My Bloody Valentine
ďOh the legend, they say, on a Valentineís Day,
Is a curse thatíll live on and on;
And no one will know as the years come and go,
Of the horror from long time ago.Ē
For twenty eight years it did seem as if My Bloody Valentine was doomed to a curse by censorship. Forgotten, though, it wasnít. Everyone knew of the horrors the MPAA inflicted upon this little Canadian cash in on Paramountís past success with Friday the 13th. So revered were the death scenes that were all but excluded from the finished film that Iím sure, if you were to tally the threads, Valentine received more uncut requests than even the Friday films that spawned it. All the petitions, posts and emails, though, couldnít escape the fact that the film remained a property of Paramount, and not only was the film too small a fish to fry, but they donít even go unrated for their biggest properties. All that changed earlier this year when, gasp, Lionsgate of all companies got a hold of the DVD rights. It seemed like some fanboy had hacked into the Lionsgate email, but reports were coming out first that the deleted footage had been found, and then later that it would actually be seamlessly branched into the feature film. Seemed too good to be true, and now itís gotten even better Ė itís on blu-ray. Letís cut to the heart of this slasher favorite.
In one of cinemaís most tacked on, but undoubtedly still effective, preludes, some miners walk through some ambient Hanniger Mines. We see the claustrophobic locale, and then get another surprising sight, when one of the miners strips down to a buxom bra complete with a heart tattoo on her breast. We hear some heavy breathing, not motivated by slasher convention but instead the actual gas mask the miner wears, and then the miner impales her heart(s) on a suspended pick axe. Thereís no mention of this lady, or even of the man, thereafter, but the scene certainly stands out. We then hit the showers with the rest of the gang for some blue collar banter. What we learn is that T.J. (Paul Kelman) is the mine ownerís son who recently returned home with his tail between his legs after a stint in the west came up dry. When he left he left his girl, Sarah (Lori Hallier), who over time fell into the hands of T.J.ís former buddy and colleague, Axel (Neil Affleck). I know, this is all starting to sound like an episode of Minerose Place!
With the love triangle established, itís back to the slash, as the people in Valentine Bluffs gear up for everyoneís favorite day. They plan for their first Valentineís party in twenty years (on, wait for it...Saturday the 14th), after a tragic mining accident forced the town to put the community tradition on hold. Still, some of the locals, including the old coot bartender, spout cryptic prose about the tragedy that may strike if the valentine embargo is released. See, as the legend goes, Harry Warden, along with six other miners, were trapped in the mine after safety workers neglected their post in favor of the big dance. Everyone but Warden died, but a year later Harry came back to take the lives, and the hearts, of the two men who left them to die. With the dead minersí hearts stuffed in chocolate boxes, Harry said heíd kill again if the dance was ever resumed, and now twenty years later the townsfolk are putting his threat to the test.
It doesnít take long for the party to get cancelled, though, when nice old Mabel is de-hearted and cooked to death in a Laundromat dryer. That doesnít stop the miners from a good time, though, and they instead come up with the harmless idea of having the party right in the mines. Whatís that saying about the belly of the beast, again? Anyway, they do their thing and start to die at the hand of a masked miner while the police department start making calls trying to find Harryís whereabouts. He was committed years ago, but now the sanitarium has no current records of the man. Death leaves no time for formalities, though, and one by one Harryís legend will be carved into each of those who ever doubted his claims. This Valentineís DayÖthere will be blood.
Thereís a reason why My Bloody Valentine has retained such a growing following among slasher fans Ė it truly does have it all. It truly is one of those slashers that embodies absolutely everything fans love about the genre. Halloween had style, music and character while Friday the 13th had gore, a body count and a lot of, err, camp. My Bloody Valentine has its way with both now thanks to the newly restored gore scenes (more on that later). On one hand itís a rich study of community and character, molded like the National Film Board documentaries for which its native Canada is known. You get a welcome window into the life of coal miners, replete with location footage of actual mines in Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia shot on high speed stock with almost natural lighting. The locations are all authentic, and so are the characters and dramas. The scenes with all the miners fraternizing and joking about their masculinity seem pulled right out of reality, and the whole bit with T.J. failing to reap the rewards of the Western Canadian oil boom references Canadaís premiere motion picture, the William Fruet penned Goiní Down the Road. From the accents right down to all that Moosehead beer, thereís an authenticity abound in My Bloody Valentine that could never be cultivated in Hollywood. Several years ago I actually visited the Sydney Mines and in reality the locations still are little different than the ones depicted in the film Ė thatís how authentic it all is.
