My Bloody Valentine - Special Edition Blu-ray Review
My Bloody Valentine received a cleaned-up and restored DVD print some while ago, to tie-in with the remake's release, and that same print has been used for the hi-def edition. And, boy, does it look good! This is what you want from these old vintage slashers, films that, dare I say it, looked ropey even when they first came out. Okay, before we wax lax lyrical about the good stuff on display here, let's get the detrimentals out of the way first. Now, considering that the unrated cut is culled from two different sources, with the once censor-nipped gore footage hailing from a damaged print that is all that remains available, there is some very noticeable quality changes during a lot of the killings. Whilst damage from the uncut print is kept at bay, the colour, contrast and clarity is a massive step-down from the surrounding footage, looking like high-blooming VHS. Now, you may think that this would be a really galling visual “drop-the-ball” as you enjoy the movie, but the fact is that this previously taboo stuff is so damn good that you just shouldn't care. It still looks very clear and relatively clean, and the thing is that you get that delicious frisson of 80's nostalgia when, probably under-age (as I was) you caught glimpses of such controversial material - and I can heartily testify that it would have looked far worse than this, anyway.
Secondly, as this is something that the new 1080p transfer brings with it, the image does have some edge enhancement. Noticeable mainly on the pylons, towers, telephone poles and building edges, this is actually not as worrying nor as distracting as you may think. So, with those two elements now dealt with, let's take a look at how well this 1.85:1 image stands up in its AVC encode.
Well, grain is prevalent throughout the film, leading me to assume that any noise reduction the restoration engineers utilised was judicious and well-intended if, indeed, any has taken place. Darker scenes can exhibit it a touch more. Colour banding and smearing are non-events. The disc copes well with fast action and the framing is accurately presented without wobbles or judders, save for the titles and the odd flash of a Halloween-style dateline. Tiny flecks and white dots appear under scrutiny, but this is a strong print in the main.
Colours are terrific. The primaries are bold and crisp and offer plenty of vibrancy throughout. Cars and check-shirts, baseball caps and thick coats stand out, as do the icky reds and gore-splashed pinks of the Valentine's candy boxes and the gaudy decorations all around the town. The bloody bits can obviously vary in quality because of the differing source prints during the murder scenes, so it is difficult to give an overall impression. But, as far as I am concerned, the nastiness of popping eyeballs, cleaved-open chests, arm tearings and grisly mouth-spouts is all perfectly colourful enough - the heart-ripping sequence and the splashy red stuff down in the mine for the flashback and the later arm-severing look rich and bright. Skin-tones are generally fine and the grime of the pit is well rendered upon the faces of the workers. The shining lamp on the miners' helmets and, more importantly, on the Miner's helmet, is catered-for with an agreeably bright white flare that has texture and an inner clarity from the bulb that is certainly not just a smudge of fuzzy white. The blues of the pit-fatigues and the midnight blues of the night-time scenes as well as the subdued conditions down below the ground are also handled smoothly. Contrast is noticeably wrecked during the reinstated footage, but is consistent elsewhere with helmet lamps and pale faces cutting through the shadowy gloom with some firm delineation. The black levels, again poor when viewed in the “lost” footage, are usually quite strong across the majority of the movie. Certain scenes, mostly down in the mine offer good saturation without sacrificing detail. The fallen lamp in the mucky water, for example, or especially the scene when the girl is attacked by all those falling smocks and jackets yields respectable amounts of shadow depth and integrity.
And if all this isn't good enough, then the detail is just what the Miner ordered. Close-ups are extremely good, given the vintage and the film-stock. There is a great showcase for this when TJ and Sarah go for a walk out along the windswept bay - their faces reveal lots of finite detail, with tone, texture, hair and eyes all brought vividly to life. Distance shots, such as the establishing angles for the bay-walk also fare reasonably well. This is not as acute as more recent transfers, but the clarity is still highly rewarding. Wounds, weaponry, costumes and props have much more definition than I've seen before. The previous SD Special Edition of this uncut version looked good, but this certainly takes the depth and detail of the image much further. There is even some elements of the film that have a nice three-dimensional appearance, such as the Chief's patrol car pulling up outside the ghastly laundromat, the good guys leaving the bar or the store and getting into their vehicles. Or, naturally, the Miner appearing, head-lamp blazing at the end of a dark tunnel. For a low-budget programmer from 1981, this looks remarkably strong and proud. Only the lesser quality of the uncut scenes drops the mark down on this transfer - but, even here, considering that this is the only print source available, we really should be charitable.
Good stuff from Lionsgate, folks and a strong 7 out of 10.
