Hearts will bleed

mbvdvdart2MY BLOODY VALENTINE

4.5 Stars  1981/18/94m

“There’s more than one way to lose your heart.”

Director: George Mihalka / Writer: John Beaird / Cast: Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, Neil Affleck, Don Francks, Cynthia Dale, Keith Knight, Alf Humphreys, Larry Reynolds, Terry Waterland, Jack van Evera, Helene Udy, Gina Dick, Patricia Hamilton, Tom Kovacs, Carl Morette, Jim Murchison, Rob Stein.

Body Count: 12

Dire-logue: “You gotta come just to see the dress I’m wearing! Cut down to there, slit up to here! I may not get out alive!”

First-rate Fatality: Oh so many in this version, but death-by-showerhead has it.


Part Deux for Final Girl’s Film Club. Cut or uncut, My Bloody Valentine rocks. However, it rocks more now that those infamous thought-they’d-never-see-the-light-of-day scissored gambits of gore can not only be seen but inserted back into the film!

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Canada had already produced uber-slasher Black Christmas and also the disco-fabness of Prom Night, but with MBV came a slight variation on the form. This time there were no middle class teenagers biting the blade in the ‘burbs, at camp or school. Here, we have blue collar workers in their mine-dependent town (aptly named Valentine Bluffs) being stalked by a goggle-masked, heavy breathing killer whom everyone assumes to be Harry Warden, sole survivor of a Valentine’s Day mine cave-in two decades earlier. Warden went mad, killed the mine supervisors and disappeared, leaving a message to the locals that they should never host a Valentine’s Dance again at the risk of his pick-axe swinging return…

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The local Sheriff and the Mayor cover up a couple of murders and cancel the “first dance in 20 years” after human hearts are sent their way in candy boxes. The younger folks – gruff miners and their girlfriends – opt to secretly party on down at the mine instead and celebrate love n’ stuff. Amidst the madness, there’s a love triangle developing between miners TJ, Axel and weepy blonde Sarah. For reasons unclear, TJ had left town suddenly, which put pay to his relationship with Sarah and allowed Axel to move in on her. Now he’s back (“and working in the mine”), things are a little tense between the trio.

Patty and Sarah rethink their choice in boyfriends

Patty and Sarah rethink their choice in boyfriends

Maniac-miner predictably crashes the Valentine’s party and begins offing anybody who senselessly wanders off on their tod; forcing their faces into boiling pots or skewering them head-first on to shower heads. Before these victims are discovered, three couples head off for a midnight tour of the mine, thus trapping themselves below the surface with the town psycho. More killings ensue until only those involved in the love triangle remain. Is one of them the killer? Or did Harry Warden return? Only a battle of the pick-axes will reveal the dreadful truth.

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When I first saw this back in the mid-90s, I was genuinely surprised by the revelation that occurs at the end, meaning among other things that sometimes I can be a bit thick and also that the creators of My Bloody Valentine had realised a script that houses surprises that have been thought through more than, say, the other half of this daily-double, Friday the 13th.

mbv3aSpeaking of Friday, here’s a film which also contains quite a mean streak, emphasised by the presence of the cut footage. Many films were forced to pull their gory punches in the wake of the MPAA clampdown in 1980 and, subsequently, some suffered greatly for it, cut or not. Now, at last, thanks in large part to the 2009 3D remake, Lionsgate pressed the right buttons at Paramount to polish the excised footage and reinsert it. Visually it’s obvious the celluloid hasn’t maintained its original quality but who the hell cares!? Given the choice I’d accept a few smudges and grains anyday over risking never seeing some of this stuff. It’s frakkin’ gold! Elevates the film to the point I added an extra half-star to my rating.

Unquestionably better than its cynical and nonsensical remake, My Bloody Valentine is one of the top slasher films of its day (and, indeed, ever) and anybody intending to gather a decent cross-section of titles that illustrate how much fun the slasher flick is, should not discount it.

