MONKEY REVIEW: My Bloody Valentine (1981)

April 21, 2008

mybloodyvalentineSince the 3-D (!) remake of this 1981 cult favorite comes out January of next year, I figured I’d watch the original, having never seen all of it. (I think the first time I saw it was on late night cable, and only caught bits and pieces of it.) My Bloody Valentine is afflicted with a lot of the same problems that afflict low budget 80’s slasher movies, that is, bad dialogue, spotty acting, highly derivative plot with the characters making the standard poorly thought out and often fatal decisions once they realize danger is afoot, but the movie nevertheless succeeds almost in spite of itself, mostly owing to its unique premise: A psychotic miner stalks Valentine party goers 2000 feet underground in a Canadian mine shaft. Once the action moves into the mine, the filmmakers exploit the location pretty effectively, working up an atmosphere of fear and tension, not to mention claustrophobia. A couple of standout scenes involve a harrowing trip up a ladder and a rail car ride to the surface. The killer also looks singularly scary, decked out in a jumpsuit with a miner’s helmet with a light, a gas mask and goggles. One great shot of him shows him slightly backlit at the end of a tunnel, his ax at the ready, and that shot alone practically made the movie for me. Relatively speaking, it’s light on the gore, having had 8 or 9 minutes of violence edited out owing to the threat of an MPAA X rating, but you end up seeing just enough for it to be effective. Another point in My Bloody Valentine‘s favor is its fairly brisk pace. A lot of slasher movies have long, boring stretches in between the times the killer makes his/her appearance, sometimes as long as half the movie, but this movie gets down to business almost immediately, the killer making an appearance every ten minutes or so. Of course, that also means a lot of characters meet a sorry fate, but that’s the way it goes with these sort of movies, anyway. A lot of people champion My Bloody Valentine as being one of their favorite slasher films, Quentin Tarantino included, and having now seen the movie in its entirety, I wouldn’t rank it as being my favorite, as Halloween will always occupy that spot, but it’s pretty good, especially for its genre. It remains to be seen as to whether or not a director’s cut of the movie, with the excised footage restored, will ever be released, as some hoped it would be when the movie was initially issued on DVD. Now that the remake is forthcoming, there’s renewed hope that this will happen, but if it doesn’t, oh well: What exists is good on its own. The print of the movie on the DVD is excellent, better than you would have expected for a 27 year old low budget release. No extras, though, but apparently that’s just how Paramount treats its 80’s horror releases, the Friday the 13th movies included. Is My Bloody Valentine a great movie? Well, no, but it’s a highly effective one, with some truly creepy final moments, and I definitely recommend it for horror fans.

MONKEY RATING: TWO (PSYCHOTIC MINER) MONKEYS (WITH GAS MASKS AND GOGGLES, AND THE HELMET WITH THE LIGHT, OF COURSE)

(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)

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