Even the love triangle seems culled from genuine human emotion rather than orchestrated plot mechanics. The leads play their parts with a lot of angst and turmoil, and the intertwined relationship drama only heightens upon the twisty climax. As a testament to the quality of its characters, how many other slashers out there can you think of that not only have the audacity to center themselves around something as horror diverting as a melodramatic love story, but to go and do it well?
Thatís not the only things the film does well. The killer is a menacing beast with those black empty eyes, and the deaths have both variety and originality. Just like the filmmakers used the actual mine locations to their fullest to preserve authenticity, even the deaths and the killer are constructed with an acute attention to reality. Director George Mihalka has not only made some great scares, but heís done one better by making them fit within the parameters of the real. The heavy breathing is a staple of slasher killers, but here itís motivated by the minerís mask and really adds a claustrophobic uncertainty to the mix. Similarly, the kills are creative, but make a fresh use of topical surroundings. The death in the dressing room, where the pieces of clothing shoot down and then the woman is impaled on a seared pipe enlighten to the construction of olden mines, but also frighten with their choreographed payoff. Again, this is both a slasher that satisfies the mind and one that gets you in the gut, too.
The pacing is quick, with kills at a very consistent clip, and there is some nice character comedy that adds some levity to offset all the town tragedy. Paul Zaza, Canadaís slasher scorerer extraordinaire, having done the Prom Night films, Curtains, American Nightmare, Murder by Decree and almost every other Canuxploitation film worth its salt in the eighties and nineties, also contributes another subtle, atmospheric track that meshes the sort of water drip echo of the decaying mines with more traditional and old fashioned sound cues. His end ballad, which Iíve partially quoted above, stands as a high point of slasher soundtracks (right beside Zazaís completely different disco beats in Prom Night!) and gives a sad, lasting legend to the film that wouldnít seem out of place in the best films of John Ford. While Friday the 13th and Halloween proved to be the better templates for replication, I think My Bloody Valentine stands as the finest valentine for the genre, one where every element fell perfectly in alignment.
Now, with the long lost gore scenes fully intact, the film can finally be said to have it all. These effects arenít just little snippets here and there. There are elaborate deaths, from a pick axe coming through the head to Fulci the eye, to decapitations and even nail gun penetrations. These things are nasty, and itís quite amazing, really, just how much was carved out by the MPAA. Watching the film before, the one weakness was always how quick the cuts were during the death scenes. Of course this was something imposed by the censors, but it was still something that affected the film. The included scenes now not only make the death scenes finally seem complete, but the elevate each and every one even above any expectations. The effects work tone by Tom Burman (Happy Birthday to Me, Halloween III, Invasion of the Body Snatchers) is still shocking, and at the time with its protruding blades through actual skin, pretty revolutionary. Youíd see the effects happening rather than just molded cutaways, and itís stuff that would have rivaled Saviniís work had the audiences actually been able to see it.
But we can see it now, and finally, twenty eight years later, this masterpiece slasher is finally complete. Itís got everything. Itís got heart and at the same time it cuts it out. Itís legend, they say, will still live on and on, but now instead of being known as a censored martyr, itíll finally be rightfully revered as one of the true classics of horrorís most enduring genre. Itís about bloody time!
