The first slasher of the year is a pretty good one. A well developed story and characters set it apart from its contemporaries.
Set on Valentines weekend in a small mining town the film follows a group of young people who are getting ready for the big Valentine’s Day dance. The town hasn’t held a Valentine’s Day dance in 20 years after a tragedy in the mine left dozens dead. Now, as the town prepares for a new dance the grisly history seems to be repeating itself.
A couple of things really stood out to me. One was the authenticity of the setting. This felt like a real mining community. The mine felt real. Mine life felt genuine from my limited understanding. I loved feeling immersed in this world.
The movie focuses a lot on its characters and developing their relationships and stories. There’s a love triangle. There’s a strong bond between the friends. There’s a lot of good stuff going on here. I loved that. The movie takes its characters seriously and gives them time to grow and develop.
The movie tightly focuses on the buildup to each killing. It tries to build tension and create a sense of dread rather than diving into the blood and guts. In fact the movie cuts away from almost every single kill. The killer grabs a girl and pushes her toward a jagged pipe then the movie cuts away. Most often the kills are omitted and left to our imaginations. I liked this approach.
Now all this said the movie is deeply flawed. It’s pacing is very slowly. There are long stretches of time that don’t advance the story in any way. The love triangle eclipses the actual murders and horror taking place to such an extent that it’s easy to forget this was a horror movie at all.
The cast is huge. There are a dozen or so main characters all hanging out and preparing for the dance. It gets to be too many faces flashing across the screen. I forget who is who and by the time I remember they’ve been murdered and are out of the story anyway.
The final twist ending doesn’t make sense. The movie ends with a big reveal as we unmask the killer. But the twist is hollow and doesn’t really make sense. They have to cram in a montage of shots to explain the identity of the killer.
It’s a bit of a mixed bag, but I really enjoyed the novel approach and appreciated it’s place in the history of slasher movies.
Overall it’s half a cup of tea. B