My Bloody Valentine Reviews
Better than your average slasher-horror, not that this says much. Reasonable set up, and a decent amount of intrigue. Does fall back on many horror cliches, and the performances are so-so. Plot is ultimately fairly formulaic, but has its moments.
When it comes to slasher films, there are simple demands to make an enjoyable feature: plenty of violence and nudity. This means that My Bloody Valentine has minimal expectations to cater to, but the resulting feature turns out rather meandering. The opening scene depicts two people preparing to have sex in a mineshaft for some godforsaken reason. The general idea of it is ridiculous enough to bring laughter into the film, but unfortunately the sight of a half-naked woman is the most nudity the film will get. Though there are plenty of stupid teenagers in My Bloody Valentines, they don't entertain viewers with sex and nudity but are rather just plain stupid. Occasionally this is played off for comedic results, but it doesn't have the same extent of appeal within a slasher film that boobs do. It's as simple as that, but that's not how director George Mihalka sees it.
After the intro, My Bloody Valentine kicks off with gleeful energy and idiotic characters as a means of adding the elements of aforementioned humour. The film is able to consistently oscillate between this and horror to ensure that it takes itself seriously without neglecting the need to have some moments of silliness for the first act of the film. This keeps things mildly entertaining between the murders until the film hits its killing spree climax. Among all this, My Bloody Valentine takes only about 10 minutes before it explains who its antagonist is. Though this takes away the trope of mystery common in slasher films, it reveals the motives of the killer to audiences and offers a valid reason for the killer to be angry. However, this also leaves the potential for audiences to experience a twist which combats their expectations and plays with their certainties. My Bloody Valentine follows the simplistic conventions of a slasher film enough to cater to fans though it has some slight elements of innovation. However, none of them end up being all that transcendent amid the utter simplicity of the entire film.
For one thing, the predominant setting eventually becomes the mineshaft seen at the start of the film. This is good in the sense that it provides viewers with a sense of claustrophobia which combines which confines the characters to a setting of no escape, but the visual appeal of this gets old really fast and so the setting ends up as repetitive. Why the characters end up choosing to enter the location still baffles me, but the film does not encourage intellectual stimulation and so I didn't find concern in determining why. The fact that the film uses on-location scenery boosts the credibility of the narrative since its genuine nature works to make things convincing.
There ends up being a lot of blood in My Bloody Valentine which ensures that it lives up to the promises of its title and its generic contract as a slasher film. There are a large number of victims in the film who are given the unsuspected execution with a pickaxe before bleeding everywhere. One of them is a burn victim, but she is the exception and features some effective prosthetics. The killer goes through essentially the same method of killing every time, coming out of unsuspecting places to kill whomever with the same pickaxe. He digs into them with enough strength to deal a blow which doesn't require the actors to deliver melodramatic reactions to the generic stabbings of standard slasher fare. And thanks to the way the story is set up, the killer in the story is able to appear freely on the screen within the confines of his costume and yet maintain a hidden identity for the sake of mystery.
Frankly, amid the countless generic slasher films to come out during the heyday of the genre, My Bloody Valentine rises above many of the low standards. The quantity of nudity in the story is not one of them, but the fact that the film manages to capture so much on a minimal budget means that it keeps to its low-budget roots but never ends up feeling all that cheap. It's made with a higher standard of filmmaking than the creation of Friday the 13th (1980), but more simplistic ambitions than A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Director George Mihalka clearly set out to make nothing more than a genre picture which he most certainly achieved, and he did it with plenty of blood of gore to keep the visual experience rich in colour. And the plot of the film ends up stretched to little more than 90 minutes so that it doesn't overstay its welcome. To keep things engaging, the pace of the film moves along at a relatively brisk speed without obsessing over its story or taking things all that seriously. And to top it off, My Bloody Valentine is a standalone film and does not have its credibility disregarded by an endless array of unnecessary sequels, even though the conventions of its story leave it open for one. It eventually ended up with a remake which was more critically and commercially successful in a rare case for remakes, but My Bloody Valentine still maintains its credibility as a standalone cult classic by not having a story which has churned out a ridiculous number of different stories about how the antagonist can't be killed.
