Monday, January 12, 2009

Time to lose your heart!

Sat down with Art Boy the other week and tucked into "My Bloody Valentine," the classic Canadian slasher being remade in 3-D. What a fascinating little movie! I thoroughly enjoyed it, start to finish -- even though Art Boy pointed out afterward that a) it does not hold up under any degree of analysis and b) it has no genuine scares at all. Still, it's so unique that it's just a real charmer.

First of all, it's set in a sleepy mining town, and our heroes are all working-class men and women -- not high school students, campers or babysitters. It all begins with a horrible mining accident, in which sole survivor Harry Warden is trapped underground for six weeks and has to subsist on the bodies of his friends, all because his colleagues on the surface blew off work in order to get to the town's annual Valentine's Day dance. A year later, Harry escapes from an institution and kills said colleagues, threatening to do the same every year that a Valentine's dance is held. Twenty years later, the town finally decides to have a dance, and guess what happens!

I am so in love with that premise. It's like nothing else you've ever seen. The workers and their gals care so much about this dance! They really hate to think about canceling it even after people start dying! They ignore the dire warnings of their bartender! The whole thing even closes out with a Gordon Lightfoot-style folk ballad, recapping the story in vague fashion ("The horror, from 'long time agooooo"). I can't talk about it without gushing. But it's not just that it's cheesy. The movie, oddly enough, makes this quirky little world believable, at least for a couple hours. The miners' banter, the run-down laundry room, the creaking mine machinery, the lived-in neighborhood bar... somehow it all works. You end up really rather concerned for these people.

It's stylish, too. There aren't any great scares, but the atmosphere down in the mine is fantastically creepy, and the movie intelligently teases you for a while until it actually gets you down there. My favorite though is the scene in the room with all the hanging uniforms -- it almost resembles Harry Dean Stanton's death scene in "Alien." (The death by pot of boiling hot-dog water is pretty imaginative too.) The final shot is fantastic, a perfect blend of gruesome (the severed arm) and stylish, with an eerie sound effect to cap everything. It's like listening to a predictable but still well-told ghost story. This movie's a real pleasure.

Apparently at the time it was a box-office flop. I watched an interesting documentary this week, "Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Flick," in which the movie's failure is blamed on its R rating. This was back when kids could get into pretty much any movie (lucky damn kids) and an R rating was seen as kind of a punishment, in this case because the makers were seen as Canadian carpetbaggers trying to capitalize on the new American slasher-movie cash-cow formula. Anyway, it's interesting that the remake is also rated R, and that will probably do nothing but help it at the box office, since no teenager is going to bother with a lame-o PG-13 movie. (Teenagers still say "lame-o," right? Oh, where are my bifocals?)

Side note: The remake is driving me up the wall with its tagline, "He's coming to break your heart." With a pick? He's going to *break* my heart or just drive a pick into it? (I don't think it's the same thing.) And he's not going to extract it and hide it in candy boxes for people to find? Drag.


ACE said...

I'm quite tempted to see both the old (after reading your very thorough and delightful review) as well as the new, as my boy Jensen is in it. Just spending time watching him makes me swoon (I LOVE this word, don't you?).

AE said...

I'm seeing the new tonight, after being assured that it's buckets of fun (and blood!) (and full-frontal nudity!) (does that come in buckets?). My boy Tom Atkins is in it, although "swoon" is not really the word for how I feel about Tom...Anyway, will keep an eye out for Jensen & will post my reaction!