Wednesday, October 6, 2010

31 days, 31 faves: My Bloody Valentine (1981)

Oh those crazy Canadians!

Once again we return to 1981, when good horror films seemed to emanate from every dark corner and then some. What a fantastic time to come of age.
The Canadian production My Bloody Valentine is an incredibly campy, old-hat, and downright dated slasher film that holds a special place in my heart (no pun intended) and despite its shortcomings, never seems to go out of style.

I give you the curse of Harry Warden:
Twenty years ago in Valentine Bluffs, a group of five miners ended up trapped in Hanniger Mine during a methane gas explosion. Apparently the foreman left early to attend a Valentine's Day dance, failing to check the methane levels. The only survivor, Harry Warden, was eventually rescued but had gone mad in the six weeks he'd been down in the cave-in. He'd been consuming the flesh of his co-workers in order to stay alive. Nice.
Naturally, he ends up escaping from the mental institution a year later and murders the foreman by cutting out his heart. He's dressed up in his mining gear, complete with mask, and leaves a note for everyone to take heed not to celebrate Valentine's Day in any way, shape or form. He is not, my friends, feeling the love.

Presently, a bunch of miners currently working at the mine have decided to have a Valentine's dance. Screw the legend! These guys are a bunch of good 'ol boys, who are first shown showering up after a hard day's work. We meet TJ, who has just returned to town after a long absence to find his old girlfriend Sarah is now making time with his former best friend Axel.
It's obvious these two are bound for a major confrontation, and we get it sooner rather than later.

After exiting the mine and hopping into their beat-up jalopies, they drive off to the local dancehall where all their better halves are waiting for them. These girls act like the guys have been gone for like, six months or something, the way they cling to them! That in and of itself is a humorous moment.

Meanwhile, the mayor and the town sheriff are leaving when one of the miners stops them to give the mayor a heart shaped box of candy that was left mysteriously for him. When he opens it, he finds a cutesy little rhyme and a human heart. Apparently, Harry Warden is back, and has found his inner Walt Whitman.

Unfortunately, Harry isn't through. He then picks poor Mabel, who owns the local laundry mat, to dispose of, and yes - she gets a poem too. (I might add that the poems get worse and worse as the movie goes on. Harry seems to have lost his touch somewhere around the middle.) The mayor, after finding the old woman in one of her own dryers, calls off the dance altogether. Not to be deterred, the gang decides to have a secret party in the mine since the dance has been canceled and they have been warned not to celebrate in any fashion.

They get their groove on at the mine in the rec room, slamming down beers and listening to music that most certainly belongs on an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard. It's almost too much to handle, because I truly despise country music, and this stuff is just about as hicky as it gets. Of course the lovers triangle heats up, with TJ and Axel both fighting for the chance to ride the hobby horse with Sarah. Eventually she gets pissed off and tells them both to go to hell.

When one of the couples ventures into the shower/dressing room to have sex (and I have to say that this particular dude looks like a guy in my town that can only be called...slow, and I just can't put that out of my head), Harry makes quick work of the girl when the guy leaves her alone to go get some beer. And they didn't even get to have sex! When the poor boyfriend comes back and finds his honey impaled on a shower head he freaks out. Who wouldn't, really?

Soon, someone of the group has the wise-ass idea to take a little tour of the mine, just a quick ride in the mining car for some excitement! TJ vetoes the idea outright (while sporting a really rad bandana and an open button-down denim shirt. Whoo-hoo!). You see, TJ's daddy owns the mine, and he's mucho important, or at least he'd like to think so. So he stays behind and broods while the others defy him and head into the mine.

Before long though, the stragglers that didn't go into the mine are interrupted by the poor terrified dude with the dead girlfriend. Once it's realized just what's going on, TJ and Axel band together (solidarity!) to go find Sarah, who has went with the gang into the mine.
I don't think I really have to explain that one by one, our gathering gets smaller. After all, it is a slasher film. Will TJ and/or Axel reach Sarah in time? Will they ever get out of the mine? Is it truly Harry back for vengeance? Does TJ ever update his wardrobe? These and other pressing questions will all be just have to watch.

I think the reason this film means so much to me is it really creeped me out as a teenager. I still find the atmosphere really shuddersome, in particular in the dreadfully ominous mine interiors. It was literally filmed in an actual (closed down) mine in Nova Scotia, adding to the genuine feel of the frights. There's nothing scarier than being in a closed-in space, the feeling of isolation and suffocation becomes unbearable. I have to hand it to anyone who works underground for a living, I really do.
The acting is at times so incredibly cheesy that it's almost comical, but that's part of the film's charm. Surviving on a bare-bones plot, it still manages to be truly scary. Harry Warden's mask-covered face and huge pick axe are what legends are made of, and he scares me more than any Pinhead or Freddy does, truth be told. Supposedly, nine minutes were trimmed from the running time due to the quantity of gore. I've yet to see a restored version, but to be honest I think it has just the right amount of the red stuff.
And I just HAVE to give props to the awesome end title song, 'The Ballad of Harry Warden', written by Paul Zaza and sung by John McDermott. I even have this gem on my iTunes.

I think I've mentioned (about a hundred times) that the 2009 3D remake of MBV was filmed just 8 miles from my home and used a mine close by as its source location. I think it has been one of the better remakes to come along in awhile, but certainly one should always watch the original before partaking of the new revision.

At any rate, the final moments of the 1981 movie are basically supposed to be a surprise ending, but in all truthfulness, it really wasn't much of a shock. Even though, this film is still one of my go-to flicks for a late Saturday night, in particular on my anniversary - which is, you guessed it - Valentine's Day.


James said...

This is one of my favourite slasher flicks too, Chris. One of the best from that era and a definite 'go to' film for any wine-soaked Saturday evening. ;o)

TheGirlWhoLovesHorror said...

I saw the remake first and didn't have much expectations for the original, but I fucking loved it! I got the DVD in a two-pack with April Fool's Day. How can you beat that???