There are no cast members who make any kind of a serious impact in My Bloody Valentine because the film is short on characters as slasher films tend to be. Since there is also no nudity, the actors cannot be immortalized for their appearances either. They are all generic players in a thin story which is of no challenge to anybody, though this is probably a good idea since viewers would never have heard of any of the actors in the film.
My Bloody Valentine is a half-decent slasher film: the story is generic, the method of murder is repetitive and there is no nudity but it still offers an original antagonist and plenty of blood to boot.
Perhaps if released in the late 1980's, or even the 1990's, George Mihalka's My Bloody Valentine would've been a film many slasher fans would've sneered at; it would've likely been a film dismissed as "more of the same" in a genre unwilling to subvert its more predictable principles to become something greater. Being released in 1981, however, when the slasher film was still a fairly new concept, My Bloody Valentine is actually a very significant for the time period. It's one of the few films of that era that didn't spawn a legion of sequels, let alone even a followup, and managed to tell its story and wrap it up without the feeling that it needed to build a cult of support and development around its pickaxe-wielding killer. It's a film that tells its story and leaves its mark.
The story is set in the small town of Valentine Bluffs, which is preparing for a Valentine's Day dance, the first in man years. A working class town where most men work as coal miners, the Valentine's Day dance was a popular event in the town before a mining accident occurred twenty years before. On-the-job negligence resulted in five men being trapped underground amidst dangerous level of methane gas. While four of the miners died, one survivor named Harry Warden survived through cannibalistic acts and was eventually rescued. A year later, after never being seen again, Harry exacted revenge on the supervisors that were responsible for the accident, killing them both and slicing through their chests to extract their hearts, which he left in Valentine boxes to be found; he warned Valentine Bluffs never to hold another dance again.
With Harry being locked in an asylum and a new generation of spry young kids wanting to commemorate Valentine's Day with a dance, the town complies and hosts another dance. Once again, as foreshadowed by a few of the older townspeople, murders begin happening by a man in a gas-mask wielding a pickaxe; Harry has presumably returned to avenge a town that has disobeyed his only wish.
My Bloody Valentine is rather dark and methodical for a slasher film, unwilling to commit to a more light-hearted aura like many of its successors would. Its fabulously paced score of synths and melodic music, composed by Paul Zaza creates actual suspense in conjunction with Mihalka's direction, which is filled with original camera-angles. Consider the closeups we see of the murderer, and the utterly gruesome deaths we see with an unblinking eye. Mihalka was going for something completely frightening and unapologetically terrifying with the mood he creates here, and it isn't until one sees this film after watching more comical entries into the genre that they realize what a breakthrough this film was, staying true to slasher films' original roots of being frightening, atmospheric, and tense.
The narrative is just believable enough to keep one watching, as it's not crafted in total randomness, and the deaths are just brutal enough to warrant some legitimate scares or jolts. Seasoned horror fans and cult followers will take note that pressures from the MPAA forced Mihalka to edit and scale-back his film significantly in the gore-department, and Mihalka's original cut, despite being filmed, has never been released to the public. An extended cut was released on DVD to coincide with the film's remake in 2009, adding three minutes to the film's original version, despite never releasing the completely untampered original.
With that, My Bloody Valentine is a particularly strong slasher because, for one, it recognizes its genre and respectfully handles its scares and its material, and secondly, plays along with the tropes by making this a heavily stylized slasher in aesthetic and atmosphere. It manages to be gruesome quite often, but elegant throughout, and with such a brutal concept, it's surprising that the result is so quaint.
Starring: Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, and Neil Affleck. Directed by: George Mihalka.