Valley of the Dead aka Malnazidos is a Spanish zombie thriller film set during the Spanish Civil War in 1938. It follows the tribulations of a band of soldiers as they try to escape hordes of zombies that have risen from the dead due to a Nazi experiment.
The film premiered at the 53rd Sitges Film Festival and was released theatrically in March 2022. It is now streaming on Netflix
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
The film opens with a wedding celebration taking place in a small Spanish village. It is disrupted by a group of German soldiers led by a menacing Nazi commandant (Francisco Reyes).
On his orders, the troops open fire on the village residents and throw canisters emitting a mysterious blue gas over the dead bodies. Elsewhere, Jan Lozano (Miki Esparbé) is saved from execution by his powerful uncle, General Lozano (Manuel Morón) of the Francoist forces.
Jan is a corporate lawyer who is guilty of treason due to head butting a judge. The only way he would be allowed to live is if he delivers an important note to Colonel Alarcos who is stationed across no man’s land.
He is instructed to drive to his destination and since he doesn’t know how to, he is accompanied by Private Decruz — a 17-year-old soldier who is also on trial for desertion.
The two start their journey from the secret train-yard base in Las Águilas and after little hiccups along the road, they notice a plane crash. Jan forces Decruz to look for and help the pilot as he is one of their own but they are captured by a troop of Republican soldiers.
The enemy platoon — comprising the Sargent (Luis Callejo), Priest Killer (Aura Garrdio), Match (Alvaro Cervantes), Jaime (Dafnis Balduz), Brodsky (Sergio Torrico), The American (Ken Appledorn) and Carlos (Oriol Ramis) — ties them up and interrogates them.
Meanwhile, they see the body of an Italian pilot with no legs nearby. The American goes to click a picture of the corpse but it comes back to life and bites him in the neck. They shoot the pilot in the head, bringing an end to him but the American now rises as a zombie.
They have to shoot his skull to stop him as well. Brodsky notices that the pilot was covered in a mysterious blue dust but thinks nothing of it. The Sargent then comes across the special note which Jan is supposed to deliver but it has no information on it except a phrase saying, “A War is won by having balls”.
Jan is furious that he was sent on a dangerous mission to deliver a crappy message. The Republicans keep their prisoners alive for further interrogation and head towards their encampment as more fighter planes fly overhead.
In a turn of events the encampment is bombed and the soldiers find their comrades dead covered in the same blue powder. The dead begin to rise again and Carlos is killed. The group escapes the area on a boat as they try to figure out what is happening.
The Sargent orders Priest Killer to untie Jan and Decruz as they head towards a secret hideout. Nearing the destination, they abandon the boat and run into even more zombies who now claim the Brodsky’s life.
The group runs towards the hideout as Jaime questions the Sargent about his decision to keep the hostages alive. The survivors reach the secluded house (which is the hideout) and find three members of the Francoist forces — Sister Flor (María Botto), Jurel (Jesús Carroza) and Rafir (Mouad Ghazouan) — already using it.
Jan recognises the nun but a stand-off occurs which is eventually solved as the rivals realise they need to work together to get out alive.
Valley of the Dead ending explained in detail:
As the group replenishes and recovers, they discuss the scenario at hand. Match, Decruz and Rafir keep watch upstairs and Jan discovers that his note has a map on the backside, made with invisible ink. It shows itself when he’s about to toss it into the fire.
Decruz meanwhile recognises Match to be a famous motorcycle racer who he was crazy about as a kid but accepts that he probably doesn’t remember when the former asked for his autograph years ago.
These exchanges don’t last long as the house is run over by zombies. The group escapes via the back door and Match blows the place up with dynamite.
While wandering around, they come across an electrical fence and realise that the valley has been barricaded by the Germans. Priest Killer notices Brodsky (now a zombie) stuck to the fence and slowly frying away alongside a few more undead. They shoot his skull to put him to rest.
