Tuesday, February 15, 2011

MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981) - in Canada, open heart surgery is free, but the Moosehead anesthesia is BYOB

Looks like we finally have a slasher version of How Green Was My Valley. Valentine’s Bluff is the small mining town with a big ass heart, situated in a part of Canada filled with real ass hockey and beer canuckleheads, rather than your extra pale versions of Americans or your fake frenchies. The town is a simple paradise, where the men spend the day working in a coal mine, returning home from a hard day’s work covered in soot from head to toe. They head home, clicking their heels along the way; a frosty Moosehead awaiting them (well…make that a case of Moosehead). Unfortunately, this small town idealism will soon be destroyed by a formerly spurned employee named Harry Warden.

Where as the evil mine owners in How Green Was My Valley cynically crushed the dreams and livelihood of it’s workforce to increase profit margins, Harry, left to die in the mine while just doing his job, later seeks revenge on his mine worker brethren. Rather than directly stomping on the union, the mine owners effectively make the workers fight amongst themselves, in the form of a boogeyman who rips people’s hearts out and provides accompanying rhymes (like roses are red, violets are blue; I emptied out this guy’s chest cavity, and stole his Moosehead brew).

TJ, our hero, has come back from “falling on his ass” out west, and “making so many mistakes”, never once writing or calling his girlfriend Sarah, which I guess would make him sort of a pathetic Canadian version of Sam Shepard. Sarah has since moved on with Axel, and this creates a lot of tension between the two males, evidenced by the fact they practically come to blows in every scene they share, except when they discuss it early on while taking a shower together, realizing that real men should never roll around and fight while naked, as this is really just an aggressive style of gay sex. Our lovely final girl Sarah seems quite remorseful about the situation, despite it being very reasonable that she would move on from a worthless stiff that vanished across the country and hook up with the good looking blonde guy. I guess Canadians are more decent than their American counterparts…or maybe drunks are nicer than sober people. I think we need a control group entered into this equation.

The plot here is that all of these young people are holding a Valentine’s Day dance on the twentieth anniversary of the dance that took place while Harry was being trapped alive in the mine, and the nineteenth anniversary of Harry ripping out the hearts of his supervisors. The mayor and his chief piggy get suspicious when they start finding corpses with their hearts ripped out. Things get even sketchier when they start receiving human hearts in the mail, accompanied by the rhyming notes, warning them that if the dance isn’t canceled, this cardiac carnage will continue unabated. The mayor shows one of the hearts to the coroner and asks him if he remembers the last time Harry Warden was in town, to which he notes “Of course I remember! Those were terrible murders!” The youngsters are dead set on having this Valentine’s Day dance, despite being warned by both the mayor and the crazy, flashback facilitating bar owner, so I guess the terribleness will continue.

Of course, you need to get the uncut version to see just how terribly these poor bastards get mangled and what not. The adorable girl who stars in Heavenly Bodies (the Canadian version of Flashdance) gets a simple and brutal pickaxe to the chest (which is also the best jump scare), and her boyfriend (the fat, goofy asshole with the mustache) gets lynched so hard his friggin’ head rips off. Maybe these aren’t the most disgusting of the killings, but I can’t help but feel a tinge of sadness that this most unlikely of couples doesn’t survive. Perhaps they provide hope to annoying fat goofballs that they may one day land the canucksploitation starlet of their dreams.

The authentic small town setting of My Bloody Valentine distinguishes it from the usual faceless suburbia of other slashers, and its unassailable Canadian-ness comes through like gangbusters. The final portion of the film also takes place in a real mine, which is a pretty damn good place to watch someone be chased by a killer. Harry also helps out by busting a bunch of the light bulbs in the mine with his pick axe, and you also get a little mine car chase that predates Temple of Doom. In the end, we learn the truth about Harry, in a twist I admittedly didn’t see coming (although keep in mind I rarely pay attention to my surroundings, cinematic or otherwise).

The ultimate lesson, me thinks, is that once the economy of a small town is no longer self-sufficient, the meddling hands of big city corporations (represented by Harry Warden) can swoop in and purchase the souls of the residents and, consequently, the town’s innocence. There’s a reason why people only go postal in faceless corporate businesses, like McDonald’s, or a church.

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