|Star:||Paul Kelman, Neil Affleck, Lori Hallier|
|Cert / Year:||18 - R / 1981|
Whilst the townspeople of the sleepy little mining town of Valentine Bluffs dance the night away at their annual Valentines Day party a tragic accident at the local mine causes the roofs of some of the tunnels to cave in. After digging through the rubble for days only one survivior was found, miner Harry Warden who had managed to survive by cannibalising a former colleague. The following year as the town prepare for another Valentines Day dance, Harry escapes from hospital and embarks on a killing spree. Dressed in his mining garb and gas mask he begins by brutally murdering the two men that were in charge of the mine on the night of the accident, then proceeding to kill any amourous revellers with his pick axe. Holding the town responsible for the accident, Harry warns the town Never to have another Valentines Day dance or he will be back and the killing will resume. 20 years later and the small town begin to prepare for their first celebration of Valentines Day since the latter carnage years before. As February 14th approaches a new spate of murders begins and the local officials fear that Harry is making good on his threat.
Okay so it is basically a low budget, Canadian shock flick but it isn't all that bad for a straight to video movie. The story courtesy of John Beaird isn't too bad but it has some largely unfulfilled potential in this screen outing.
The direction by George Mihalka is dissappointing and is lacking in most departments. The action is very tackily caught on camera and frequently appears to have been directed by an infant which is coupled with some largely sub-standard photography which is unimaginative and cinematically insignificant. In balance to some truly unremarkable use of the camera George Mihalka has somehow managed some good cinematography during the underground sequences which is very difficult to accomplish. His aptitude for subterranean photography does not however make up for the remainder of the film. The film has maybe one or two moments that may make you jump (if you are of a nervous disposition) but with the end of the opening sequence the film gradually travels downhill right to the end with one or two brief pauses. The ending is predictable and the explanation by one or two characters at the end is terrible and pitiful as it would mean that they knew all along who was doing the killing and why.
Most of the cast appear to suit their individual roles quite well but they cannot escape the burden of them being acting non-entities. "Hammy" is probably being very kind regarding some of the performances but seldom do the cast really do something original or pull anything out of the bag to save the story or the film. The typically cheesy 80's soundtrack tends to be quite annoying much of the time and doesn't assist in building tension as you would expect or hope. The characters struggle their way through the story and nearly chink the armour of character development but not nearly enough as you don't particuarly care who dies, how or when. Very slow paced and in places terribly scripted but if you like cheesy 80's thrillers (I can't really justify calling this a horror movie) then this is right up your street. Personally I would have to say that the film is far from captivating or compelling but if you are in an enduring mood then there are worse films out there ........but then again there are a lot better as well.
I could say that this film does the same for mining as Maniac Cop did for the Police Department, but of course Maniac Cop is a superior movie in every way.
The early eighties were prime time for slasher movies, after Halloween their was a massive influx of them. So how does this compare? Well the budget is low and this doesn't help, and the cast aren't exactly the best actors in the world. However use of Valentine's day provides a new twist (at the time) and a good story with some tense direction are major plus points.
The gore is apparently censored so in this respect the film is a little lacking, but we do get some original and great death scenes (washing machines anyone). The film is packed with loads of plot twists and the use of the love triangle does keep you guessing as to the identity of the killer right until the end. The ending is the films greatest strength with the dark mine setting being masterfully used to build the tension and provide some good shocks. This leads to a satisfyingly original last scene.
In an over crowed genre this film manages to hold it's own. It never has the budget or the talent to be a great film, but it has a good story and some commendably original ideas. In its censored form its more physiological than gory, so it may not satisfy the blood lust of the ardent horror fan, but others may enjoy its tension and originality.