This year I have decided that instead of my usual Valentine’s Day tradition of sitting alone in a dark room I will change things up and sit alone in a dark room reviewing horror movies. And what movies are more appropriate for the occasion than My Bloody Valentine and its remake? Here’s the first: Part 2, the remake, will follow over the next couple of days is here!
Released in 1981, right at the peak of the slasher movie frenzy, My Bloody Valentine is set in the improbably named mining town of Valentine Bluffs, where everyone is eagerly preparing for the first Valentine’s Day dance the town has held in 20 years. The reason for this is that 20 years ago an accident trapped 5 men in the mine. Everyone was too busy celebrating Valentines Day to notice so the sole survivor, Harry Warden, survived by eating his colleagues and vowed revenge on those responsible along with anyone who celebrates Valentines Day in the town ever again. Surely now that Harry is behind bars they’re safe to finally put the past behind them? Of course not.
Apart from a surprisingly effective opening scene, this film doesn’t do very much to separate itself from the countless slasher movies made around this time, but it nonetheless makes decent use of the various tropes of the genre, and even seems commited to a certain simplicity that works to its advantage. We get the typical voyeuristic first-person sequences shot from the perspective of Harry Warden, disposable teens with little worries beyond who’s going to go & get the next beer, & a bartender whose rants about Harry returning fall on deaf ears until it’s too late. Everything has it’s place though and there’s a laid back feeling to the film that, contrary to the brutal murders that occur pretty frequently, makes it come across as quite good-natured and fun, in turn making it feel mean to pick apart the cliches that are present. Harry’s a pretty straight-forward villain, the brief flashback gives us a motive, but beyond that we know nothing about him, no supernatural powers are alluded to, and his weapon is simply a pick-axe, occasionally backed up by whatever he finds to hand around him in some disgustingly imaginative moments.
The version I watched is seemingly the only one available in the UK – the theatrical cut which is 9 minutes shorter than the fully uncut one, meaning there are never any tremendously gruesome images on screen for more than a split second. A quick youtube search provides a handy compilation of the scenes reinstated for the American “uncut” version (only 3 minutes are added, but the director has said that the remaining 6 were just exposition and added nothing to the movie, with the exception of one particularly violent “double drill” scene that is badly damaged). In this cut version, the movie never becomes brutal enough to entirely counteract the light tone of the surrounding storyline. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it makes for a more accessible, perhaps more innocent slasher than the likes of the infamous “video nasties”; but after seeing the cut scenes showing off some pretty decent effects I personally wish the longer version was available in the UK (*cough* Arrow Video *cough*) as the majority of them are genuinely unpleasant which will work nicely against the otherwise light, verging on whimsical nature of Valentine Bluffs’ residents.
It’s not a surprise this movie wasn’t nominated for any Oscars, but the writing, acting and directing are perfectly adequate for a film of this type. The cast are all likeable, and genuinely seem to have some chemistry as though they are genuinely friends. An unexpected drop in momentum occurs partway during the third act when an irritating amount of time is taken up by one of the girls refusing to climb a ladder, walk in a straight line, or generally do any of the simple tasks that might save her from Harry, but once she’s disposed of the pace is regained long before the very interesting ending. This drop is probably only noticeable however because the rest of the movie is so much fun. It’s frequently quoted as being Quentin Tarantino’s favourite slasher movie; it may not be my single favourite, but it’s definitely one of the better one’s I’ve seen; a brilliant pick for an unconventional Valentine’s movie, but still a very good slasher at any time of year.