Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

My Bloody Valentine (1981)
Starring: Paul Kelman, Neil Affleck, Lori Hallier, Don Francks, and Peter Cowper
Director: George Mihalka
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

A bunch of young miners and their girl friends throwing a Valentine's Day party are stalked and killed by a psychotic miner bent on avenging a decades-old tragedy.

"My Bloody Valentine" is one of any number of holiday-themed slasher-flicks (with "Halloween" and "Silent Night, Deadly Night" being the most famous of the lot), and it is blessed with a better-than average script, better than average group of actors, and a killer who's one of the most striking appearing of the madmen who slashed and stabbed their way across movie screens in the late 1970s and early 1980s. His full mining gear, complete with gasmask and helmet with mounted lamp, is creepy enough, but he's downright terrifying as he stomps down mine tunnel, snashing the lights to make the already dark mine even darker.

On the other hand, that nice, spooky costume also has the drawback of requiering that the slasher in "My Bloody Valentine" has powers of stealth that must outstrip even those of the mightest ninja: How, exactly, does a killer who wanders around with a spotlight mounted on his forehead sneak up on his victims? However he manages it, this guy does.

Although mostly well done, the script does have two major weaknesses. The first is the town's chief of police. I don't think I've seen a dumber cop outside a 1930s "dark old house" mystery. The second is the "clever" twist in regards to the true identity of the killer. I don't think even audiences in 1981 would have been surprised by that groan-worthy, badly executed "surprise."

The print I saw of the film was obviously and heavy-handedly edited. There seems to be an entire segment missing from part of the chase in the mine, and almost all the murders are edited so the gory bits happen off-screen. (While this tends to lessen the impact of the murders, the one exception is the murder that takes place in the shower. The angle from which we see the body when it is discovered is more disturbing than it would have been if we had seen the kill, or seen it from the discoverer's point of view.)

"My Bloody Valentine" is worth a look if you're into slasher movies. It's competently made and well acted. (It's a shame that it appears to have been butchered by studio censors. Maybe a "restored" version can be produced, if the cut footage still exists in a vault somewhere; it's unlikely, as the film is not part of a series, nor does it feature anyone who went on to become a big star. If the right bits of footage are restored, this would be a stronger movie.

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