My Bloody Valentine

 

Slasher movies and holidays go together like machetes and sexually active teens; no one knows why, it just seems to work out that way. In a sense, it's proof of the genre's mechanical sterility—everything is about the hook, with plot taking a back seat to whatever provides the easiest catchphrase and the best poster. The original 1981 My Bloody Valentine, one of the first titles in the early-'80s slasher glut inspired by the success of Halloween and Friday The 13th, generally follows form: There's a masked killer, an abundance of ready victims, and a series of elaborate, implausible deaths. But for those willing to look past the surface similarities, Valentine has its own distinctive charm.

Valentine's Bluff is a peaceful town by necessity; most of the locals work at the nearby coal mine, which means tight quarters, pickaxes, and little room for flaring tempers. When prodigal son Paul Kelman comes home, he threatens to upset the balance, especially given that his former girlfriend is now dating his former best friend. But there are bigger problems. Twenty years ago, a cave-in left miner Harry Warden for dead during the town's Valentine's Day dance; the next year, Harry came back and wreaked vengeance on those he deemed responsible. This year, the Bluff is bringing back the dance, but everything should be fine; as far as anyone knows, Harry is still locked away in an asylum. But then the candy boxes with human hearts inside start showing up.

The new Valentine DVD release, timed to coincide with the 3D remake, boasts an extended cut of the film that restores gory footage edited out of the theatrical version. Unfortunately, the quality of that footage is distractingly poor, and even if it wasn't, the clumsy shots of burnt corpses and frying faces wouldn't add much. Valentine benefits from the realism of its setting and its largely likeable cast, but suffers from an adherence to the standard slasher formula, with distractingly clumsy, over-the-top murders that defuse the tension. Director George Mihalka gets effectively naturalistic performances out of his leads, as well as an intermittently eerie mood, but ultimately, it's a movie enjoyed more for what it could've been than what it actually is.

Key features: A 20-minute making-of featurette, plus deleted scenes and both cuts of the film.

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