31 Days to Scare – My Bloody Valentine (1981)

my_bloody_valentine

The Facts:

Synopsis: A decades old folk tale surrounding a deranged murderer killing those who celebrate Valentine’s Day, turns out to be true when a group defies the killer’s order and people start turning up dead.

Stars: Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, Neil Affleck, Cynthia Dale, Helene Udy, Keith Knight

Director: George Mihalka

Rated: R

Running Length: 90 minutes

TMMM Score: (6/10)

Review:  After the huge success of Halloween and Friday the 13th, there was hardly a holiday that wasn’t laid claim to by numerous producers of the money making slasher genre.  Though it never achieved the kind of status that the films of Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees did, I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the above average My Bloody Valentine.

Released in 1981 before the slasher genre took a nosedive into little more than cheap exploitation flicks, this Canadian import has its fair share of scares and benefits greatly from a realistic setting in which real looking people are offed one at a time by a pickaxe wielding miner with a vendetta.  You see, years ago on Valentine’s Day Harry Warden was trapped when the mine he was working in collapsed, locking him in with his dead co-workers.  By the time he was reached, he’d gone a little…well…nuts.  He returned a year later and dispatched a few of his surviving supervisors, leaving a warning that the town of Valentine Bluffs never celebrate Valentine’s Day again.

Well you probably can tell what happens, then, when 20 years later the town decides to throw a little dance in celebration of Cupid’s big day…only to see some people actually lose their hearts along the way.  The last 1/3 of the movie takes place in the mine when a group of townsfolk celebrate in their own way deep within the dark confines of the mine.  And they’re not alone.  But is it Harry Warden, returned to make good on his promise or is it someone else, someone with a score of their own to settle?

Hardly the most original concept for a story, though you do have to take into account that when this was released in 1981 it was before the large majority of the copycat slasher films were being released almost weekly into theaters.  The script by Stephen A Miller and John Beaird is no classic but it at least makes an effort to flesh out some of the one-dimensional characters, introducing some conflict amongst the group that has nothing to do with the crazy dude out to kill them all.

Being set in Canada, there are more than a few chuckle inducing moments when the Kanuk accents take center stage but for the most part the cast does a better than average  job in the acting department.  This was a time when films like this were cast with adults playing adults…and it works wonders for making the proceedings a bit more mature than their later similarly themed films.  Though it falls into the trappings of pesky logic, it winds up working almost in spite of its clumsy pacing.

Gore wise, there’s a few impressive effects and one sequence I’ve always found creepy where a woman is stalked in a room filled with empty mining uniforms.  You can tell that how she meets her end was thought up first and everything else was filled in around it by director George Mihalka and that’s not entirely a bad thing.  Clearly everyone involved knew what kind of film they were making and instead of treating it like great art or just a way to make a quick buck, a happy medium was struck that gives the film its lasting place in the horror spectrum.

Remade in 2009 as a 3D gore fest, those involved in the remake tinkered too much with the plot and struck out when it came to putting a new shine on an old pair of shoes.  I’d say stick with the original film and enjoy 90 minutes of a good natured slasher film that’s aged well and has a gloriously square theme song that plays over the final credits.

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