My Bloody Valentine (1981)

I can’t believe its been 5 months since my last post. I guess time flies when you’re moving across the country, starting a new job, getting settled in a new town and hosting your family for Christmas. Still, I’ve been remiss in my posting and have been looking for a reason to triumphantly return. Valentines Day seemed like as good of a reason as any.

Now, if you’re anything like me you find Valentines Day to be one of the more depressing greeting card holidays that Western Society insists on celebrating year in and year out. You can call me bitter, because I am, but reminding people that no one loves them and that they’re five seconds off being a crazy cat lady seems like a cruel and unusual punishment to inflict on an ever growing number of socially outcast freaks – much of whom have enough trouble getting through the general day to day bombardment of everyone elses love affairs on social media. With that in mind, I usually like to spend my V-Day at home, watching something that captures the spirit of the day. Last year it was From Hell, this year I thought ‘self, let’s watch My Bloody Valentine – both the original and the remake, for that extra dose of ‘loved-up goodness’ and then review them for the blog we’ve been neglecting.

This movie got the remake treatment in 2009 – as mentioned above, but we’ll be getting to that tomorrow – but for the sake of authenticity I think it’s important to revisit the original before we get side tracked by Jensen Ackles and the pitfalls of filming low-grade horror films in 3-D.

The original film is actually one of the stranger horror films I’ve seen and it times it is difficult to commit to and you have a moment of wondering if there isn’t something better you might be doing. Still, despite some damn awful acting and some questionable dialogue, it’s an amusing watch if you persist through to the end. The basic plot is thus;

valentine-bluffs

Valentine Bluffs is a small mining town that loves to make a big deal out of Valentines Day. One year (in the late 1960’s by my mathematical reckoning) there is a huge V-Day celebration planned that everyone is super keen to get to. As such, the foremen at the mine decide to cut out early and leave a group of miners below the surface, where they are trapped after an explosion. The soul survivor, Harry Warden, waits a year and then comes back and murders those responsible for leaving him and his ill-fated crew below ground to perish. Thereafter he is committed to a mental hospital and no one thinks about him again for 20 years. This is where the movies starts. Once again it is Valentines Day and this year, the townsfolk have decided that two decades of mourning is more than enough and it’s time to get the Valentine’s Day train back on track… with interesting results of course.

high-quality

In order to sate their thirst for all things romance, they decide to throw a huge dance and, almost on queue, Harry Warden makes a miraculous return – with threatening notes that warn all the old timers that he’s going to come back and kill everyone as soon as anyone dares start celebrating this dreaded holiday. Do the people listen? No, of course they don’t. Before you can say Hallmark Greeting Card there’s more crepe paper and cardboard love hearts strung up than you can poke a stick at. Suffice to say, this pisses Harry right off – and as a man good to his word, he has to start killing.

As I’ve said, although the acting in this version leaves a lot to be desired, considering the era, its actually an okay watch so long as you keep an open mind. There’s a huge cast of characters – which means a huge playing field for the killer (is it really Harry Warden slaughtering the locals? – is it not? I’m not going to ruin it for you)…. and some of the deaths are really very creative and gory (for the time).

death-by-washer

I’m really partial to death by washing machine/dryer –  particularly because it’s the smell that alerts the sheriff to the body. Nice.

It’s important to remember going into this movie that it pre-dates the heyday of slasher films, which really kicked off a few years later with A Nightmare on Elm Street. When you consider it as a forerunner to that film and all the other classics that came after it, it makes it somewhat more enjoyable to watch and you can forgive a lot of the more confusing elements of the plot. Unlike some of the later slasher films, I also have to give this one credit for having a villain that has no special powers. If we look at Freddy Kruger or the later versions of Jason Voorhees and Michael Meyers, they are in fact un-killable, which gives them a supernatural quality. In My Bloody Valentine our killer is pure flesh and blood human – and there’s a lot to be said for that fact.

forbidden-love

Oh, I guess it’s also important to mention that there is a love story element interwoven with the murder plot. Nothing lends itself to a mass slaughter quite like a love triangle – which is what we see here between Axel, Sarah and Tom. I’m not really clear on the nature or scope of their relationships, outside of the fact that Tom was with Sarah and then he left town and abandoned her. She picked up with Axel – who may or may not have been Tom’s buddy (poor form Axel) and just prior to the commencement of the film, Tom waltzes back into the piece to mess shit up. Indeed it is a tale as old as time and something to warm the cockles of the heart as we wade through the mire of discounted V-Day chocolates and wilted roses.

Overall, My Bloody Valentine is not quite as sharp as Prom Night and nowhere near as good as Halloween, but it’s a perfectly warm and fuzzy interlude for those of us who find themselves alone, yet again, on Valentines Day. Although the ensemble cast is a collection of unknown actors, with vastly differing acting abilities, they are likeable enough, while their fashion choices in particular make the film worth watching. Importantly, it’s also a timely reminder that things could be worse. Yes, we were alone but at least we didn’t end up with a pick axe through the forehead.

sidebar: for those of you who might have thought of this blog and our absence, even fleetingly over the last half year – I am sorry. We’ll be doing much better from now on and yes, I’ll be coming back around to a sci-fi focus soon.

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