Tuesday, October 25, 2011

30 Days of Fright - 24: My Bloody Valentine

There is a strong tradition of mining in many parts of the world but the places I tend to associate with that industry are the North of England, parts of Wales, and parts of Cornwall. It is purely because of my knowledge of the UK that I think of those places when I think of digging stuff out of the ground on a big scale.Places like Cornwall have so many legends and folklore tales associated with the practice of mining that it comes as no real surprise that a horror movie or two has been made over the years set in and around mines. What is surprising that at least one of them is Canadian!

In a blatant attempt to cash in on day-themed movies like Friday 13th and Halloween, My Bloody Valentine (1981) is set in a small mining town called Valentine Bluffs somewhere in deepest darkest Canada where, in 1960 during that year’s Valentine’s Day dance, an accident occurred in the mine that was caused by two supervisors who were in a hurry to get to the dance and left five men in unsafe conditions. The rescue attempt took six weeks and by the time they got to where the miners were only one was still alive and he had apparently only survived by letting his diet go to hell and feasting on the remains of his co-workers (whether or not they died in the accident or if he killed them is unclear).

The survivor, Harry Warden, was institutionalised for his trauma but the following year, having learned of the cause of the accident, he returned home and murdered the supervisors responsible and a few others, leaving a message for the town that no Valentine’s Day dances or other celebrations are ever be held there again. Every year since, Harry has busted out of the puzzle factory around the 14th of February and nipped home to make sure no one’s getting their groove on.

Twenty years have passed since the accident and most of the towns inhabitants have either forgotten the story of Harry Warden or now think the whole thing is just some local legend. Deciding to resurrect the towns Valentine’s festival, the centre piece of which in the dance, the towns organisers led by the mayor and the local Laundromat owner, prepare the place for the festival with decorations and sweets in heart-shaped boxes (in an apparent homage to Nirvana about ten years before that band dominated the Seattle music scene!).

The mayor is the recipient of one of those boxes but is horrified to discover that it doesn’t contain novelty chocolates but instead a human heart, recently forcibly removed from its owner’s chest. As the mayor is of the right vintage to remember Harry Warden he put’s two and two together and pisses himself as he cops what’s about to go down in Valentine Bluffs, just in time for Valentine’s Day...

Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl, and Kurt Cobain before they turned their backs on mining for good

My Bloody Valentine is a low budget, no names, no hope, heap of crap that got thrown together and puked up onto a screen. While I can appreciate the desire to cash in on a trend in movies like those that used keys days in the year as their main reason for butchering teenagers, the shoddy way that this film was made is almost certainly one of the main reasons films like Halloween are looked upon so kindly as, despite their glaring faults, they all look like Oscar worthy masterpieces in comparison to My Bloody Valentine.

There are two main failings with My Bloody Valentine: what it’s about and the people in it.

The “acting” is fucking shit. Holy Jesus, you’d think someone on the crew, sitting down to watch the dailies or maybe in the editing suite later on would have looked at the footage and thought to themselves “Shit! We’ve made a terrible film and it’s mainly because no-one in it can act!” I’m stunned that no one intervened to stop this thing getting loose, it’s not like they had You Tube in 1981 and couldn’t have stopped some of it leaking out. All someone had to do was burn the master copy and we’d b rid of this monstrosity, I mean they lost chunks of the original print of The Wicker Man for crying out loud, why couldn’t that happen to a bad film?!

There are a boat load of characters in My Bloody Valentine and they’re all portrayed by useless plebs. The mayor, the woman who owns the laundry, the Sheriff, the geezer who runs the bar, the mayor’s young lad, the other “men” who work the mine, and their girlfriends, are all equally shite. I kid you not, there’s not one of them who was able to put in even a reasonable performance. Even if they were all part of the same amateur dramatics society you’d imagine one of them would have gotten lucky and been able to deliver their lines without sounding like an eight year old forced to read in front of the class. Even the girls, whose main function in the film was to scream at the appropriate moments, couldn’t get that right. How do you mess up screaming? I don’t know either, but sure enough at least two of the women in My Bloody Valentine were unable to scream in a convincing manner.

My Bloody Valentine's Harry Warden in happier times

With the bar set so low by those on screen it’s a little hard to see past them to the story they were trying to tell. Which is no loss really as that was crap too. The need for revenge by one crazed dude is a staple of the slasher flick, but in the case of My Bloody Valentine, there’s nothing supernatural going on, and the baddie, Harry Warden, is batshit crazy and has, apparently, been visiting town every year for the last twenty. Hang on. He’s been able to skip out from the asylum, travel home, make sure no-one’s throwing a Valentine’s bash, and then... goes back to the asylum? There’s a lot wrong with this idea. As we’ve learned from other horror films of the seventies and eighties, the level of psychiatric care available to those with murderous tendencies as was very poor, so it’s no big surprise that a straightforward trauma like that caused by six weeks in the dark with only co-workers to eat wasn’t effectively dealt with. That Harry is able to escape every year like clockwork is a bit of a stretch, that he goes back to the “hospital” is fairly improbable (because if you’re crazy do you know you’re crazy, if not why go back, and if so Harry must have realised he wasn’t getting any help where he was, why didn’t he break out of one loony bin and check himself in somewhere better?). The most unlikely thing though is that the audience is expected to believe that Harry goes home every year to mess up Valentine’s Day, and no-one busted a cap in his ass! I would have thought Hallmark would have hired someone.

Two Thumbs Firmly Down for My Bloody Valentine.

My Bloody Links:
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Bloody_Valentine_%28film%29
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082782/

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