My Bloody Valentine (1981) ***
D: George Mihalka
C: Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, Neil Affleck, Don Francks, Cynthia Dale, Alf Humphreys, Keith Knight, Patricia Hamilton, Gina Dick, Terry Waterland
Plot Synopsis: A miner that went crazy after being trapped in a mine for six weeks, as the result of his bosses rushing to get to a Valentine's day dance, returns to his hometown, decades later, looking to kill those celebrating Valentine's Day.
*PLEASE NOTE: This review applies to the original theatrical, VHS & DVD release, released by Paramount.
REVIEW: Back when My Bloody Valentine was released in 1981, it was knocked as a riff on John Carpenter's Halloween with the choice holiday switched to Valentine's Day and guess what? They're right. Both movies feature the exact same premise - a killer escapes from an asylum to continue the killing spree that they started years earlier.
Not helping matters is a corny sub-plot involving the inner workings of a love triangle between two guys vying for the attention of one woman. Completing these scenes is some rather awful dialogue and a dated music score that would be fitting on a soap opera. However, what they get right, is that the actors try to ground their characters in reality. All of the various personalities are people you would know in real life. The cast isn't going to win Oscars, as none of the roles are mentally challenging, but their acting works well within the context of this movie that it's invisible, in that you don't notice that they're acting.
This might seem like praise for the sake of praise, but the acting is worth noting, because when the horror scenarios arrive, they're all the more credible and let's be honest. People coming into a film titled My Bloody Valentine are looking for some good horror action. That's where the movie soars.
The film's main location is an underground mine that features a lot of hidden corners, nooks & crannies, long passageways that go horizontal & vertical, even death traps such as bodies of water that are seemingly endless, almost like quick sand, but in liquid form. To say that this setting has a labyrinth like quality is an under statement.
When the antagonist, a homicidal miner out for revenge, descends upon the mine, it understandably leaves the characters in a state of panic & confusion. What sells the panic and confusion is that they take to time to include scenes that showcase the setting, how dangerous it is and that it's a death trap waiting to happen. If the miner doesn't kill the characters first, the mine might get them instead. All of this is photographed & acted in a believable way which makes everything all the more palpable.
Before having the miner descend upon the mine for bloody revenge, the story surrounding this character is treated as an urban legend, something that's whispered about, that's been speculated on, but one in which there's no clear cut answers. There's a well realized moment with a bartender telling his patrons the legend behind this homicidal coal miner. There's a few brief flashbacks, enough to suggest what happened. The rest of it is left for the viewers to fill in with their own imaginations. Part of what gives an urban legend its power is the use of suggestion & implication. What you picture in your head is always going to be far more horrifying then a visual thrown at the screen.
The other thing that gives My Bloody Valentine an edge, is that it has an understanding that horror is simply the release of suspense (IE: A killer stalking his victim is suspense. When the killer actually knocks someone off, that's horror). Horror might give a few seconds of eye catching effects, but it's the suspense that's going to pull you in. They're constantly teasing, constantly building things up, constantly keeping viewers on edge, constantly prolonging scenes for every last drop and when viewers least expect it, they deliver upon some of the most hair raising jump scares ever.
While My Bloody Valentine may not have the most inspired plot, it certainly delivers upon the idea of being a truly scary movie experience. That's what people want - to be scared. It's fun to be scared. My Bloody Valentine delivers fun, horror & suspense, not only in spades, but in hearts (some of which are severed). [R] 91 mins.
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