It was 20 years ago when the small town of Valentine Bluff experienced a horrible tragedy. A gas leak caused an explosion in a mine shaft, and five men were trapped. Left to die, only one member of the crew, Harry Warden, was rescued. Naturally, the event drove him insane, and he was placed in a local asylum. A year later he escaped, and returned to the burg to seek his revenge. Cutting out the hearts of those he thought guilty, he warned that he would return should the town ever decide to celebrate Valentine's Day again. Fast forward two decades, and the citizens (along with several clueless teens) are foolishly preparing to do that very thing. And wouldn't you know it -- a masked miner with a pickaxe in hand has indeed returned, metering out his own form of body-cleaving justice.
Cursed by the MPAA with a mindboggling nine minutes of missing footage, My Bloody Valentine is one the best "incomplete" slice and dicers of the early '80s. It's relentlessly nasty and as dark as the caverns of its mining town setting. Built on the kind of autopsy-like effects that made Tom Savini and Rob Bottin into monster movie gods (though neither was involved here), it's a perfect example of a spook show carnival barker experience. During the VCR's infancy, adolescents would often bop down to their local mom and pop to see what they could "scare" up for a dateless Saturday Night. The double dare nature of this kind of film made it perfect for such motion picture misery-loves-company gatherings. In addition, My Bloody Valentine still had the novelty of the genre on its side. In a few years, the entire slasher concept would be dried up and tired.
If the film has a flaw, and it's a pretty hefty one, it's the way in which the killings were handled by a nervous studio system. After getting slammed with an X rating for excessive arterial spray, Paramount pulled the print and began hacking at it with the same ferocity as Harry Warden shows toward his victims. Death scenes start out suspenseful and then stop before the blood can really flow. Reveals are kept to a brief few sluice-filled seconds, and major shock set pieces (the Laundromat sequence, for example) are missing their moments of corpse grinding fun. Like a stand-up set where the comedian leaves out some of the punch lines, a serial slaughter film without the proper prosthetic pain and suffering is really a let down.
Yet thanks to its homespun setting, claustrophobic atmosphere, and desire to delve into the extremes of onscreen violence (at least, metaphysically), My Bloody Valentine stands as a fascinating forgotten fright flick. It matches well alongside other repulsive classics like Pieces, Madman, and The Prowler. It's sick, twisted, and guaranteed to leave you numb, or nauseous, or both. One day we may be able to see the graphic, gut churning director's cut. Until then, we'll just have to make do with this clever, clipped copycat.
Run time: 101 mins
In Theaters: Friday 16th January 2009
Box Office USA: $51.5M
Box Office Worldwide: $59.2M
Distributed by: Lionsgate Films
Production compaines: Lionsgate
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 57%
Fresh: 51 Rotten: 39
IMDB: 5.5 / 10
Director: George Mihalka
Producer: John Dunning, André Link, Stephen Miller
Screenwriter: John Beaird
Starring: Jensen Ackles as Tom Hanniger, Jaime King as Sarah Palmer, Kerr Smith as Axel Palmer, Betsy Rue as Irene, Edi Gathegi as Deputy Martin, Tom Atkins as Sheriff Jim Burke, Kevin Tighe as Ben Foley, Megan Boone as Megan, Karen Baum as Deputy Ferris, Joy de la Paz as Rosa, Marc Macaulay as Riggs, Todd Farmer as Frank the Trucker, Jeff Hochendoner as Red, Bingo O'Malley as Officer Hinch, Liam Rhodes as Michael, Richard John Walters as Harry Warden
Also starring: John Dunning
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