Wednesday, October 21, 2015

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

Ever since a crazed miner went on a killing spree some decades ago, a Canadian mining town has avoided all Valentine’s Day celebrations. Until now, that is.

Unfortunately, returning to Valentine’s Day also starts up another series of murders, and soon the Chief of Police (Don Francks) and the Mayor find themselves the receivers of seasonally appropriately packaged body parts accompanied by threats to knock off the whole Valentine’s Day Party idea or else… Which indeed they do, though without telling their loving populace the reasons for their decision, instead covering up a series of murders instead of properly investigating them. So it doesn’t come as much of a surprise when the younger members of the community decide to have their own secret party up in a building of the mine, with a visit to the actual mine for the film’s grand finale.

Of course, the killer doesn’t like this pirate Valentine’s Party at all, and so sub-plots like the love triangle between Sarah (Lori Hallier), the guy who tried to make it in the real world but couldn’t T.J. (Paul Kelman), and Axel (Neil Affleck), the guy who stayed, just might be solved by pickaxe fiat.

George Mihalka’s Canadian slasher is one of the handful of entries in the sub-genre I truly love, so it’s no surprise finally getting around to watching the uncut version of the film doesn’t change much about my opinion. For those of you who don’t know the story, nearly all of My Bloody Valentine’s very fine gore effects had to be cut by the filmmakers to avoid the irrational ire of the MPAA as well as the hypocritical distaste of its distributor Paramount who had quickly become skittish about violence in their films thanks to the fine work of said MPAA as well as very public reactions of people like censorship champion Roger Ebert to Friday the 13th et al; the film was only restored to its full, bloody glory a few years ago. Fortunately, the more tepid version we got to see all these years still worked rather well, which proves that this is an effective little horror story in any case. Just as fortunately, adding some more gruesome visuals doesn’t distract from the film’s virtues but rather adds another one to them, as well as a silly, brutal gag to the finale I didn’t know I was missing all these years.

But let’s not pretend I have even the slightest distance to this particular film, because I’d much rather list some of the elements I love so well about My Bloody Valentine and be done with it. So, I love that this is a slasher movie not about bourgeois teenagers but about still young but slightly older than those working class people; that the film doesn’t treat this is as something exotic or worthy of derision; that the love triangle is basically a Bruce Springsteen song right out of “Darkness on the Edge of Town”; how much the film’s finale improves by taking place down in a mine shaft, adding environmental dangers to the killer and the characters being in a horror movie; how the film takes only the basic slasher clichés that actually fit its plot and discards the others, even if this means we get no real final girl; the sense of place Mihalka builds, turning the mining town into more than the often very generic background of your typical slasher, and fitting the killer to the place. And last but not least, the general sense of atmosphere and of calm competence Mihalka’s filmmaking shows, with many a fine moment of tension and relief and the return of tension.

Is it any wonder I’d call this one the second best slasher ever made, just behind Carpenter’s Halloween, of course?

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