"We're both so messed up. I don't know which one of us is worse."
- Duane Bradley, Basket Case

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cupid's Arrow Double Feature: MBV (1981) and Valentine

What better way to celebrate October than by reviewing a couple of Valentine's Day-themed slashers, right? Even though it's not exactly timely from a holiday perspective, here's a review I dug up from the vault circa February 2007.

Over the following two years or so, there's been an above-average 3-D remake of My Bloody Valentine (with Tom "the Man" Atkins!) AND an uncut DVD release of the original, so my below qualm about the excised gore no longer applies - though to be fair, I haven't seen it yet in all its uncensored glory.

I was, however, lucky enough to see the 1981 version up on the big screen this past February at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge. They had a screening of Friday the 13th on Friday the 13th and a midnight showing of MBV (technically on Valentine's Day), so it was a pretty awesome experience. Anyone who hasn't been able to see some of the classics in an actual theater setting simply doesn't know what they're missing (as a side note: even though it's not horror, I also got to check out Streets of Fire there over the summer - another amazing time).

Anyways, enjoy my thoughts on Harry Warden as well as Jamie Blanks' generic yet slightly underrated Valentine:

Forget about romantic comedies; no other genre sums up the spirit of Valentine's Day than horror. Think about it: the tension-filled weeks leading up to the day for single people attempting to find a date, the overwhelming, heart-stopping dread upon realizing you have to shell out $100 for (fill-in-expensive-gift-here), or the look of murderous, bloodthirsty rage when your girlfriend realizes you got her absolutely nothing.

Here are a few healthy alternatives for a romantic evening that don't include Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson or Meg Ryan:

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

Like the countless others that followed, MBV strove to ride the successful coattails of the precedent-setting slasher films Halloween and Friday the 13th. But given the enormous wave of movies churned out during the late 1970s and early 1980s about masked killers terrorizing teenagers, many of them proved to be overwhelmingly unremarkable or forgettable. Luckily, despite a few flaws, MBV manages to stand out from the typical holiday slasher.

The movie is set in the small mining town of Valentine's Bluff, as the locals prepare for the annual holiday celebration after a 20-year hiatus. You see, two decades ago during the Valentine's Day party, a group of miners forgot about their jobs, went boozing and indulged in sinful behavior.

A gas explosion in the mine occurred as a result, killing the other miners except for Harry Warden. The following year, Warden killed two supervisors and warned the town never to have another party. Now that the celebration is about to begin again, will the blood start flowing?

MBV follows the conventional slasher formula, but does it exceptionally well. Many of the main characters are fleshed out or entertaining (even the standard I'm-40-years-old-but-I'm-playing-a-teenager guy), and the love triangle involving the film's protagonist brings an added level of tension to the proceedings.

The movie is well-paced and spreads out the creative kills, leading up to a suspenseful mine-cart showdown deep in the Hanniger Mine. Oh, and The Ballad of Harry Warden, the song that plays during the end credits, is one of the greatest musical masterpieces in horror movie history - period.

My only complaint is the injustice committed by the MPAA, which butchered almost all of the movie's carnage. Many of the murder sequences suffer from off-screen and implied violence, which will leave gorehounds feeling largely unsatisfied. It's a shame too, because I had the opportunity to look at stills online of the edited scenes, and they were all shockingly brutal. I'm still praying one day for a director's cut (Editor's Note: my wish came true!).

Valentine (2001)

Ah yes, Valentine. If there was ever a movie to represent the term "guilty pleasure," this one might take the cake.

Is it a particularly good film? No. Are the characters enjoyable or fun to watch? Not really. Did it win an Academy Award? Of course not. But as overwhelming as its shortcomings are, this is still an entertaining way to kill 96 minutes with your significant other.

The plot is simple: a group of friends who used to be complete bitches in high school are getting creepy Valentines from an unknown "admirer." An example of the mystery man's lyrical craftsmanship: "The journey of love is an arduous trek / My love grows for you as you bleed from your neck."

As the body count starts to rise, the girls attempt to uncover the killer before their past behavior comes back to haunt them - in the form of a cherub-masked murderer.

I guess the main reason I loved this movie was because of David Boreanaz's performance as the alcoholic journalist Adam Carr. Already being a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, I was excited to learn that Boreanaz would be playing a character I could certainly relate to (the journalist part, not the alcoholic... yet, anyway). He knows how to charm an audience, as his role in this film shows. Plus, the last frame is worth this movie's weight in gold alone; just watch it, you'll know what I mean.

As an added bonus, this movie features the likes of Denise Richards, Katherine Heigl and Marley Shelton. Not only are these women drop-dead gorgeous, but they get viciously dispatched by various sharp objects as well! So get off your high horse, forget about how predictable Valentine is and just relish in its campy goodness.

There you have it - After emptying your wallet for a velvet teddy bear or some silky lingerie, do yourself a huge favor and indulge in a deliciously gruesome double feature. And if you're single, well come on, it's not like you have anything better to do, do you?

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