Summer of Horror: My Bloody Valentine 3D, Crimson Peak, Brain Damage A rare Summer of Horror hat trick

My Bloody Valentine 3D

My bloody valentine

Sometimes, you just need a good old fashioned slasher. No snark, no meta commentary, just a mysterious killer, lots of blood and guts and boobs. My Bloody Valentine (2009) is just that movie.

There are actually two prologues. One establishing the urban legend of the killer, and another introducing us to what we think is our crop of pickaxe fodder teens, but most of them eat it pretty much right away, and it flashes forward 10 years to begin in earnest. From there, it’s very I Know What You Did Last Summer, as far as calling into question whether it’s actually the presumed-dead miner killing everyone or one of the cast just using the costume. As they all get picked off (pun intended) the list of suspects grows shorter.¬†

There actually isn’t much more to say about it. This is quite simply a fun, well-made slasher remake that delivers great kills, mystery, and an always-welcome Tom Atkins appearance.

Oh, and as for the “3D” in the title; I watched it in only two Ds, but the used DVD I got surprisingly came with four pairs of those hokey cardboard red and green glasses. I tested the 3D briefly and it actually kind of works, but it isn’t comfortable and makes the real world desaturated for a few minutes when you take the glasses off. If you watch it in 2D, be ready for lots of obvious things flying towards the camera.

Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak is desperate to make you acknowledge the difference between a ghost story and “a story with ghosts in it” (that’s even a line in the beginning of the movie). Between that quote, and critics stepping over themselves to call this a “gothic romance”, I was concerned going in about the film’s horror credentials. But that pretty much went away after the first appearance of a ghost.

Thing is, Guillermo del Toro just doesn’t like to take his horror straight. He uses it as an ingredient in his movies, never the main course. Pan’s Labyrinth blended it with fairy tales and war drama, Hellboy 1 and 2 blended it with comic book action, and Crimson Peak blends it with mystery and romance. But there’s enough horror here to firmly place it within the genre. I’ve watched a number of movies for Summer of Horror that had far fewer horror elements than this (looking at you, Freaks).

About those ghosts: they’re terrifying. Their design is unique and incredibly ghastly, and in the handful of candle-lit nighttime scenes where they appear, it’s really freaky stuff. Del Toro loves to put his monsters center stage and really let you revel in their glory, and once or twice the ghosts are shown too clearly and too long, but overall they remain quite effective. The central mystery surrounding the Sharpe siblings played by Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain is intriguing, and of course I won’t spoil it. In fact when the movie was over I was surprised to realize I never once reached for my phone, to look up an actor’s name or… anything. My attention was held throughout. And I didn’t even get into the dense, detailed costume and set design which is maybe the movie’s most impressive achievement.

So maybe it’s not the scariest movie in the world, and it doesn’t live up del Toro’s masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth, but Crimson Peak is good, solid, classical horror. And gothic romance.

Brain Damage

Brain Damage

Basket Case was a big Bad Horror Movie Night hit for me, and for years I had the director’s other movie – this one – on my radar. Basket Case had a grimy, sloppy, schlocky quality to it and seemed best viewed while drunk with other people, so I wondered how Brain Damage would compare.

My friends, Brain Damage is, in a word, awesome.

I’ve watched a lot of 80’s horror, much of which is now described as “cult”, and it’s remarkable how many more well-known cult horror movies from the same era don’t hold a candle to this in terms of sheer entertainment value. It’s weird, zany, gory, unpredictable, and completely jaw-dropping. How this has flown under the radar for so long completely evades me. It¬†belongs in the same class as your Return of the Living Deads and Night of the Creepses.

The plot concerns a worm-like parasite that feeds on brains. It speaks with a soft, genteel voice and requires a human to carry it around and get it near other people to feed on, and in return it injects a blue substance into the spinal cord that acts as an addictive psychedelic drug. Oh, and the parasite has a name: Elmer, or Aylmer; it’s credited as both.

Elmer/Aylmer is one of the weirdest and most fascinating monsters I’ve ever seen. It generally resembles a big charred turd, but has an endearingly derpy little face, a gaping mouth full of random teeth and the tiny little proboscis for administering its drug. I mean, just look at this thing.

Aylmer

The brain eating angle leads to some spectacular kill scenes, one of which is legitimately, no-joke, unqualified shocking. Allegedly the filming of that scene caused members of the crew to walk off set.

There’s more I could say, but I think we may have our 2016 entry for Bad Horror Movie Night.*

*Not because of badness per se, but because of how utterly bonkers it is.

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