Saturday, 21 November 2009


Now here's an interesting thing. I've recently watched the 1981 slasher and then two weeks later (yesterday to be specific) the remake in heart-stopping (this may be an exaggeration) 3-D. And, just to spoil the ending -of this post, not the movies- I enjoyed them both. Equally? Well, we'll see.

Now a low-budget early 80's slasher is not neccessarily a movie I'd normally be interested in despite my love of horror. However, Stacie Ponder writing on her Final Girl blog (see sidebar) mentioned it en passant in a complimentary manner and provided a link to her earlier review. I checked it out, it sounded fun, so I ordered it from Amazon marketplace for around a fiver and discovered that, gosh, Stacie was right.

It is a low budget movie and that is quite obvious but it is relatively well-made within its limits. It's also not about screaming teens. The set up is this. It's a small mining community and twenty years before the story proper, a mine explosion traps some miners of whom only one survives because he's eaten the others, presumably after they were dead of natural causes. The survivor, Harry Warden, goes on a rampage and kills those responsible for the disaster. He also leaves a warning that if there's ever a Valentine's dance -the disaster happened on, oh you guessed- he'll be back. Despite being incarcerated, there isn't a dance for 20 years when.... Yes, you guessed right again.

Our core characters are TJ (who has just recently returned after being gone for a few years and become a miner again), Axel his best bud (who is also going out with) Sarah (the girl TJ left behind), and sundry other male and female buds also in their mid-twenties who, at various times, end up playing corpses, but then you knew that too.

They may carry pickaxes but Harry has one specially for each of them

Harry Warden (or is it?) despatches various people involved in the dance until it's cancelled so the young people decided to hold a dance in, and you'll never guess, the mine! Oh, you guessed that as well. Needless to say it's pickaxe time and Harry (or is it?) goes to town -well, the mine actually, that was just a figure of speech and you guessed that as well. Bugger!
The gore is fairly tame, though enough to justify the UK 15 rating, and was reputedly trimmed. There is no sex except for an early scene where a woman strips down to her bra and panties but doesn't get involved with hanky panky. I guessed who the killer was about 15 minutes before the end but I'm not going to spoil it for you. And generally the movie plays fair with, in hindsight, several clues as to his/her identity planted. It's not a great movie but I had fun and I'll be watching it again.

Sarah and pickaxe fodder
The remake rings several changes not least by reversing the order of the climactic set piece. After a brief establishing setup, we have the Valentine's party in the mine and Harry Warden (who had earlier survived a disaster, not by cannibalism, but by killing his workmates so they wouldn't use up the air) gets busy slaughtering any teen he can find. Axel, Axel's gf, and Sarah (TJ's gf) escape but leave TJ at Harry's not so tender mercies but he survives and buggers off. It also disposes of the Valentine's Day theme apart from the heart-shaped boxes of chocolates with real hearts in them.

Ten years later, Axel is chief of police, Sarah is his wife, his ex-gf is a slut, and he has a bit on the side. TJ, who now owns the mine following the death of his father, arrives purely to sell the mine. Tensions between Axel and TJ arise as the former thinks the latter is after his wife. Oh yes, and Harry Warden (or is -okay, we've already been there) starts killing people only in a much gorier fashion than the earlier movie but then this is 18 rated. There is also a lot of explicit sex and nudity, but it's all in one scene.

I guessed who the killer was within a few minutes of the start of the 'present-day', though I changed my mind several times backwards and forwards. I wouldn't have been uncertain if I'd been able to figure out one thing which I won't mention.

Despite numerous reviewers on Amazon telling people not to watch it in 3-D because it was crap compared to the cinema, I persevered through the whole thing. I will watch it again sometime but in normal 2-D (a copy of which is on the reverse of the double-sided disc). Although better made, I didn't quite like it as much as the original because neither Axel nor TJ are particularly likeable so you can't really root for either of them.

But still, I had a good time. Thank you Stacie Ponder and you, yes you, go check out her blog.

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