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February 14, 2016

My Bloody Valentine

by Franz Patrick


My Bloody Valentine (1981)
★ / ★★★★

Many residents of Valentine Bluffs believe in a curse that has prevented them from hosting the Valentine’s Day dance. Twenty years ago, as the whole town partied on at the dance, five men were buried alive in the tunnels due to an explosion. There was one survivor named Harry Warden (Peter Cowper) and, exactly a year later, he exacted revenge on the two neglectful supervisors on shift during the tragic night. Although Warden had been committed in a mental institution since, the current mayor has received a heart-shaped box and inside is a human heart along with a note that forewarns murder if the town were to continue with the dance.

“My Bloody Valentine,” directed by George Mihalka, is a slasher film that takes so long to take off that there is no creative or interesting death scene thirty minutes into it. There are a lot of talk among the residents about the tragic night two decades ago as well as the accompanying grizzly murders but none of them are effective because the script feels so inorganic coupled with subpar performances that make daytime soap operas look like Shakespeare. Despite the killings starting eventually, the picture remains a struggle to sit through.

There is a subplot involving a love triangle among T.J. (Paul Kelman), Sarah (Lori Hallier), and Axel (Neil Affleck). We learn not one interesting about them and so the arguments they get into are shallow and eye roll-inducing. This familiar trope could have been made fresh if the writer, John Beaird, had put in a bit more effort by actually making their situation more relatable—a genuine romantic story that just so happens to be sitting in the middle of a horror picture.

Or perhaps the screenplay could have shown us good reasons why Sarah would be torn between the two young men. Instead, after spending less than five minutes with them, more discerning viewers are likely to know exactly who Sarah is going to choose by the end of the picture. Thus, the subplot becomes increasingly stale with each passing scene. I could not wait for any one of them to meet his or her doom in order to shake things up a bit.

Some effort is put into creating a creepy atmosphere. I enjoyed the look of the town during daytime as well as the inside of the mine as fun-loving teenagers unwisely decide to take a little visit in the middle of the night. I wished, however, that the kills were more creative. There is variation in terms of the how a victim is going to die, but the approach is almost always the same: a character is left alone and about fifteen seconds later, he or she is dead. The picture does not play with our expectations—very necessary if we are to remain engaged in what is going on.

Clichés are abound in “My Blood Valentine” but a somewhat fresh decision involves a weakling being yelled by a stronger character to survive, to “hurry up,” to “move!” I was amused because weak-willed, physically unfit characters—even though I know they are staples to the genre, especially in less impressive horror movies—have always gotten under my skin so that self-awareness is welcome. It does not, however, make up for the film’s remaining shortcomings.

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