As romance is in the air, I felt it appropriate to watch a romantic classic last night. And nothing says “romance” like a film about a deranged serial killer slaughtering his way through a town because he really hates Valentine’s Day, does it?
Valentine’s Bluff is a small town somewhere in Canada where 20 years ago, on Valentines Day a bunch of miners were trapped for weeks, and the only one who survived, Harry Warden, ended up eating his co-workers and going completely mad. He was committed to an asylum, escaped the next year and killed the mine supervisors whose incompetence caused the guys to be trapped in the first place, then…then, apparently, because the film is vague on the details, went back to the asylum.
The stars of the film are (along with the Sheriff, and the grizzled bartender who gives us all the information above) the hard-working miners of the town and their girlfriends,. Chief among them is TJ, a Rufus Sewell lookalike who left town and his girlfriend to try and make it big “on the East coast”, failed miserably and then came back. His girlfriend Sarah is now in a relationship with Axel, another miner, and this triangle keeps getting revisited through the film.
Anyway, if you wanted a badly written recap of the film you could have gone to Wikipedia. The town looks really convincingly run-down, and the mine (which was a real disused mine) adds a really good air of authenticity to the proceedings. They also dressed up the entire town to look Valentines-y, after deciding 20 years on that enough time had passed and they really ought to start exploiting the name of their town again.
The miners, lumpy and weird-looking to a man, are all punching massively above their weight when it comes to their girlfriends, but if you can ignore that then their lives and activities have an air of authenticity to them that it’s hard to find in films these days. Anyway, people start getting killed off, and the Sheriff keeps getting severed human hearts delivered to him in heart-shaped candy boxes. Should they stop the Valentines’ Dance and take down all the decorations? Is Harry Warden really back? Yes (and they do) to the first question, wait and see for the second.
This is part of that glorious tradition of films that would be very different with modern technology. The Sheriff calls the asylum at one point to check Harry is still there, and the person in charge seems to barely give a damn about the location of a violent multiple murderer, and is annoyed when asked to check their records. Mobile phones, records on database, job done in ten seconds. It takes like three days to find out in this film! If I was the Sheriff, I’d have said “you know he’s a cannibal murderer, right?” Ah, the early 80s were a simpler time.
Of course, the miners and their girlfriends ignore the cancellation, and decide to have a party…at the mine. Now, I can’t think of anything less fun than a party at my place of work, and I work in a fairly nice office. If I worked in a mine? No way! When the women decide a trip down into the guts of the mine sounds fun, we’ve got our big set-piece battle coming up.
This is one of the original slasher movies, but even in 1981 films were showing a heavy debt to their predecessors – in this case, “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”. However, unlike Michael and Jason, “Harry” has an iconic outfit (not just a mask) and on top of being a completely implacable killer leaves charming little love notes with the severed hearts. He just wants to be loved! I think its status as one of the trendsetters of the genre allows it to get away with some truly rotten plotting, and while it’s plenty of fun at times, at others it’s just no good at all.
The worst / weirdest thing in “My Bloody Valentine” stems from the central character, TJ. He’s back in town and back working down the mine, and wants his girl back too. The problem with accepting him as a central character is he’s sort of an asshole – unpleasant to most of his co-workers, and a bullying dick to his ex-girlfriend. It seems like we’re supposed to think he’s the killer, really, even if a few seconds of thought places him nowhere near the murders when they occured, but as a central character he’s terribly thought out. And that leads on to the portrayal of women. I’m not even sure if it’s deliberately sexist, but women are ornaments for men and are absolutely 100% useless at doing anything other than screaming. I imagine it may well be rough for women in small mining towns, but some acknowledgement from the film that they disagreed with that way of things would have been handy. It spoils it, and there’s no need for it either.
So, have fun with this movie. It doesn’t let you get too bored, as the murders keep on coming throughout the film at fairly regular intervals…which leads me to the last point. This film was heavily edited on its initial release, and the really gory murders were only put back in in 2009. Without them, the film must have been incredibly boring, but with them it’s much better. All the removed footage hasn’t been digitally restored, either, so it looks grainy and nasty and fits rather well.
Rating: thumbs down (just)