Sunday, October 18, 2009

Reflections on My Bloody Valentine 1981

So, I'm really not the biggest fan of slashers. I have a hate/love/hate relationship with the Friday the 13th series and the titles I stand behind are more anomalous to the genre rather than definitive...Sleepaway Camp anyone? I suppose it should also be said that even staunch supporters of the slasher genre are thrust into the conundrum of dealing with overzealous murder-trimming. A lot of these films were either produced by or distributed by major studios at a time when media/public pressure to censor horror-violence was obnoxiously pervasive. This led to these Majors (and lots of Independents)to basically hack out all of the gore and mayhem from the films in order to avoid "the dreaded X rating" from the MPAA. BTW, how many times have I read the phrase "the dreaded x rating" in books about horror movies, 50,000? With the porn-stigma of that X rating, newspapers refusing advertising and theaters refusing to book them, it's understandable from a business that the studios would cut the pictures to get an R rating. What doesn't make sense to anyone who knows about this stuff, is why these films went to video in their pruned states, especially when for slasher flicks, pretty much their whole reason for being is in the murder scenes...this ain't no Cronebergian mindfuck shit, this is all exploitive kills. This is even more frustrating for horror fans seeing photos of these special effects in Fangoria. I mean, after all, this was the age of special gore effect as celebrity, with Tom Savini given near auteur status along with directors Croneber,Romero and Carpenter.
So, now we come to My Bloody Valentine, a Canadian slasher flick directly riding the wave of the Friday the 13th success. MBV replaces the teen related settings of most slashers for a quaint mining town with a bunch of young miners as the "prey," which is a really odd choice that turned me off in the past. I suppose that all those kids who grew up in mining towns and had a life down in the shaft ahead of them might have really identified with this situation, but me? Not so much. Does it need to be said that Summer Camps and Sorority Houses are natural settings for horror movies because they are hubs of awkward desires and changes in young people? So..... how about a small mining town? Youthful partying miners and their girlfriends?
I first encountered MBV as a 6th grader in the late 80s, when WLVI would often show neutered horror movies on weekend afternoons. My friend Greg was intent on showing me the "laundrymatte scene" he had described to me earlier that week. I was at this time still pretty squeamish and thus only half watched as Greg turned the TV on, just in time for an older lady to meet her tumbling demise. Beyond the fact that I didn't want to see any older lady gore right then, there was something about the movie that struck me as very unnatractive. Unsurprisingly, this mining town looks and feels pretty gloomy and the actors populating it are not so glitzy. This just did not jibe with my youthful, late 80s sensibilities. What I wanted from horror at this time could pretty much be summed up as "Nightmare on Elm st 1-5," which in some ways is as glitzy as good horror ever got. Also, a killer miner seemed rather non-scary to me. So I never went back and rented the movie, though I think I may have caught some of it on a subsequent WLVI showing. As the years went on and I dove head on into the horror world, I read about how MBV was cut to ribbons by the notoriously overzealous selfcensorers Paramount. So, why would I bother if there was no gore? I still didn't want to see a killer miner.
The coming of the DVD changed things of course, with all those fanboy desired horror flicks getting the royal treatment, and quite a few that weren't asked for. Paramount, in keeping with their whackness never picked up the ball when it came to redeeming their past indiscretions in the snippy-snip department. It took many years for them to do right by any of their horror properties including the most recognizable and profitable, the Friday the 13th series. The first DVD releases of these titles were barebones and unremarkable, until a box set with better presentation and a bunch of extras finally arrived in 2004. Was this the first time Paramount ever graced a horror DVD with any extras at all?
It took a modern remake of MBV for Paramount to justify a special edition DVD release, and I'm willing to tolerate hearing about these remakes if this is the result. Though I could have cared less about it in the past, the appeal of seeing those thought lost cut murder scenes was too much for me to squash. Was it different this time around? Most certainly.
You get the option of watching the movie with all the deleted stuff put back in, which seems like a given except for the fact that the cut scenes are of much poorer image quality. I suppose some people wouldn't like that so much...but for me...I think I've found my new fetishistic film joy. It feels so good to watch a beautiful remastered print of an ugly movie and have it revert back to grainy, scratchy faded film stock for all the shock-kill-shots. And there are so many of them! You really get to see how sad it is that a film like this had no chance at all, since every little bit of grue is gone...without it, it's pointless, and with it, it's quite enjoyable. There's a lot of murder in this movie! And the added ugliness gives it a chilly discomforting feeling that I enjoyed quite a bit.
I'm sorry reader, if you cared about any of the actual things that happen in the movie. This film falls into the traps of most slashers i.e. it basically sucks as a movie. The characters are nonexistent; some of the victims will actually make you say "wait, have I seen that person before?" It's the same old stalk and slash, and the plot is by rote. Do you care about mining? Do you care about Valentine's Day parties?
But, besides that: Highly Recommended! Thick Canadian accents a major plus!


DJ Mike G said...

Wow! I'll have to check out the recent re-release! I have the barebones older DVD of it, and it is a pretty boring movie without all the gore. Although you don't like the characters, you have to admit the big guy with the huge Yosemite Sam mustache who cooks lunchmeat on his car engine is pretty awesome. Yo, I'm glad to see you're bloggin again!

Jil: said...

Don't forget the costumes. Oh the outfits are amazing.

Dj Mike G said...

Bought the re-release, and am amazed at just how much better the film is with the added gore. Also, the big guy who cooks meat on his engine block ('Turkey for the turkey') kind of looks like Bun E. Carlos.