As much as My Bloody Valentine has a history for being maligned, Paramountís initial DVD is actually pretty damn good. Compared to Lionsgateís DVDs and Blu-rays, itís more vibrant, warmer in tone and at times even better detailed. At the same time, though, the Paramount transfer was done in 2002 and a lot has changed since. It doesnít have the black detail that discs today do, and looking at the Lionsgate discs, particularly the Blu-ray, there is a lot more picture information that was once lost to contrast. While I think the Lionsgate DVD is a tad dull when it comes to color, I think the Blu-ray does a little better at adding the pop that the valentine crimson used to have on the Paramount disc. Skin tones are best on the Blu-ray, although there are still times (see the miner three shot below) where I think the old DVD does it best. Framing wise, I could see the Paramount disc having a smidge more picture area than the other two discs, but overall the differences are negligible. One thing both Lionsgate discs improve upon the Paramount disc are edges, which previously fell victim to compression artifacting or even a bit of edge enhancement. Here they seem totally organic, and especially in the Blu-ray, almost seamless.
While the detail in the backgrounds and objects isnít a whole lot different from DVD to Blu-ray, going Blu in this case certainly does constitute a pretty significant upgrade. There is very little digital interference from getting right into the movie. Almost every shot really does look sharp and clean enough to constitute the perception of realistic depth. For the bulk of it, other than a few dark mine sequences at the end where the grain takes on an unflattering green in the shadows, it hardly seems as if youíre even looking at a screen or a projected image. It looks great. Itís not a total knockout, but this transfer is consistently sharp and clean.
Now, the deleted scenes. Iíll leave speaking about what extra is included for the special features and instead focus solely on the image quality. On the Blu-ray, they have been edited into a longer cut of the film that takes up its own 20 GB file on the dual layer disc. Basically, once there is a longer shot of the gore the film switches to the discovered footage and generally sticks with it until the end, even if there are overlapping moments (reaction shots and the like). There is a noticeable deterioration in quality, with the found footage grainer, lower contrast and worst of all browned and lacking in overall color density compared to the feature film footage. That said, it still integrates into the regular cut of the film fairly well, and in a way the lesser quality of the new footage works as a nice tip-off to just how much was actually missing from the final cut. Itís about the difference between the two different Army of Darkness cuts in terms of quality, but Lionsgate has done their best to integrate it, and seeing it in HD is something Iím sure no fan ever imagined.
While the Paramount DVD was mono only, Lionsgate has given both the DVD and Blu-ray nice 5.1 remixes. The DVD is in Dolby Digital 5.1, while the Blu-ray comes through crisp in DTS-HD 5.1. Right from the start you will hear some nice ambient water droplets in the mine footage, and while the surrounds donít get much more of a workout than that directionally, the overall sound space is spread out pretty well throughout. There are a few more directional dialogue bits in the front channels, and music stingers come from all sides. Dialogue is very clear and even that last Celtic ballad comes through well preserved. Itís not a showy mix, but much like the image, itís a consistently strong upgrade.
Deleted scenes. Thatís really all I have to say. Iíve been mentioning them throughout the review, and here I can finally gush. What theyíve uncovered is simply amazing. There had been a few screenshots circulating on sites like Hysteria Lives! For years, but the actual footage here is so much more. There is a full 2:34 of extra material and itís all violence. Every single death from the film is now much longer and much more graphic, including things like seeing the pick axe go through the opening womanís breast, it piercing the bartenders eye or Mabel rolling around in the dryer. Almost every death now has a new insert shot of the carnage, and itís all quite nasty and convincing. There are a few deaths, like Mabelís or the nailgun shots that seem to be stretched out a bit too long, but just read thatÖcomplaining about gore going for TOO LONG in My Bloody Valentine. It blows the mind. Trust me, fans, this isnít your case of an ďunratedĒ upgrade with a few extra frames Ė this literally has seconds and several completely excised shots now completely restored. It wouldnít be hyperbole to call this new cut the best uncut upgrade the format has ever seen.
Now, you have the option of watching the theatrical film or the extended cut with the additional gore footage edited back in, but you also have the option of viewing the footage on its own. The extra gore effects have been edited back in the film for greater context at the start and end of sequences. Thereís also welcome introductions from a variety of the crew, including Director George Mihalka, (legendary) Producers John Dunning and Andre Link, Effectsmen Tom Burnham and Ken Diaz and even actors Carl Marotte and Neil Affleck. While few of the optional introductions go into depth about any given gore scene or effect, they do address the scene, whether it be straight on or by association, and do provide a nice lead in for all 10 extended scenes. They could all be introduced by Carrot Top, though, and it wouldnít take away from the fact that this footage, forever thought lost, is finally available to all.
