dir. George Mihalka
Being rabid movie and general pop-culture geeks, my writing partner and I will occasionally engage in movie what-if conversations—discussions examining the untold consequences of various movie scenarios and other unexamined yet logical avenues that familiar scenarios could travel. Not only is it a fun way to pass the time but it also fuels our creativity. After examining as many genre movies as we have, we are so versed in the character types, plot-intricacies, clichés, stylistic flourishes, narrative arcs, and various other film minutiae that we could probably construct entire encyclopedias on the subject just from memory. This shit has invaded our subconscious. Consequently, when developing stories, outlines, characters, and such; our biggest goal is to show what hasn’t been shown, or at the very least, show familiar things in a novel way. Most of our planning stages involve these seemingly pointless what-if conversations. In a nutshell, we examine what has worked, what techniques we’re tired of, and what filmic things we’ve always wanted to see. [Hollywood, our immense talent is available.]
Of course, we also engage in other slightly less productive (i.e. masturbatory) sorts of geek conversations. One of my favorite time-wasters is the time-travel discussion. This isn’t to say that we discuss movie time-travel scenarios, but rather examine the periods in which we would most love to write. My absolute, A-1, top-of-the-heap choice would be to travel back to the fifties and pen a ridiculous number of films for Roger Corman. I’ve given the matter a lot of thought and this situation would, by far, keep me the happiest. Not only do I dig the works of Corman (and AIP), but I admire the pace at which he churned out (and apparently still churns out) the work. It would be a crash course in film-making. The key word for Corman was and is turn-over. This kind of schedule would enable my desire to work at a Paul Erdos-ish pace, writing scripts 24/7. To top it off, I really dig writing in the style of the fifties AIP pictures. My writing partner and I could freely, gleefully engage in the sorts of genre clichés that we now work so hard to avoid. It would be a glorious time.
Of course, I have many other time-travel choices. While watching George Mihalka’s My Bloody Valentine, one of my other choices moved up on the list—traveling back to the late seventies/early eighties and writing a bunch of slasher films. [Side note: At the risk of being pilloried by my horror-fan brethren and sisteren (fuck you spell check, it’s a word now), I will admit that I had not seen My Bloody Valentine until this week. (Incidentally, this is a double-shame in that I am also quite a fan of the band My Bloody Valentine, this film's namesake.)]
Because the majority of slasher films are interchangeable, watching one I had not seen previously is still like eating comfort food. My Bloody Valentine abounds in slasher film clichés. We’ve got the evil killer mythology involving a national holiday—Harry Warden was a miner whose coworkers’ negligence twenty years prior, resulting in a mine explosion on Valentine’s Day, left him a psychotic, murderous shell of a man. We’ve got the crazy old-timer warning the dismissive young’uns of the killer’s past shenanigans—the bartender Hap, a man who clearly holds nothing but contempt for the young folks in this town paradoxically goes at great lengths to warn the ingrates that, should they hold a Valentine’s Day party, Warden will fucking kill them. We have the unnecessarily elaborate murder and corpse-presentation scenarios—the sheriff discovers the corpse of a Laundromat owner, killed the day before, tumbling in a still-operating dryer. [Aside from an unquenchable blood-lust, this killer, apparently, has enough quarters to make Billy Mitchell's mouth water.] We’ve got the young, horny kids disobeying town ordinances and engaging in willfully risky behavior—despite the sheriff’s ban on Valentine’s Day parties (what a bummer), the kids go ahead and throw a shindig at the mine, the site of Harry Warden’s demise. [SPOILER ALERT] Finally, we have the final plot twist and sequel-ready open-ending—the real killer, Axel, escapes, sans arm, to continue killing. [END SPOILER ALERT]
All that being said, My Bloody Valentine does veer somewhat from many of the slasher film clichés. Whereas in the other pictures the film’s only virginal female is the final girl to survive the massacre, here the female heroine divides her time banging two different dudes. Talk about a progressive slasher movie.
Another less obvious variance is My Bloody Valentine’s locale. Although most other slasher films are set in summer camps or affluent suburbs, Mihalka’s film takes place among the working class denizens of a depressed mining town. It’s always nice when one of these films recognizes that poor and working class folks actually exist. Not that refusal to acknowledge poor folks is a problem exclusive to eighties slasher films. Hollywood has a long history of ignorance, or just straight don’t-give-a-shit-ness, when it comes to depiction of those furthest removed from the ruling circles and privileged elite. My Bloody Valentine is a welcome departure. All that being said, it’s probably still more fun to watch those slasher movies that off spoiled, affluent, self-centered teens.
As I continue to fill holes in my movie knowledge it is nice when I come across a movie I wish I had seen many years prior. Fortunately, I probably still have many more surprises waiting for me down the road. To my long list of movies I wish could watch again for the first time, I can now add My Bloody Valentine.