Lionsgate offer us a choice of two soundtracks. We get the original monaural track, courtesy of Dolby Digital, which is a fine enough representation and nowhere near as flat and uninvolving an experience as you might think, and a DTS-HD MA 5.1 alternative that attempts to spread the audio around the set-up with a little bit more vigour and presence. There is still not a great deal of surround activity going on, although the rears do add some atmospherics, such as dripping water, the rolling of the mine-carts, shattering wall-lanterns down tunnels and effects-bleed - but you may have to press your ear to the speaker in the first place, as this stuff is dialled down pretty low, to be honest.
Basically, the lossless track plays as a cleaner variation of the original. There is no distortion to either, no worrying drop in dialogue, although speech is a touch subdued all round, and both manage to make the impact of a pickaxe thudding into a chest sound pretty damn painful. With almost everything frontally-based, with a touch of stereo width, My Bloody Valentine probably sounds a good as it can. There is no overt or bogus channel creation that cries out “Artificial!” and if flicking from the mono to the 5.1 doesn't exactly wow you with its steerage and directional positioning, don't be surprised. For the thrills of the mineshaft encounters and the rail-car skirmish, the little roof-collapsing shudders and the odd explosion, this does fine enough without resorting to the type of signal echoing or effects-wrangling that could so easily have blighted it. Why then does it actually need a 5.1 makeover? Well, that's a good question. As far as I am concerned, it doesn't ... but, even so, I opted for the DTS quite happily, just for the meagre, though pleasing extra dimensionality that it provided.
My Bloody Valentine's audio mix gets a 7 out of 10, folks. You can't argue when the original track has been cleaned-up and is also on offer besides a respectful new mix.
Sadly the film is without a commentary track, which could certainly have been fun as there are still plenty of the cast and crew around to reminisce. But there is a twenty-minute documentary that tries to be a jack-of-all-trades by paying respect to the slasher genre at large and My Bloody Valentine's place within it, courtesy of pop-culture horror-film author Adam Rockoff (!), and interviews with the film's director, producers and a few cast members, particularly Neil Affleck, and then taking a second half look at Lussier's remake. Both segments take a look at the location work, the gore and the story, with copious affection for the first movie and its impact, and a look at the 3D technology of the remake. Pop-promo meets nostalgia on a trip down artery-lane.
Bloodlines - An Interactive Horror Film History is just a potted history of horror films in page-flicking text form that has a numerous headings, from torture porn and rape/revenge to classic psychos and new directions, but it really only covers the most obvious entries in each category and serves as little more than a listings guide. A waste of time, if you ask me.
The Deleted Scenes package initially sounds like it could be a waste of time, too, I mean all of this footage is now back inside the film. But what definitely aids this assortment of, basically, all the kills in the film is the optional introductions that we get to each of them. Mihalka, Tom Burman and his FX-assistant, Ken Diaz (who would go on to become a makeup artist of some repute), Adam Rockoff and John Marotti (who plays dunkin-Dave, the hot-dog-drownee) all get to front some of the gore with Mihalka actually taking the time to tell us just why the climate in Hollywood at the time was so anti-violent ... he cites the John Lennon shooting as being part of the attitude swing-shift. It was a little more complicated than that, of course, but the knee-jerk and reactionary media and governing bodies around the world did suddenly use the assassination as a very convenient springboard to rally against horror films in general. The little intros are nice, with some occasional makeup room stills and the odd word from a victim or two, but all-too brief. The better idea, since everybody was evidently around for the re-release (a few even appearing at conventions for Q & A sessions) would have been to have produced a proper, full-on retrospective documentary that tried to incorporate everything. Still, it is good to have this quick-fix type of deal as opposed to nothing.
My Bloody Valentine was always one of the better slasher films. It benefited from a largely likeable cast, a seriousness of tone, a bludgeoning violence and a fine level of imagination in the slayings, a great little small-town ghost story-style legend and, above all else, a fantastically memorable killer. That it was shot totally on-location is another massive note of kudos - that mine is wonderfully evocative and made all the more mysterious because it is real and not just some set-designed creation. The gore-gags are renowned and reasonably splat-happy, even now, after all these years of sitting in a ghoulish, but dusty, archive. Director Mihalka wouldn't maximise his potential for the genre with anything else of repute, but he remains a fan-favourite and you can clearly see the fondness that he has for the film gleam in his little eyes whenever he reminisces about it.
Lionsgate take Paramount's old print from the mine and give it a thorough and devoted scrubbing, but remain respectful of the source. What we have after their efforts to bring this minor (get it) horror gem into the limelight is the complete grunge-fest that was intended all along with 85% tip-top, hi-def sheen, considering its vintage, and 15% rough 'n' ready pit-rubble. But, as I said in the main review, this pick(axe) 'n' mix works really well as it delivers a touch of the old “taboo” thrill of watching something that nobody else wanted you to see. With some clunky extras, but a whole lot of heart (raw and exposed, naturally), My Bloody Valentine is a very welcome treat for horror-fans and comes highly recommended either on its own, or as a companion-piece to the slick, but fun 3D remake.
Now, come on, give us the full uncut Friday The 13th Part II.
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