Oct. 22: My Bloody Valentine (1981):
If you'92re a child of the 1980s, like me, then you probably predisposed to love slasher movies. It was never the classiest genre, but the slasher movie is just a peculiar kind of fun. Moody atmosphere, elegant cinematography and critical acclaim are nice, but sometimes they just pale to the pleasures of seeing teenagers get stabbed to death. Canadian slasher flick My Bloody Valentine doesn'92t transcend the genre, but it is a very good example of it, giving us some quality scares amid a surprisingly gritty atmosphere.
In the quiet little coal mining town of Valentine Bluffs, the Valentine'92s Day dance is a very big thing. One year, an explosion at the mine traps several miners below ground, largely because a few mine employees snuck off to go to the dance. The only survivor was Harry Warden, and he emerged kind of crazy. He killed the people responsible for the accident, and was carted off to an insane asylum.
Now, it'92s 20 years later. The town hasn'92t had a Valentine'92s Day dance since, but they have decided to start it back up. And then people start to turn up dead. Is Harry back, or is it just some other nutbag sneaking around town in coveralls and a gas mask?
My Bloody Valentine feels a little different than most slasher films. It isn'92t just random teenagers getting knocked off here. The coal mining town in the movie seems authentic, and the people getting knocked off look like they belong there. It'92s a surprisingly gritty setting for this kind of film, which is usually much more at home at a summer camp. The movie is also very Canadian (dig all the signs for Moosehead beer). The characters here are all pretty much just blue-collar wage slaves who are stuck in their hometown. You feel like a navel-gazing indie movie, or a Bruce Springsteen song could be set here.
The coal mine itself makes for a very creepy setting for a horror film, with the light on Harry'92s headlamp slicing through the subterranean darkness as he stalks some poor schmuck.
My Bloody Valentine does fit squarely in the middle of the slasher genre, despite its unique qualities. But it'92s a great example of the genre done well, with intelligence and atmosphere, when there are so many painful examples out there of how it can be screwed up.
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'97'a0'a0'a0 April Fool'92s Day (1986): Another slasher flick blatantly taking advantage of the '93holiday'94 craze in the genre, this is the surprisingly capable story of a group of college friends who take spring break vacation at the island vacation home of Muffy (Deborah Foreman). She loves playing April Fool'92s jokes on her friends, but soon people start dying for real.
'97'a0'a0'a0 Terror Train (1980): Another surpringly above-average Canadian slasher, if a bit too polished at times, it stars Jamie Lee Curtis in her scream-queen heyday. During freshman year of college, a frat pledge falls victim to a horrible prank. Four years later, just before graduation, the frat has a costume party on a train, and folks start to die. With everyone in costume, we never know who the killer could be. It also bizarrely has David Copperfield in a supporting role, playing, you guessed it, a magician.
'97'a0'a0'a0 The Burning (1981): A mean take on that old chestnut, the summer camp slasher, that turns a lot of the conventions of that subgenre on their head (just check out the scene on the raft). It features a former camp caretaker, horribly burned in a prank gone wrong, who has come back for revenge on the kiddies. For other takes on the summer camp slasher that are interesting more for sheer insanity than for quality, check out Madman Marz (1982) and Sleepaway Camp (1983), which has a truly horrifying final shot.