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By Doug Brunell | February 28, 2005

Westerns are not dead. While it is true that there is nowhere near the amount of oat operas there used to be, the thought that the Western as a film medium is extinct is ridiculous seeing how compelling and thought provoking the time period remains to this day. Revisiting familiar themes of the archetypical Western such as guilt and dealing with past sins is Colin Bannon’s “The Valley of the Dead Oaks”.

James Early (Michael Hayes) is a famed former Civil War sharpshooter who, following the accidental shooting of a little girl, finds himself jobless and haunted by his violent past. Despite his best efforts to remain solitary, Early is joined by lowlife Raymond (Mark Dew) who is intrigued by Early and his legend.

There are a lot of solid ideas present in “The Valley of the Dead Oaks” including a ghostly vision of the little girl driving Early towards suicide, but in the end the overall impact is lacking. The piece builds towards a twist ending that is as improbable as it is hollow. The slow character study that proceeds the needless twist is far more engaging with the question of “is Early truly haunted or crazy?” remaining unanswered.

“The Valley of the Dead Oaks” is well made but ultimately tries to be too clever for its own good.

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