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Blurbs-of-interest: Lori Hallier turned up many moons later in Heartstopper; Gina Dick has a small part in fellow-Canadian slasher from ’81, Happy Birthday to Me. Alf Humphreys and Jack Van Evera had already been in minimalist sorta-slasher Funeral Home.

FRIDAY THE 13TH – UNCUT

friday_the_thirteenthFRIDAY THE 13TH

5 Stars  1980/18/92m

“They were warned… They are doomed… And on Friday the 13th, nothing will save them.”

Director: Sean S. Cunningham / Writer: Victor Miller / Cast: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartram, Jeannine Taylor, Kevin Bacon, Robbi Morgan, Mark Nelson, Peter Brouwer.

Body Count: 9

Dire-logue: “You’re doomed if you stay here! Go… Go!


Marvel at the unrivalled fab-ness of this film, in both pictorial (an adequate 13 screenshots) and rant form for the Final Girl film club!

Many have laughed heartily at my declaration that Friday the 13th is my Citizen Kane. Har-de-har-har they go, you’re kidding, you’re stupid, don’t you know anything about film etc… As it happens, I have a degree in film. We watched all sorts of arty French stuff. And still after three years of credibility, mise-en-scene, cinema verite, depth, focus, the disolve, Tarkovsky, Bergman and a whole host of -isms, a half million dollar slasher flick from New Jersey, 1980, still means more to me than nearly all that other stuff combined.

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Everyone should know the story of Friday the 13th: Camp Crystal Lake, shut since a double murder back in ’58, finally re-opens with a gaggle of teen counsellors and, on June 13th, a Friday, they find themselves picked off one by one by a mysterious killer, who uses a variety of cutting implements to slash, slit and skewer said counsellors until only one nice girl remains to face off with the shady maniac.

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So there it is, simple and straightforward. A direct cash-in on Halloween, gored-up and downgraded into an organic product of on-location filmmaking and yet it was immeasurably successful at the box office, enough to generate ten fuckin’ sequels, a TV series and enough hype to spark its 2009 remake, the quality of which remains to be seen this February 13th.

"You're two steps from Pacific Avenue and Skin City!"

“You’re two steps from Pacific Avenue and Skin City!”

Here in the UK, we’ve been lucky to have the unedited version on DVD for a while now as well as all manner of bootleg VHS copies floating around since the 80s. I first saw the original cut at a late night showing circa 1997. That seldom seen X-rated certificate appeared on screen and then 92 minutes of textbook teen terror. What was cut out is comparatively minimal, four scenes to be exact: the first present-day kill – a drippy throat slashing – is shown for longer, as is a pre-fame Kevin Bacon’s infamous spike-through-the-neck, the axe-to-the-face and the decapitation finale.

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Hoards of horror aficionados have overlooked Friday the 13th. The accusations of its innate cheapness cannot be denied, but compared to any made-for-video or DVD film of the post-Scream era, it’s a production masterpiece, with competent photography that nicely telegraphs foreclosing doom, a cabin-thrashing rainstorm and characters just a little too simple-minded to figure out that they perhaps shouldn’t go and find out what that weird noise is…

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Of course, in this day and age, everything  going on at Camp Crystal Lake looks dated and riddled with cliches – but Friday the 13th fuckin’ wrote those cliches! So Halloween came first, but you’ll find more of the subsequent slasher films copied Fridays homework and changed it to suit their own story.

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Everything about this film is perfect to me, trumped only by the increased professionalism of Part 2 (which also benefitted from a kick-ass final girl in Amy Steel), from the minute unease of seeing the creaky door to the bathrooms open and a booted foot stepping in, to the creeping shot of Marcie at the row of sinks, and Alice’s neverending attempts to escape from the clutches of one of cinema’s most surprising villains.

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Thank you, Friday the 13th, you truly have been life altering. I’d marry you if I could and father lots of baby 13ths!

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Blurbs-of-interest: Adrienne King and Betsy Palmer returned for brief cameos in the sequel and Palmer also appeared in The Fear: Resurrection; Kevin Bacon turned from victim to killer in sci-fi slasher Hollow Man twenty years later; producer Steve Miner directed Parts 2 & 3 and Halloween H20.

MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D

mybloodyvalentine3dMY BLOODY VALENTINE

3 Stars  2009/18/101m

“Nothing says date movie like a 3D ride to hell!”

Director: Patrick Lussier / Writers: Todd Farmer & Zane Smith / Cast: Jensen Ackles, Jaime King, Kerr Smith, Tom Atkins, Kevin Tighe, Megan Boone, Edi Gathegi, Betsy Rue.

Body Count: I counted 18


One thing’s for sure – it ain’t 1981 anymore!

And so, Hollywood’s latest candidate for a rinse n’ makeover arrives. A bit of a cult classic, the original is reportedly Quentin Tarantino’s favourite slasher flick. Strangely, it’s about the only film he hasn’t ripped off yet…

As the plot of a masked-miner offing partying youngsters at his place of work wasn’t likely to pull ‘em in these days, those crazy folks at Lionsgate decided to make this a 3D experience! Cool, huh? There hasn’t been a theatrical 3D slasher flick since, oooh, Freddy’s Dead back in ’91? Wise decision in the current climate. Unwise was hiring Todd Farmer to scribe the thing. Now, while I’m sure Farmer is a nice chap (he plays the trucker FYI), he did write Jason X and the watered-down ghostfest that was The Messengers. His intentions might be good – play things back to their roots: gore, full-frontal nudity – but his script doesn’t make a whole lotta sense…

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The walking oil-painting that is Jensen Ackles is Tom Hanniger (they kept some of the original names – yay!), who is apparently to blame for an accident at his pop’s mine that causes a cave-in and strands six of the men in the rubble. When they pull out the lone survivor, Harry Warden, they discover he slaughtered the other five in order to stay alive. Shortly after, Harry wakes from his coma and murders 22 people, finishing at the mine where a group of employees and their babes are partying.

Ten years later, Tom returns to town to finish up selling the mine and runs into his ex Sarah, now married to old buddy Axel, who is now the Sheriff and doing Sarah’s grocey store employee Megan ‘in secret’. Miner-murders quickly begin with an unfortunate nude lady and Farmer’s trucker, escalating to people associated with the mine. Victims are chiefly done in with a rusty old pick-axe, gorily most of the time and with sod-all sympathy from anyone.

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Unlike the original film, the slayings occur in town over a few days surrounding Valentine’s Day, victims’ hearts showing up in candy boxes again, with a subplot thrown in to explain what became of Harry Warden to ‘tie-up’ questions the audience may have. Eventually, all roads lead back to the closed-off section of the mine and the identity of the killer is shoddily revealed. It’s a disappointing revelation that shows the studio’s primary concern was for the 3D effects. I imagine somebody turned around and slapped their forehead, exclaiming: ‘Shit! We have no motive and those flashbacks do nothing to clear it up…and how did the killer know where _____’s _____ was if only _____ knew!?’ There’s nothing that makes you sit back and think ‘oh yeah, I should’ve noticed that!’ It’s completely out of leftfield, yanking the film’s shoelaces undone so that it trips over itself in the middle of a crowded supermarket.

This minor (har-de-har-har!) complaint aside, MBV ’09 is a fun romp with lots of grue and chases thrown in, even if half the audience did grown when character’s decided to run through the woods into a delapidated house rather than stay on the road and risk the possibility of flagging down help. But this is a slasher movie – common sense has no place here.

Slightly off-topic, why do killers always choose to return years after in multiples of five? Couldn’t it have been nine or eleven years for once, ay?

Next month: Friday the 13th redux. Shudder.

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Blurbs-of-interest: Tom Atkins was in Maniac Cop; Jaime King was also the heroine in The Tripper; Kerr Smith cheated death in the original Final Destination. But not for long… Betsy Rue turned up in Halloween II (2009) and Groupie.

FATAL PULSE

FATAL PULSE

1 Stars  1988/88m

“Who is the killer behind the sadistic and horrific murders of beautiful young coeds…and when will this madness end?”

