we divided the movie up and i really just talked emotionally what i wanted to be happening and Sean just really led the charge of dividing like hey Kevin's going to take this Tony's going to take this Tony wrote that amazing guitar lick for the end credit scene that i just love i want to make a movie just with his electric guitar someday because I’m just like it's just so much fun but those guys didn't sleep they just powered up at the music so fast and like i owe so much to them because they really did a great job and we picked we picked sound design we're like we want this instrument we want this sound for any strings we want this sound for the creaky so that even though it's three composers there is a fairly consistent sound for the whole thing and then what i loved was is that you know once they kind of came up with sounds for the monster sounds for Chloe sounds for this character so that you have like these little motives that were coming through each time and again bringing some like the Nephilim angelic stuff into it you have some that score would elevate those things so they did a really great job I’m very proud and loved working with them just fantastic composers.

Q :  What did you learn and retain from this film ?

Matthew Ninaber : Well, for this this movie i didn't realize how big of a movie i was making if you told me how big it was going to be before i started i don't think it was possible like there's a lot of it was very naive and when i gave the scripts to producers they're like you can't do this I’m like oh yeah no you can do. i think it's like now i know it's possible I’m like kind of like what else is possible and i think with more planning and just really just crunching the problems you can really make a cool movie but it takes a lot of time and dedication and i really want to up it like i don't want to see where we can go from there so for me it's like what did i learn is that it's possible it's like i can make something that looks really cool that with fun characters and i just got to put the work in so for me it's just like I’m for the next film I’m putting the work in i have this thing that when i write i don't shave so it just kind of grows out there's like this beard and hopefully doesn't get too long because I’m really this movie has motivated me because I’m very proud of what we did with a very small team filming in my backyard filming my brother's garage I’m like what else can we do where we can go from here so I think yeah it's just i it took a bunch of weekends to do this but the biggest thing i say to filmmakers is just like you don't remember what you did with your weekend but you'll remember if you made a movie and that's really what we did during this pandemic is that we seized the day and made a movie and I’m very happy with that i want to keep i want to keep this energy going and get into the next one.

Q :  do you have some actors that you dream to work with and why?

Matthew Ninaber : i have so many people i would love to work with oh my goodness like where do you go i got to meet Hugh Jackman one day. i got to spend some time with him I’m just like if i could have him in a movie. Idris Elba like there's just there's just so many cool actors out there that i can't even fathom working with them like i feel like there's just such a gap between working with them and then what I’m doing but i really hope that one day my storytelling skills and what I’m able to do and what I’m able to bring to the cinemas is warranted an actor of that caliber and  i just got to keep pounding out my craft and getting better.

Q :  Which are your currents projects ?

Matthew Ninaber : so I’m working on two more monster movies and so right now I’m just in the script writing phase and then i have two other of a sci-fi time travel movie and then i have a monster hunter movie that I’m working on so i want to do more stuff in the monster stuff and then i have one project that's a little bit more thriller kind of space ghost feeling vibe that I’m working on that is it's really just whatever one i can get people excited about the most because I love them all and just like whatever people like say, they do that one I’m like cool I’m in so right now just write , make a great script and learn from my last one.

Synopsis : 
When a secret experiment goes horribly wrong, bioengineer Dr. Chloe (Kaster) becomes trapped inside a secret underground facility. With only 24 hours before a fatal decontamination protocol destroys the entire lab, Chloe deploys an emergency distress signal before a terrifying creature (Matthew Ninaber) of unknown origin can consume what’s left of her. Alerted by the distress beacon, battle-weary guns for hire, Marshall (Mitchell) and Beckett (Jeremy Ninaber) are commissioned to carry out a covert operation to extract the imprisoned scientist. Upon deployment, the team is ambushed by another heavily armed militia hell-bent on finding a way into the compound themselves. Severely outnumbered, the mercenaries find entry to the bunker through an unsealed emergency hatch only to find themselves in a horrific fight for survival. With time and ammunition running out, the team must locate Dr. Chloe while also navigating the underground maze of corridors before they’re hunted down one by one.

Death Valley 
Written and Directed by Matthew Ninaber
Produced by Chad Archibald, Cody Calahan, Matthew Ninaber 
Starring  Jeremy Ninaber , Ethan Mitchell, Kristen Kaster, Melissa Joy Boerger, Matt Daciw, Shemora Davy, Jeremy  Dueck, Jacob Fortin, Jonah Fortin 
Music by Sean Croley
Cinematography : Brent Tremain
Edited by Matthew Ninaber 
Distributed by Shudder
Release date : December 9 2021 (USA)
Running time : 91 minutes

Photos : Copyright Shudder