Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday Slasher #1: My Bloody Valentine (1981)

Sunday Slasher: A weekly celebration of the best and the worst of the Slasher genre.

George Mihalka's 1981 Canadian slasher MY BLOODY VALENTINE is mostly remembered these days for supplying one of the most important bands of the past thirty years with their name, but to many kids who came of age in the early to mid eighties it is famous for being one of the most cut up and infamous horror films of their youth.
Hungarian born Mihalka was a complete unknown and had had very little film experience when he shot MY BLOODY VALENTINE in late 1980. He had previously only directed one feature, 1980's PICK-UP SUMMER and MY BLOODY VALENTINE simultaneously shows his inexperience and youthful energy.
The film, written by HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME collaborator John Beaird, follows the adventures of a group of small town Canadian kids who are attempting to have the towns first Valentine day dance since a crazed coal miner named Harry had went on a killing rampage years before. When human hearts start showing up in Valentine's day boxes, the towns overwhelmingly inept sheriff starts to think that perhaps a dance isn't the best idea, and that maybe Harry is back in business.

MY BLOODY VALENTINE fails on so many levels that it is hard to know where to begin, and yet in the last twenty minutes or so it does become genuinely suspenseful and for all its flaws, slightly enduring.
The positive aspects of MY BLOODY VALENTINE are pretty easy to point out. The Canadian location of Sydney Mines in Nova Scotia is very memorable and gives the film a much different feel from many of the slasher films of the period. Mihalka's direction isn't exactly inspired but he handles the film's killings well and like I said he does manage to build a sense of dread and excitement in the films final scenes. Rodney Gibbon's photography is also fairly good, specifically in the films darker moments where he uses a pretty simple but still effective lighting scheme that manages to be creepy but not overly done.
The film suffers from several beloved hallmarks of the genre, namely major lapses of logic, poor characterizations, bad acting, poor decision making and a trick ending you can guess less than halfway though. Looking past these obvious faults is pretty easy though in these films and it is still fun to watch, laugh at, or perhaps more importantly laugh with, and be scared by MY BLOODY VALENTINE...friends, beer and a late night are all recommended for maximum viewing pleasure though...

Of course none of the above matters as MY BLOODY VALENTINE is still one of the most cut slasher films in existence, and of course this is what has made it so legendary. Literally every killing scene was cut heavily by the ratings board, neutering what should have been the films most visceral and memorable moments into a bloodless series of confusing and at times incomprehensible shots. Perhaps only FRIDAY THE 13TH PART TWO was more damaged by the censor's scissors, but MY BLOODY VALENTINE is at least running a close second as the board literally ripped the heart out of the film.
The footage is said to still exist but unfortunately the film is the property of Paramount, a comany notorious for hating these movies and doing as little for them as possible. So it seems that the killer's unadulterated carnage can only be seen right now by those lucky enough to have grey market copies. As I was watching this recently with my girlfriend I mentioned that watching MY BLOODY VALENTINE like this was a bit like watching a sex film without the sex or a musical with no songs...it is really unfortunate that this film remains unrestored.

MY BLOODY VALENTINE opened in early 1981 to typically savage reviews and just okay box office. Thanks to magazines like Fangoria though, the cutting of the film became known almost immediately and because of this it became one of the most talked about slasher films of the eighties.
The influential Scottish band MY BLOODY VALENTINE, led by the Brian Wilson of his age Kevin Shields, took their name from the film in the mid eighties even though they had never seen it. Shields and collaborator Belinda Butcher were said to be simultaneously annoyed and amused when they finally saw the film on one of their early American tours, when they found it less than the masterpiece that they had hoped for.
MY BLOODY VALENTINE is currently available on a bare bones DVD from Paramount that features an okay Widescreen print but nothing else. All of the gore is still missing, so MY BLOODY VALENTINE is still one of the most skinless and bloodless slasher film of the period.
The film, despite its flaws is pretty beloved by fans of the genre who still yearn to see the missing footage. There is something almost quaint about the film now and it is hard for me to not be a bit nostalgic about it even though it is about as far away from being a good film as possible...one hopes that eventually a good uncut copy of the film will appear someday and that fans can finally put old Harry to rest.

5 comments:

Rogue Spy 007 said...

I saw this movie years ago. When we got our first vcr, we watched tons of horror movies. I can still remember this one. We still enjoyed it even though it had lots of flaws. It would be great to see the uncut version of it, but that doesn't look like it's going to happen. That's a shame. The ratings board and their censors make me sick.

aaron said...

Great review, even if I have to admit that I haven't seen the film all the way through (though if those last 20 minutes are as suspensful and as successful as you say, seems like I'll have to give it another shot).

"The Canadian location of Sydney Mines in Nova Scotia is very memorable and gives the film a much different feel from many of the slasher films of the period."

I actually was born and raised fifteen minutes from the location where this was filmed (unfortunately, I hadn't been born yet!).

Joe Valdez said...

Singular taste and comments written with finesse. Moon In The Gutter is becoming the wine cellar of the movie websites, Jeremy.

I can't recall you reviewing any slasher movies, but it's great to see that you don't hold this genre in any disdain. Just this movie. I'm looking forward to this series continuing.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Keith...I agree about the ratings board and it is a real shame that Paramount won't release the original cut...

Thanks Aaron...that is cool that you were born so close to the locations. It looks reall beautiful up there. I have never been but it is an area I woul really like to visit...

Joe,
"Singular taste and comments written with finesse. Moon In The Gutter is becoming the wine cellar of the movie websites, Jeremy."

That is one of the nicest compliments I have ever gotten...thanks so much. I am really looking forward to this weekly series as I have been a bit nostalgic lately and am looking forward to revisiting this genre. Hope you enjoy it and thanks again for the nice words...

Robbblog said...

One of the greatest slashers from the 80's..i live six hours away from the former Sydney Mines and i was there during the summer of 2005. The mine is torn down, but the town looks the same as it did in 1980/81...Hope Paramount revisits this title with an uncut DVD when the remake hits...