Director: Anthony J. Christopher / Writer: James Hundhausen / Cast: Michelle McCormick, Ken Roberts, Joe Phelan, Alex Courtney, Cindra Hodgdon, Steven Henry, Blair Karsch, Sky Nicholas, Maureen O’Hanlon, Kitty.

Body Count: 6

Dire-logue: “Don’t worry, almost nothing can go wrong.”


Trouble with the lexicon of late-80s made for video slasher films, even those that felt the need to remind you they were ‘full length feature films’ on the box, was that the introduction of made-for-video pictures opened the floodgates to a tidal wave of crap. Almost literal crap.

Fatal Pulse - not to be confused with the cheesy, but far superior Fatal Games - is a rubbish arse-wipe of a film in which the dimwitted residents of the Alpha Omega Kappa sorority house are being strangled, electrocuted, drowned and slashed by vinyl records (!) by an anonymous black-gloved killer, who could be the lead girl’s on-off boyfriend, his dumbass buddy, or her nasty ex. But we know it isn’t really. The real killer’s identity is so obvious the character may as well have been holding a decapitated head when he first appears.

It’s one of those scripts where the author hasn’t even tried. If someone was murdered in the room next door to me, I’d move out. These girls, they stick around, told nothing will happen to them (see Dire-logue) and are all presented as witless morons and nasty bitches who are utterly defenceless, cowering pathetically when the maniac leans in for the kill, slashing their bras open first of course! One girl encounters the psycho on a suburban street during daylight hours. Instead of running to a house, she decides an abandoned warehouse is the best means of escape!

If you want to see the film that makes Sorority House Massacre look like Black Christmas then Fatal Pulse is for you! Everyone else is advised to substitute the tape for a doorstop or toilet roll.

December Face-off: Christmas vs. New Years

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Christmas…a time for sharing, being with your family, eating to excess, relocating to another room to avoid killing said family with the carving knives Dad gave Mum. Any way you look at it, this is a holiday built for horror. There’s so much pressure to buy the right things in the right timeframe for a bunch of people who won’t really appreciate it. This causes tension, tension begat horror and horror makes me happy! Fun for all the family.

A week later, when we’re pondering our waist lines and thinking of which unlucky schmuck to pass on any number of crap gifts to, New Year’s Eve rears it’s bizarre head. One year ends and everybody decides to create fictional promises for the ensuing 12 months.

I gotta say I prefer Christmas on the whole. In 2006 I missed it completely due to my backpacking whim and sat in a cold hotel room in Yangshuo, China, trying not to cry about it. This year I was sick from December 23rd all the way through to yesterday and discovered at last that my parents believe I am in fact the same age as they are through the medium of some weird-ass presents.

Anyway, on to the horror!

Naturally things begin back in that magical year of 1974. ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest, Jaws was first published, I was four years from being born and Bob Clark made this sleeper classic. To see Black Christmas is to love it, no alternative.

It’s impact doubtlessly sullied by the cheapjack remake in 06, this is an incredibly unnerving story of an unseen killer living in the attic of a sorority house and making nasty calls to the residing girls, who emerges every now and then to kill one of them.

Olivia Hussey is a complex heroine, but a great one; Margot Kidder is triff as the vulgar drunk and even bad-movie prop John Saxon is there as one of the cops trying to help with the case of the disappeared first victim.

Watch the full uncensored version (it’s not gorier, just more profane) with the lights out on Christmas Eve next year for max effect!

Holiday Cheer: 97%


Here’s an interesting sounding concept: sadsack toy factory employee Harry (Brendan Maggart) loves Christmas sooooo much that he spies on the local kids to decide whether they’ve been good or bad. But somebody as unhinged as Harry might react badly if it’s the latter.

So does he go after the horrible little kids? No. Their parents or equally unlikeable siblings? No. He doesn’t really go after anybody by the time he dons a Santa suit, offing a colleague who dissed the season and then three random strangers who laugh at him on the steps of a church.

A real bore-a-thon with one great line of dire-logue courtesy of Harry’s bro: “You’re blaming me for all the horrible things you’ve done because of something I said when I was six-years-old?”

