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My Bloody Valentine (1981)

DVD Released: 1/13/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/6/2009

I apparently review a lot of remakes, as I always seem to find myself discussing the debate over the merit and/or necessity of the remake trend. One facet of this debate which I've never discussed is whether or not certain audience members even realize that they are watching a remake. Sure, with a famous movie such as Halloween or The Pink Panther, most audiences will be aware of the earlier movie. But, there are most likely plenty of people who are ignorant to the fact that movies such as The Grudge, The Ring, and The Hills Have Eyes are remakes. (I find that American audiences are very naive when it comes to remakes of foreign films.) Thus, I like it when a company isn't afraid to not only admit that a movie is a remake, but do a cross-promotion for it. Lionsgate is releasing the upcoming My Bloody Valentine 3-D and that same week, they are bringing the 1981 original My Bloody Valentine to DVD in a new special edition.

Valentine Bluffs is a sleep mining town with a dark secret. 20 years ago, on the night of the Valentine's Day dance, there was a cave in at the mine. By the time rescuers reached the accident site, only one man, Harry Warden, was still alive, and he'd resorted to cannibalism. Harry killed the two men who were supposed to be on duty at the mine that night, and he warned the townspeople to never hold the dance again. Now that so much time has passed, Mayor Hanniger (Larry Reynolds) and Chief Newby (Don Francks) have decided to let the young people of Valentine Bluffs have a Valentine's Day dance. T.J. (Paul Kelman) and Axel (Neil Affleck), their fellow miners, and their girlfriends, are very excited about the dance. (Although, all of them look like they are at least in their mid-20s.) But, things begin to get gloomy when the Mayor receives a candy box which contains a human heart. Then, one of the townspeople is found dead. Hanniger and Newby become convinced that Harry Warden has somehow returned to town and is seeking his vengeance, so the dance is cancelled. This doesn't deter the youngsters, who move their party to the mine. Little do they know that they are being stalked by someone in a miner's outfit.

I've written before about how the advent of home video, and most especially DVD, has allowed so many of us to see movies which we would have otherwise never seen. (I'm mainly speaking of American audiences here.) So many obscure and foreign films have found their way to DVD (but not Phantasm II...go figure), allowing film lovers to really open their eyes to what is out there. It has also allowed many movies to be seen in the way in which the filmmakers originally intended. When My Bloody Valentine was released in 1981, it had to be cut to receive an R-rating. The film was released on DVD by Paramount in 2002, but that release was the same as the original theatrical cut. Now, 27 years later, Lionsgate has restored the edited scenes, allowing us to finally see the gore which was cut from the original movie. Is it impressive? Sure, in a way. The effects are very competent, but they don't necessarily make the movie any better.

Speaking of which, when viewed today, My Bloody Valentine offers a mixed bag. Director George Mihalka provides a nice air of menace to the film and there's no denying that the killer's outfit is intimidating. The film drags somewhat in the middle, but once the focus shifts to the party at the mine, things pick up. The mine is portrayed as a cramped place where danger can lurk around any corner. There are a few "jump" scares, and while the killer's identity will be easy to guess by the end, at least the explanation makes sense.

But, much of My Bloody Valentine feels very dated. I can only imagine that the makers of My Bloody Valentine 3-D went through this movie saying, "OK, we won't use that...or that." The scenes in which the guys race to town are obnoxious, as are the bar scenes. The moment in which T.J. and Axel play their harmonicas (while their friends cook a TV dinner on an engine block) is laughable. As noted above, the characters here appear to be much older than their teenaged counterparts in other slasher films of the era, and it makes you wonder, "Shouldn't they know better?" While the overall story is passable, much of the third act is simply comprised of people wandering into dark places where they will be easy prey for the killer.

The first issue of Fangoria which I ever bought (the one with the creature from The Funhouse on the cover) featured a story on My Bloody Valentine and contained many graphic photos from the film. I was very surprised when I saw the movie, and none of the incidents portrayed in the magazine were in the film. Now, thanks to this new DVD release, I've finally been able to see them. Sure, My Bloody Valentine is dated and comes off as silly at times (is that a ballad over the closing credits), the movie is no worse than the other slasher films of the era, and the newly found gore, combined with the unique look of the killer, make for a good time.

My Bloody Valentine hacks its way onto DVD courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The viewer has the choice of watching the theatrical cut or the new version with the excised footage. For the most part, the image is sharp and clear, with some shots showing some minor grain, and some minor defects from the source material. The image is a bit dark at times, but the colors are good. Considering that this is a semi-obscure movie which is nearly 30 years old, overall it looks pretty good. However, it's very obvious where the deleted shots have been edited back into the film. These shots are somewhat washed-out and are riddled with scratches and green lines. They aren't unwatchable, it's just disappointing that they don't look as good as the rest of the movie. The DVD contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. (The DVD also has the original mono track.) Unlike most newly created 5.1 tracks, this one actually shows some spirit. Stereo effects come into play in many scenes and add to the effect of the film. Surround sound effects aren't prevalent, but when they do appear (as in the final act), they are very noticeable. Subwoofer effects are subtle, but present.

The My Bloody Valentine DVD contains a few extras. Again, this version can be viewed with 10 DELETED SCENES edited back into the film. They can also be viewed individually, with introductions from Director George Mihalka, Special Effects Makeup Designers Ken Diaz & Thomas Burman, Author Adam Rockoff, actor Carl Marotte, actress Helene Udy, Producers Andre Link & John Dunning, and actor Neil Affleck. Mihalka opens by discussing how a wave of anti-violence hit Hollywood which My Bloody Valentine was being edited, and thus, many cuts were made. The other speakers then discuss how the deleted special effects were done. "Bloodlust: My Bloody Valentine and the Rise of the Slasher Film" (20 minutes) features Adam Rockoff, author of "Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film", who discusses the conventions of the genre and how My Bloody Valentine fits into this tradition. His comments are intercut with comments from the makers of My Bloody Valentine, who discuss the film's production. There are also comments from some of the actors. This is a nice featurette because there's a discussion of historical perspective along with the production anecdotes. "Bloodlines: An Interactive Horror Film History" allows the viewer to read about many sub-genres within horror with text by Rockoff.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long