Friday, May 20, 2011

My Bloody Valentine

(George Mihalka, 1981)
In some ways, this is a remarkable movie. It is genuinely impressive to see an utterly generic slasher-movie plot unfold in a basically social-realist milieu - the characters are not teenagers but young and not-young working stiffs, and instead of Everytown, USA, we get an unrepentant (if re-named) Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia. Both the ramshackle town and the mine itself are exploited for texture and detail, and the plot is built on a theatricalized variation on the kind of tragic underground mishap that is all too familiar to this setting. There's some good characterization and staging amid the clunkers, and up to a point you have to give the film the benefit of the doubt: as a flamboyant gore-fest with virtually all the gore shorn by its own backers, it's like a comedy routine with bleeps over every single punchline. Even the "director's cut" DVD version is no such thing, a few salvaged scraps that mostly restore only a taste of what was intended; though the pickaxe-through-the-eye-socket number is pretty wicked. Nonetheless, the filmmakers have to share the failure: the movie is stupid in all the wrong places. The rationale for Don Francks' sheriff to not just tell everyone to stay home and lock the doors because a psychotic is loose is agonizingly weak, an obvious afterthought. The Romero-derived idea of having one victim's boyfriend become catatonic for the rest of the movie is sabotaged by the guy's atrocious performance. The love-triangle plot is so predictable that you are taken by surprise when, in the third act, it seems to take an interesting turn, as the two guys team up to rescue the object of their mutual affections; but when they actually get to her they pull a 'wait here, I'll be right back', and not the first one either. And the climactic struggle alternately demands that the murderer be as sluggish and inaccurate as possible, and that the others stand around for minutes at a time, dumbly sizing up the carnage. That adds up to producers, writers, actors and directors all doing their part to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and while you can see them genuinely trying to make it work, they don't.

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