Friday, December 9, 2011

MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981)

MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981)

Directed by George Mihalka
Paramount Home Video DVD

THE FILM
Valentine's Bluff has a problem. They only have one bar and its run by a real jerk. Ladies and gentlemen, that's me kidding. These jokes are free. For real, the town hasn't celebrated Valentine's Day in twenty years because of Harry Warden. Harry was a pissed off miner who killed several people over a Valentine's Day related accident. With the killings came the decree, "Lay off Valentine's Day!" And, everyone has. Until now... With the coming of the first Valentine's Day Dance in two decades, someone has returned to put a stop to the fun. Is it Harry Warden? And, how far will he go to stop the festivities? And, did you really need that plot description? And, doesn't this style of writing bother you?

I remember seeing Siskel & Ebert review My Bloody Valentine on Sneak Previews back in 1981. They showed the scene where the greaser guy gets killed in the kitchen during the party or the scene where the other guy opens the fridge and doesn't see the body inside. I think it was probably the latter but it may have been the former. (I remember that curtain instead of a door that led into the kitchen.) S&E didn't like it. They seemed desperately tired of everything and anything to do with slasher films, which weren't really called that at the time.

I was eight, however, and I loved it. I needed to see that movie. Many kids I knew grew up with the John Hughes teen comedies. They could quote them, dress like folks in them and have endless exclusionary conversations about them. I grew up with the slasher films, although I didn't really watch them until years later. Certain images, scenes, taglines and titles burnt into my mind. My Bloody Valentine was one of them. The man in the miner's uniform with the gas mask and the pickaxe was something I put on my "To Watch When I'm Not So Scared" List. It got crossed off that list sometime around my 15th birthday. That day, I wanted to become a miner.

My Bloody Valentine is a well-produced, tense thriller that climaxes in a genuinely creepy closing half-hour. It is a film you could show to a non-slasher fan very comfortably. If they can get past the first ten minutes or so, they should be set. That first quarter hour introduces a pile of characters that yell a lot, speak in exposition and appear completely interchangeable. I could see someone running a long mile while watching these, frankly, annoying scenes. Then, the filmmakers do something clever. Suddenly, they slow it down and a love triangle is developed. It may seem slightly out of place if all you want is killings but it works well here. It may also convince people who believe that these sorts of films offer nothing but death that they might be incorrect. (Just don't show them Don't Go In The Woods right after this.) The secondary characters never really get developed but there is a mainline slasher agenda here so I let it ride.

Even Howard has his place. Howard is the Comic Relief. He's played by Alf Humphreys, who I have seen on at least three X-Files episodes ("Space", "The Blessing Way", "Detour") and several other shows. I think he does a good job. It's not his fault that the "Comic Relief!" is given nothing but unfunny things to do. Although if the crowd knows each other as well as is implied, the Comic Relief would, technically, need to do practically nothing to make them laugh. It's not much fun for the audience who wouldn't understand the inside jokes but it is realistic. Of course, if he's truly meant to be funny, then you can pretend this paragraph isn't here.

I think you can safely use Halloween, Black Christmas, Friday the 13th (if folks are up for something sloppier) and, possibly, The Burning (it'll have a few folks they'll recognize) to get people into slashers. My Bloody Valentine is an excellent one, also. I thought I had something new and groundbreaking to say about My Bloody Valentine. I don't. It's not the sort of film that requires rediscoveries or new revelations. Yes, having it on DVD uncut would be nice. But, the killings get by on suggestion and the little bits we see fuel the imagination. Watch it today or watch it again tomorrow. For the fresh, tragic and pungent bouquet of 80s slashers, you can't get better vintage than this.

AUDIO AND VIDEO
The film sounds great. No frills but nice. The letterboxing on the DVD really helps. It adds back all that eerie empty space that floats around the characters, like in Halloween.

EXTRAS
None. My extras: Something I've always wondered about that didn't fit into the review.

"It's 60 feet deep." I love mines but I've never understood that scene. They walk along a wooden bridge that is right on top of water. A sign notifies them that something is sixty feet deep and it is dangerous. Axel is knocked into the water. When T.J. is asked what they can do to help him he says, "Nothing. It's 60 feet deep." And they let him sink. Why can't they go after him? I understand that the miners probably have a lot of gear on that weighs them down but why wouldn't they take it off if they hit the water? Is it not water? It's near "the sump" and I'm not quite sure what that is. Does the water pull people right to the bottom? When I saw it the first time, it was creepy enough that this never occurred to me. Now...well?*

FINAL THOUGHTS
It is as close to a "regular movie" as slashers get. I keep a lookout for the weird ones but I'm comfortable with the "saner, regular" ones. My Bloody Valentine is as sane as a slasher gets and is not worse off because of it. Watch the DVD today, take a job in a mine tomorrow.

*I flipped through a miner's dictionary and found out what a sump is, I think. It's a place where they keep water that they come across while mining. Sort of a storage cavern where water waits to be pumped to the surface. So, the "60 feet deep" may refer to the depth of the cavern, not the depth of the water. The water just happens to be up to the bridge. The person who does the pumping at the end of the day keeps it under the bridge. (Some of this is extrapolated.) But, why can't T.J. go after Axel? I still don't get that. If you're interested in hearing more or are a miner, give us a yell. I may have gotten some of this wrong. And, I'm always up for learning more about mines.

— Dan Budnik, 11.16.06

No comments: