Holiday slasher triple-feature @ The Cinefamily: Part 1

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Last Thursday at the Cinefamily, there was an amazing triple feature of three classic “holiday” theme slashers from the 80′s, as part of their slasher retrospective this month. A “holiday” slasher is one of many sub-genres, that include the “summer camp” slasher and the “campus” slasher, to name a few. Since HALLOWEEN took the best holiday, all subsequent slashers had to take whatever was left on the calendar. I’m still waiting for an Easter slasher movie.

One of the best of the “holiday” slashers was the original MY BLOODY VALENTINE from 1981. It is also one of my favorite “non-franchise” slashers and I’ve seen it many times over since its theatrical release, but it has not had a revival screening to speak of at all, as far as I know of. When the Cinefamily announced that they not only found a 35mm print of it, but that it was an UNCUT print, I couldn’t wait to check it out. Add director GEORGE MIHALKA for an in person Q and A and you got yourselves one happy slasher movie fan!

Then a few hours before the screening I received a panicked call from my friend Gariana Abeyta of THE POPCORN MAFIA. She was serving as projectionist for the evening at the Cinefamily and she needed help figuring out the order of the reels for the film because the print they got wasn’t numbered. It just had these bizarre symbols marking each reel. She had never seen MY BLOODY VALENTINE before and since I’ve seen it almost too many times, I hightailed it to the theatre to lend my expertise in the matter. Actually, they had it pretty well under control by the time I got there, but I did provide a ruling on what the final reel was when I received a text while en route to the theatre that read, “WHEN IN THE MOVIE DOES THE FAT GUY WITH GLASSES GET SHOT IN THE HEAD WITH A NAIL?”

When I arrived, I discovered that the infamous UNCUT version was not what they had received. Although the collector they got it from insisted that there was one bit of cut gore that had been spliced into it from the workprint, there was no way of telling what kind of Frankenstein of a print they had until we all watched it together in it’s entirety. The print itself still had a lot of color, but was pretty scratchy and grinded out. It took major projection skills to pull off as seamless a presentation as Gariana did that night. But more on all that later.

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“It happened once. It happened twice. Cancel the dance, or it will happen thrice!” – Harry Warden

The original MY BLOODY VALENTINE is a great fucking movie that is a joy to see in a theatre with an audience of avid horror fans. It is one of the many slasher films that were released in the year of 1981 and anyone growing up during that golden age can remember them coming out almost week after week. THE BURNING, FINAL EXAM, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2, HELL NIGHT, THE PROWLER, MADMAN, GRADUATION DAY, HALLOWEEN II, THE FUNHOUSE, STUDENT BODIES and HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME are a few of the great slashers that came out that same year, but MY BLOODY VALENTINE was the best of them all.

It’s the most blue collar slasher film ever made. Every character looks like they grew up in a small steel town. Bad clothes, worse haircuts and the cast consists of normal looking people, unlike the 3-D remake where everybody looked like they were out of the new BEVERLY HILLS 90210. It even has a fat guy who everybody turns to for strength and guidance.

The film is about a particularly nasty love triangle that erupts between three old friends in a mining town called Valentine Bluffs. T.J. has returned home to find his best buddy Axle has hooked up with his old girlfriend Sarah. T.J. is the son of the owner of the mine where he and Axle both work.

To compound the tension, it’s Valentine’s Day and it looks like old Harry Warden has escaped from the booby hatch, where he was sent after massacring a whole bunch of folks at the last Valentine’s Day dance held in the town. He went nuts after being the sole survivor of a mine cave-in and had to resort to cannibalism to stay alive. Christ on a cracker!

Looks like he’s back now, still donning his miner uniform and gasmask, and still killing people with his trusty pickaxe. But when the Sheriff shuts down the first Valentine dance in years, those crazy kids throw one of their own at the mine. Bad idea as they are “picked” off one by one.

Harry Warden has a bone to "pick" with you! Alright, I'll stop.

Harry Warden has a bone to "pick" with you! Alright, I'll stop.

That's one fucked up Valentine!

That's one fucked up Valentine!

Doing laundry at the launderette already sucks. Jesus Harry!

Doing laundry at the launderette already sucks. Jesus Harry!

"No really, I don't want a hot dog!"

"No really, I don't want a hot dog!"

"MY EYE!"

"MY EYE!"

MY BLOODY VALENTINE is a very grimy and mean slasher film that is genuinely entertaining and provides a lot of great scares, as well as the creepiest fucking ending ever. Despite a couple drawbacks, that include a cast of inexperienced actors and a hatchet job by the MPAA on all the gore scenes, the film succeeds on all levels.

One thing I’ve always noticed about it, is that the film reminds me a lot of MICHAEL CIMINO’S classic Vietnam drama, THE DEER HUNTER. The mining town location and the love triangle are very aesthetically similar to each other. It’s as if they took the ROBERT DENIRO, CHRISTOPHER WALKEN, and MERRYL STREEP relationship and substituted a masked killer for ‘Nam. I’ve had in depth conversations with other slasher fanatics, where I’ve explained this theory and have been scoffed at rudely. I’ll get back to this.

