Friday, October 14, 2011

Harry's Out To Steal Your Heart

Paramount originally released MY BLOODY VALENTINE in 1981 shorn of several minutes of gore, thanks to the nannies at the MPAA. Because it’s a solidly cast and crafted thriller, it was a hit anyway, even though horror fans were disappointed that juicy stills published in FANGORIA weren’t represented in the film.

Lionsgate licensed MY BLOODY VALENTINE from Paramount and released it on DVD in 2009 with the missing footage, which producer John Dunning had held onto all those years, reinstated. What was already a good horror movie became a much more effective one, as the creative makeup effects by Tom Burman (HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME) and others provide tantalizing shocks.

The small Canadian mining town of Valentine Bluffs is haunted by memories of Harry Warden, a miner who went on a Valentine’s Day 1961 murder spree, ripping out his victims’ hearts and delivering them inside heart-shaped candy boxes. It’s a rare Canadian production that doesn’t try to disguise it, stocking the sets with Moosehead beer and casting Canuck performers with thick Bob-and-Doug accents, eh.

Warden was captured and sent to a mental hospital, but not before pledging that he would return for more bodies if the town ever held another Valentine’s Day party. Twenty years later, the town gives it another go, decorating all the storefronts with banners and streamers and construction-paper hearts. Before you know it, candy boxes with bloody hearts inside start turning up…along with the mangled bodies the hearts belonged to.

While the local lawman (Don Francks) and mayor (Larry Reynolds) cover up the murders and cancel the town’s party, a group of fun-loving young people decide to throw their own party down deep in the local mine where they work. Yep, the same mine in which Harry Warden went crazy two decades earlier. Writer John Beaird opens up the characters a bit with the addition of a love triangle involving best friends Axel (Neil Affleck) and T.J. (Paul Kelman) and Sarah (Lori Hallier), who was T.J.’s girl before he left town to find himself on the West Coast. When he returned, Sarah had moved on to Axel, causing a riff between the two guys.

The authentic small-town atmosphere lends much to the production, as does the great idea to set the last half of the picture 2000 feet underground in a dark, creepy mine. Mihalka (PINBALL SUMMER) gets as much mood out of the location—an actual Nova Scotia mine—as possible, gliding his camera across all the nooks, crevices, and rafters he can find. The actors, including Keith Knight (CLASS OF 1984) and Alf Humphries (FUNERAL HOME), are convincing in their roles. Playing characters a few years older than the teenagers who usually populate these pictures gives the danger added weight.

Paul Zaza composed the musical score and an affecting folk ballad performed over the end titles by John McDermott. Rumors persist of still more cut footage (probably not any more gore), though director Mihalka gave his stamp of approval to the Lionsgate DVD. MY BLOODY VALENTINE was remade by DRIVE ANGRY director Patrick Lussier in 2009 with SUPERNATURAL star Jensen Ackles and DAWSON’S CREEK’s Kerr Smith in the T.J. and Axel roles.

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