Both Lionsgate discs also include two other newly minted features. The first is ďBloodlust: My Bloody Valentine and the Rise of the Slasher FilmĒ. It runs just over 20-minutes, and maybe covers a bit too much ground for its own good. Itís part a history lesson leading up to the rise of the slasher, narrated by ďGoing to PiecesĒ author Adam Rockoff. Itís stuff we, as seasoned slasher fans, already all know. Then we get into talk about My Bloody Valentine, with all the participants included in the extended scenes introductions as well as the lovely Lori Hallier. Time is spent talking about how everyone went to great lengths to ensure authenticity in the film, and Mihalka goes into detail about the time constraints and just how fast this all came together. After that, Rockoff takes over again and brings us up to speed history wise to where we were earlier this year before the release of the remake. That segues into talk from many of the participants in the remake, from director Patrick Lussier to actors Jamie King and Kerr Smith. Sadly more time is spent promoting the new film than talking about the old, but still, overall itís an entertaining piece. The best is the end, where Paul Zaza comes to talk about how the infamous end credit ballad came to be.
There is also a menu-driven text supplement, ďBloodlines: An Interactive Horror Film HistoryĒ, which breaks the splatter film down into a number of different genres, from Backwoods Bloodletting to Torture Porn, with a few pages of text on each one, citing key films and both their genesis and impact. Again, itís stuff we already know, but itís not bad to see it split up and organized in such a fashion. Itís written all by Adam Rockoff.
One thing the Blu-ray has that the previous DVDs donít is the original theatrical trailer. What fun it is to see that classic bodycount trailer once more. Promoted like that, I donít know how the film didnít do better at the box office. It should be noted that all Blu-ray extras are in standard definition, and, ick, interlaced. A commentary with the cast or one with the director solo would have been icing, but we got the deleted scenes, so all the rest is a nice bonus.
My Bloody Valentine is one of the true standouts of the slasher genre. It bridges the character and style of Halloween with the inventive bodycount and gore of the Friday the 13th films. The distinctive personality of its east coast accents and its on-location mine footage make it one of the most authentic films of the genre, too. Itís always had heart, and filled out with the much revered cut gore effects, itís finally got blood enough to pump the film for modern audiences in years to come. The image and sound on the Lionsgate discs are healthy upgrades and the extras that arenít the already amazing deleted scenes are good, too. Save (maybe?) for Friday the 13th, Part VII: The New Blood, I donít think any other film is improved as much by its cut scenes than My Bloody Valentine. One of the best slashers just got even better, and this is a valentine no horror fan should be without.
Another great review rhett, and thanks for the screen comparisons! I was very pleased with the Blu-ray. Now, if only Lionsgate would stop using those damn ecocases!
Yeah, they are flimsy and annoying, aren't they? Normally I like to stick the top sticker inside the case, but now with all these punctured holes in the cases, you can't even do that. But it's better for the environment (and, conveniently, cheaper to manufacture) so I can't bitch too much about them!
I love this movie and even loved the remake. I got this blu-ray this week and havent had a chance to watch it yet but looks like they did a pretty solid job with it.
Great Slasher (one of my faves) and great review Rhett!!!...damn now i wish the DVD had the trailer...oh well :D atleast its uncut! :)
Hmmm...my blu-ray didn't have one of those eco-cases. Overrated slasher IMO, but that's one hell of a review. Top notch buddy.
Yeah, This is your best review yet, Rhett.
This is my favorite slasher of all-time and I plan to buy it soon, but the color in the Paramount DVD is way better! :(
Excellent review, you have hit the nail on the head with that one. A fantastic Slasher with as much personality as it does blood ! This one will be in my Stocking this year. Hopefully!! One of my all time faves.
Great review! Once again, made me want to switch to Blu ... next year, with a new computer, I very well may :D
Great review.I was very pleased when I saw the DVD,perhaps I'll upgrade to the Blu in the future.
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