The Sargent then confronts Jan again about the situation who comes clean about discovering the map on his note. He mentions that it is a planned operation being conducted by the Germans and they are right in the middle of it.
There is red X on the map and the group collectively decides to go there and get to the bottom of this zombie situation. As they head towards the spot, Jaime takes the Sargent aside and hints at taking the weapon for themselves to win the war and eliminating the Francoists.
The group reaches the spot which is revealed to be the same village shown in the beginning of the film. It now lays in ruins and Jan notices gas canisters filled with the blue powder amid the destruction.
They chance upon a truck and as Decruz volunteers to fix it for use, Priest Killer calls everyone inside the village church. It has been transformed into a lab showing clear signs of violent experiments.
The group discovers the wounded, yet very much alive, bride from the village wedding. Her name is Ana (Asia Ortega) and she narrates the entire story to them about how after the shootout, more soldiers arrived and locked themselves in the church as the dead rose outside.
She hid in the cellar and heard noises of death. The Germans would occasionally take a few zombies inside and conduct experiments on them. Eventually the blue stuff exploded inside the church and turned the German soldiers into monsters as well.
During this revelation Jaime finds the secret documents about the project and decides to leave with them, asking his fellow Republicans to follow him and kill the enemies.
No one agrees so he decides to escape himself but is eaten. As zombies swarm the church, Sister Flor guides them all into an underground passage towards a hidden exit.
Amid the chaos, Ana turns into a zombie — having been bitten — and attacks everyone. They manage to kill her but Flor is bitten too. She guides everyone to safety but decides to stay back and distract the undead, sacrificing herself.
Once outside, Jan reveals that back in Las Águilas there is a train car with the same emblem like the one they saw in the church and there must be an antidote there.
The Sargent initially disagrees to go there as that is enemy territory for them but changes his mind when Jan reveals that his own brother is fighting on the Republicans’ side and he just wants to fix this situation.
Decruz brings the truck over and the group heads back to the train-yard base as we see the young soldier with a bite mark on his arm. Once back, Jan tries to negotiate with his uncle who reveals himself to be in on the zombie experiment.
He states that they need it to win the war and the whole valley will be bombed so Jan should come inside. However, the General refuses to let anyone else in. Jan abandons the idea to save himself and returns to the group.
This is when Decruz reveals his bite and decides to blow up the entrance to the base as he has little time left. They say their goodbyes and Match admits that he remembers the little boy who asked for his autograph.
Rejuvenated, Decruz heads to his death and succeeds in blowing the gate apart. The group heads inside and notices soldiers evacuating owing to the impending air strikes.
To add to the trouble, waves of zombies enter the train-yard as well. A massive shootout ensues as Jan, Priest Killer and the Sargent look for the train car and the cure. Zombies and soldiers collide with death all around.
Match and Jurel inflict massive damage by blowing themselves up in an explosives truck as they sit in the front seat and reminisce about their old lives. Rafir climbs the train and covers his team from above.
Jan and Priest Killer locate the train and the Sargent heads to the engine in hopes of driving it away from the chaos. They find the Nazi Commandant inside injecting himself with the blue stuff and revealing that there is no antidote. This leads to Priest Killer shooting him dead.
The bogey gets swarmed too and Jan gets bitten on the hand. In a moment of brilliance, Priest Killer chops off his hand before the infection can spread, saving his life. Meanwhile, the Sargent also shoots himself when he is cornered just as the train moves out.
The air strikes follow and obliterate the valley but the train escapes. Jan and Priest Killer survive by encasing themselves inside a glass cell. The only other person shown to have survived is Rafir.
The final scenes see Priest Killer and Jan riding towards a small town on a motorcycle. She drops him there and rejects his offer to join him. She reveals that she’ll be crossing over into France as there is nothing left for her in Spain.
She then drives away smiling as Jan screams after her inquiring about her real name. A mid-credits scene shows a hand inside the train crushing metal as the screen cuts to black.