January 14, 2009

Seen Between Fingers - Chris Kelly Wooed By Original Bloody Valentine

In this regular feature, wimp and noted horror non-enthusiast Chris Kelly reports back with his first-impressions of memorable scary movies. (He's also starring in a NYC revival of Torch Song Trilogy that opens next week, if you care to see him in his natural habitat.) In anticipation of My Bloody Valentine 3D, which I hope to inflict on him next week, I decided that a look back at the original slasher classic was in order. Surprise -- I think he liked it!

My Bloody Valentine was released less than a year after Friday the 13th, so while it is tempting to view it as just another slasher flick, it’s important to put the work in context. The many tropes that have since emerged (the teenagers murdered as punishment for intercourse, the faceless killer driven by childhood trauma, the disposable blonde in the first ten minutes) were fresher at the time. I’m having trouble seeing the piece as anything other than the continuation of a trend, but I’ll do my best to focus on the aspects that are better than, or different from, other selections from the youth-mauling genre.

Let’s start with the setting, which is bleak as fuck. This is a town in which the most romantic scene takes place on a cold, gray, windy outcropping littered with scrub grass. The best view for miles, the place where you bring your lady to win back her affection, has a view of what is probably a sewage treatment plant or other industrial blemish. Though we never see the inside of a local home, their exteriors suggest that they are little more than storage units. If you ever call PODS to move your belongings, consider what it might be like to forgo the relocation process and simply pack yourself into that sad metal rectangle. Perhaps this squalid hamlet’s depressing surface is what has driven the population to perform all sex acts underground; we are, after all, shown three instances of (or at least attempts at) subterranean copulation, without the faintest hint that one might pursue such an activity in, say, a bed in someone’s “house.”

The oppressive awfulness of daily life in a mining town does a great deal to temper the impact of the film’s many deaths. These are people who could not possibly care less. Consider the first victim, a woman whose only joy in life is to leave the listless Laundromat she runs to festoon the town with streamers in a futile attempt to erase the memory of a series of grisly deaths. If her entire life will be one long dryer cycle anyway, is she not better off dead? Look at this motley collection of mulletted, doughy, chinless halfwits. Working filthy jobs, drinking cheap beer, butting their interchangeable personalities against each other in some rudimentary attempt at conversation—it’s tough at times to say whether this is murder or mercy.

Which is not to say that there aren’t genuinely scary moments. Sure, the opener seems clich├ęd now, but I bet at the time, audiences were stunned when the titillation was interrupted by the total boner-killer of a pick-axe piercing through the heart (and, just to drive the point home, the heart-shaped tattoo) of the village’s most buxom inhabitant. And what about that scene with the mining coveralls descending from the ceiling? That shit was bananas. I expected gore, but I didn’t expect the mounting pressure and disorientation of that poor, piggy girl’s scramble for safety amidst flaccid replicas of her assailant. Good show!

Actually, while we’re on the topic of gore, now is a good time to mention the fact that this movie comes to us pre-sanitized. Nine awful minutes were famously excised by the MPAA. For a lightweight like me, this comes as welcome respite, but chances are that most of you are desperate for whatever craven splatters and slices you can get. In that case, we’re both in luck: I managed to squeeze this review in while the footage is still unavailable, and you can all treat yourselves to an extra-gross Valentine’s Day when LionsGate releases an uncut DVD next month (that is, if Wikipedia is to be believed, which it is sometimes not). I’m sure I’d have less jokes to make and more pants to wet if I had seen the original version in all its viscera-encrusted glory.

As it stands, this movie was a really fun guilty pleasure for me. It was occasionally intense, but mostly just hilarious. This is the kind of stupendous train wreck in which the lead stud’s Canadian accent makes him sound like a gay high schooler trying to hide his lisp and the only female to actually have sex looks like she’s maybe a dude. I encourage you all to invite your friends over for popcorn to watch this while playing “Who Dies Next?” or offering your own MST3K commentary. You won’t be disappointed.

1 comment:

Tom said...

I think this is the funniest one you've written. Hats off to you!