The cut gore scenes have become a source of legend among horror fans for many years. Back in 1981 the MPAA made an example of it and forced them to trim almost everything bloody out. Just recently a special edition DVD was released with most of the violence reinstated. That’s why the idea of showing a 35mm print of the uncut version was so amazing. Well the print we saw that night at the Cinefamily was the trimmed theatrical version, except for one of the best moments from the uncut workprint! It had been spliced in and involved something particularly crazy that happens right at the already freakish finale. I won’t ruin the surprise if you’ve never seen it before, but let’s just say it gives a new meaning to the term “coyote arm”.

After the film, Hadrian Belove showed a montage he compiled of the edited gore from the movie and the crowd loved it. Then, Brian Collins from HORROR MOVIE A DAY and BLOODY DISGUSTING introduced director GEORGE MIHALAKA who came up and did a great Q and A.

Brian Collins interviews MY BLOODY VALENTINE director, GEORGE MIHALKA.

Brian Collins interviews MY BLOODY VALENTINE director, GEORGE MIHALKA.

He talked about how they set out to make one of the craziest, funniest and most violent slasher films ever made. It was shot quick and cheap up in Canada with an all Canadian cast and crew and picked up for distribution by Paramount. It was a rush to get the film done, because if they didn’t make the February 14th release date, no money.

He said the reason the MPAA decided to take all the gore out was a direct result of the John Lennon assassination and a sweeping backlash against violence in movies. MY BLOODY VALENTINE had the bad luck of being the scapegoat of the week.

He also said that there was even more violence than the stuff from the uncut version, that was originally in the first cut. One scene that has never been in any release, involved a couple having sex that are impaled together with a large drill blade and the guy vomits blood into the girls mouth. It was so gory the MPAA said “We don’t even want to discuss it, just get rid of it.”

It was shot in a real mine shaft and they used a special grade of film stock that was used by the great cinematographer VILMOS ZSIGMOND on of all films, THE DEER HUNTER. This prompted me to ask the question to the only man who could prove my theory, the director. I asked if THE DEER HUNTER was any inspiration for his film at all, for which he replied “We totally ripped it off!”.  I nailed that shit!

GEORGE MIHALKA confirms my MY BLOODY VALENTINE/THE DEER HUNTER theory.

GEORGE MIHALKA confirms my MY BLOODY VALENTINE/THE DEER HUNTER theory.

In attendance that night was director ELI ROTH, who was sporting a THANKSGIVING t-shirt. Because it was a holiday slasher night, I had worn my THANKSGIVING t-shirt to the event as well. In what could have been an embarrassing moment, we both bumped into each other and when he noticed I was wearing the shirt for his hilarious 80′s slasher spoof trailer, he got really excited. “Dude, awesome shirt! Wasn’t my trailer totally MY BLOODY VALENTINE?” he asked me. I told him that he nailed the tone and look of it perfectly and that I could not wait for the THANKSGIVING feature film he plans on making.

ELI ROTH and I sport our THANKSGIVING t-shirts.

ELI ROTH and I sport our THANKSGIVING t-shirts.

During the Q and A, ELI ROTH told GEORGE MIHALKA that the amazing end credits song, THE BALLAD OF HARRY WARDEN by PAUL ZAZA is one of he and QUENTIN TARANTINO’S favorite songs and that TARANTINO was so obsessed with it, he played it constantly while they were filming INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. He added that he and QT mentioned the song to horror filmmaker ALEXANDER AJA while they were all hanging out together and he too was a huge fan. They all started singing the song together and I leave you with the lyrics of THE BALLAD OF HARRY WARDEN. I will post Part 2 of my coverage of this triple feature soon and discuss APRIL FOOL’S DAY and the amazing yuletide slasher, DON’T OPEN ‘TILL CHRISTMAS. For now, gather the kids by the fire and sing along…

Once upon a time, on a sad Valentine,

in a place known as Henniger Mine.

A legend began, every woman and man,

would always remember the time.

And those who remain, were never the same,
you could see, the fear in their eyes.
Once every year, as the fourteenth draws near,
there’s a hush all over the town.

For the legend they say, on a Valentine’s Day,
is a curse, that’ll live on and on.
And no will know, as the years come and go,
of the horror from long time ago.

Twenty years came and went, and everyone spent,
the fourteenth, in quiet regret.
And those still alive, know the secret survives,
in the darkness, that looms in the night.

For the legend they say, on a Valentine’s Day,
is a curse, that’ll live on and on.
And no one will know, as the years come and go,
of the horror, from long time ago.

In this little town, when the fourteenth comes ’round,
there’s a silence, and fear in the air.
Remember the morn, that the legend was born,
all the shock, and the horror was there.

For the legend they say, on a Valentine’s Day,
is a curse, that’ll live on and on.
And no one will know, as the years come and go,
of the horror, from long time ago.

And no one will know, as the years come and go,
of the horror, from long time ago.

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