And that ending. Dear God, that ending!

Holiday Cheer: 8%


Oooh dangerous ground. This is the one that caused uproar from parents’ groups picketing the cinemas showing it and stating it had made their children scared of Santa Claus. Well, in a way you’re going to have to break your child’s heart sooner or later so may as well get it over with and blame a third party…

Fun flick though; Billy’s not-all-there grandpa tells him Santa is evil and, the very same night, a Santa-clad psycho murders his parents. Billy and little bro Ricky are sent to an orphanage run by uber-strict Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin) who has, like, zero sympathy for Billy’s yuletide issues and teaches him that punishment is in his best interests.

When he’s 18, Billy – now an athletic quasi-hulk – ends up working at a toy store and is made to play Santa, something that soon flips the switch on the back of his head from sane to wacky and he’s off slaughtering people who just ain’t nice. A real morality tale, it’s a surprise most of the protesters didn’t fund the damn thing too! Tail-ended by four sequels of varying relation and merit and hauled on to the remake train for 2009.

Holiday Cheer: 65%


A few more to choose from. Santa’s Slay is a genial little romp with wrestler Bill Goldberg as Satan’s offspring and loser of a bet with an angel that has made him play Santa for hundreds of years. The duration of the penalty done with, Santa’s a bit wound up and is taking it out on the residents of Hell Township (!) where everyone from Carol Singers to spoiled brats laid to waste as the body count soars into the thirties! Emilie de Ravin, James Caan and Rebecca Gayheart all make appearances in this funky little timewaster.

Turning to weirdo 70s giallo, Silent Night, Bloody Night, in which small town locals all want the Butler mansion in the wake of its owner’s recent demise. Someone has broken out of an institution and there are a load of axe murders. Confused? You will be. Mary Woronov is a good final girl in this pre-Halloween strangeness, that has more than a few moments to remind us where slasher films started out.

Whatever your views of remakes might be, here’s one from the producers of Final Destination that, while a complete bastardization of its source material, is still a lot of fun if you remove yourself from that knowledge. Again, sorority girls are the target of an attic-dwelling psycho, this time with a fleshed out backstory. The body count is about five times higher than the original but there are some nice familiar faces from recent horror playing around, it’s just a shame that violent dispatches took a frontseat to any sense of character or notions of tension…


There’s a cool idea lurking behind the trash here. 40-something Roz Kelly is Blaze, the ‘First Lady of Rock’ who is presenting a sort of MTV New Year’s Eve party that’s being televised coast to coast from LA. Shortly before the broadcast begins, a man calls in to announce he’s going to kill a friend of Blaze’s as midnight arrives in each of the four timezones, finishing with her.

A pretty good concept if handled right. And it’s only a slasher flick so that couldn’t be difficult… Oh wait, Emmett Alston is hopelessly untalented. Doi! So it goes, killer – face shown from the outset – works like a Ted Bundy protege, chatting them up and luring them aside just before the bells toll and murdering them. He winds up at the TV station for the final confrontation, ridiculous speech of misogynistic rantings and a fairly inventive twist on his actual identity before the predictable ending.

If you like early 80’s “New Wave” Rock and crowds of zombie-like partygoers swaying in time to said music, then maybe you’ll find something here. Otherwise, stay in and get drunk.

Holiday Cheer: 14%


This isn’t actually a slasher film at all, but as nobody’s really ventured back into the New Year’s area of slasherdom (probably put off by New Year’s Evil) I thought I’d bolster the numbers in its…uh…favour.

This is a grinding British film with two teen couples boating out to an island where they sneak into an abandoned hotel and get sucked through some bizarre time vortex, unleash zombies and other critters and all go mad and die.

It’s poor as can be and roping in an American actress to play the lead was an effort to sell internationally I imagine. Shame it’s such a suckfest. If the Brit horror industry hadn’t picked up at the end of the 90s then this may have been our legacy. Eugh!

Holiday Cheer: 19%


Victor: Christmas wins by a mile. Having Black Christmas on your team is a given though. Now, why has nobody developed an Easter bloodfest yet?

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