My Bloody Valentine (1981)
Director: George Mihalka
Starring: Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, Neil Affleck, Keith Knight, Peter Cowper, Don Francks
1/2 (out of 4)
These two met on alt.com
There is an unwritten rule that says every holiday must come with a requisite holiday-themed horror film. (Although I can’t think of any for Thanksgiving or Easter but I’m sure there’s something out there). Anyway, Valentines Day has two: the WB-inspired Valentine, and this early 80s slasher, My Bloody Valentine. It’s only very loosely associated with February 14th – the plot revolves around a Valentine’s Dance and there’s a killer who sends human hearts in candy boxes, but that’s just a setup to get our unfortunate victims into a coal mine setting so they can get picked off by a pick-axe wielding psycho dressed in a miner’s uniform and wearing a gas mask. My Bloody Valentine works for the most part because of its (ripped out, bloodied) blue-collar heart – the victims are various small-town miners and their girlfriends. They’re poor, they fool around, drink beer, work hundreds of feet underground, and there doesn’t seem to be any escape for any of them. Even the main character TJ (Paul Kelman), who tries to escape to Los Angeles, ends up defeated and returning home. This plus the film’s gritty location (Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia) gives it an authenticity that puts it at direct odds with a film like Valentine, which is about young, rich Barbie dolls getting fed their just desserts. The victims of My Bloody Valentine don’t really deserve their fate, other than the fact that they’re stupid and they like to have sex in dangerous places. Hmm, that sounds like another franchise that Paramount used to own.
The movie starts off playing the right notes. A sexy blonde sneaks down into the mine with a man wearing a miner’s mask. He carries a rather large pick-axe, she slowly strokes his oxygen hose. So, what’s your fetish? His, apparently, involves driving the axe into her heart. Later, in the town of Valentine Bluffs, residents prepare for the first Valentine’s Day dance in 20 years. The mayor and sheriff find a human heart in a box and a warning – has town psycho Harry Warden, the victim of a mining disaster who went on a crazy murder spree years before, returned to put a stop to the dance? That’s the question on everyone’s minds as our masked killer disposes of various people in gruesome fashion. The mayor does the right thing and shuts down the dance, but the town miners are undaunted and secretly hold a party in, where else, the mine. In the midst of all this is a soap-operish subplot where TJ and Axel (Neil Affleck) fight over Sarah (Lori Hallier) like high-schoolers.
It’s funny, actually, to watch thirty/forty-somethings regress to frat-party behavior. They do all the things the kids in Friday the 13th do except for the fact that the sex is of-age and the drinking is legal. The deaths are suitably nasty and involve different tools, from axe to nail-gun to one guy getting burned in a pot of boiling hot dogs. Many of the characters are throw-away cardboard cut-outs, but I enjoyed the performances by Lori Hallier, who is stunningly beautiful, and Keith Knight, whose turn as mustached, glasses wearing Hollis stands out among the rest (his death is rather nasty, too). But while My Bloody Valentine is a decent slasher it cannot escape the fact that it’s basically a clone of Friday the 13th. You have a traumatizing event (Jason drowns/Harry is caught in a mine disaster) where people were too busy partying to care, followed by murders, a curse on the town, a crazy local telling everybody how doomed they are, and the creation of the “legend” – forever will the killer wander the woods (coal mines) making sure nobody even thinks about partying lest they become meat for the grinder. Cap it off with the twist revelation of the killer’s identity, which is a cheat, because the little piece of information required to solve the mystery is never revealed until the end of the film. Credits roll once killer returns to his place of origin, waiting, inevitably, for the sequel. My Bloody Valentine is hardly original, but it deals with characters from a different demographic, and makes such good use of the locale that you almost forget it’s a ripoff. Props to the filmmakers for understanding how urban legends are born (there’s even a good folksy song at the end about Harry Warden, and no legend is complete without one!)
Are you sure you want to hang her there? What about near the fireplace?
Infamously, at the time of release, nine minutes of the film was cut to avoid the dreaded X rating. Paramount has to this day refused to release an uncut print. Leave it to Lionsgate to make things right. The new DVD release allows you to view either the theatrical cut or the extended cut, with the deleted gore put back in. You can also watch the deleted scenes separate from the movie, with cast and crew commentary attached. Be warned that the restored scenes are “rough” looking in spots, so it’s obvious while watching the movie where the edits happen. No big deal, though. There is a short feature about the rise of the slasher film – it’s just a cover for a sales job on the remake My Bloody Valentine 3D. Another interesting feature on the DVD is something called Bloodlines, which turns the history of horror/slasher cinema into a family tree type chart. It’s good for the beginner who needs an overview of horror since Hitchcock’s Psycho. Hell, it even answers my Thanksgiving question earlier, by referencing something called Home Sweet Home!
– Bill Gordon
Buy My Bloody Valentine on DVD
Buy My Bloody Valentine on Blu-ray