My Bloody Valentine– 1981, George Mihalka
As of 2015 there have been a generous handful Valentine’s Day themed horror flicks made, and this one here is the best of the bunch, by far. I really expected that, by now, somebody would have made a horror film about a big fat guy in a diaper with tiny wings who shoots people with a bow and makes hilarious jokes, but if that movie exists, I can’t seem to find it. The closest we’ve come so far is the 2001 horror film Valentine, and dammit, that is a far cry from the glorious killer Cupid flick that I have imagined. Fortunately, My Bloody Valentine is a total classic, even if it doesn’t quench my thirst for absurdity, and it remains one of the best Holiday Themed slashers out there, even after thirty years. If you’re at all a slasher fan, you should track it down pronto, Tonto.
THE PLOT ~ A rural Canadian mining town finds it’s annual Valentine’s Day celebration disrupted by a string of gruesome murders, reminiscent of an infamous killing spree committed twenty years ago by a psychologically unhinged miner called Harry Warden. Believing Harry to be back in action, but not wanting to stir the townsfolk into a panic, local law enforcement does what it can to keep the news of the killings suppressed, while canceling all Valentine’s Day celebrations in accordance with the killer’s demands. The local youth aren’t into that shit, though. They want to party, and are fully willing to fight for their right to do so, regardless of the fact that License To Ill wouldn’t be released for five more years. Since they have literally no idea that people are being murdered in awesome ways all over town, these care-free future pickaxe victims conclude that the best course of action is to ignore the ban on Valentine’s Day celebrations, and to have a secret party anyway, no grown-ups allowed. But where would be best place for a secret Valentin’e Day party? Well, clearly, deep within the very mine where Harry Warden once cannibalized his peers, of course! Yes, he ate people toward the end of his mining career. So, that’s what they do- and guess how well that works out for them? Not real good.
There’s also a love triangle thing in here- which is actually the focal point of the plot, but that’s not very much fun to write about, and probably even worse for readers, so I’m mostly just going to hit you with the murder stuff. I really do think it’s best this way.
So, My Bloody Valentine is very much what you would expect it to be if you’re familiar with American/Canadian slashers of the early eighties, but if that’s the case, then you should also have seen this movie by now, because it’s a damn essential. It’s a close relative to Black Christmas, The Prowler, and the original Friday the 13th, and also owes a lot of influence to earlier Italian giallo films like Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood. Like those films, this is essentially a murder mystery, but with a much greater emphasis on sensationalized violence, and a focus on the role of the hapless victim, instead of seeing the story through the eyes of some bozo trying to solve the crime, as would be the case with most traditional murder mysteries. It’s distinct from the slashers that would follow it later in the 1980’s by being markedly less poppy, and by giving us characters who are much more realized and complex. We weren’t quite at the point where the audience just wanted to watch our killer tromp around and slice folks in half yet, so it was still important for the film to establish a somewhat believable world. My Bloody Valentine does that.
As a slasher, My Bloody Valentine has the title of “best Valentine’s Day horror film” on lock petty much for eternity. It’s a solid movie, and a damn fine horror film to boot. Our killer is both scary, and acceptably iconic, and the many red herrings doled out as the plot unravels keep the picture feeling interesting and surprising. This may even be the best horror film ever set in a mine, except for maybe Rodan, so suck it, The Stragneness.
Another fun fact that earns My Bloody Valentine mucho street cred amongst horror fanatics, It’s fairly violent. The picture is widely believed to have had nearly ten minutes of gore and violent content edited out of the picture before it was released, to appease the puritanical demands of the MPAA, and to date there is still no real uncut version of the film available. Subsequent versions have included additional unseen footage, but rumor has it there is still more sitting in a canister somewhere that we have yet to enjoy, so hopefully someone get’s that shit cut back together in the future. As it is, the theatrical cut leaves something to be desired if you’re coming into My Bloody Valentine after a gore-fest on par with Evil Dead, any of the Euro slashers, or even the aforementioned The Prowler, but it remains much stronger than, say, Halloween. I think My Bloody Valentine can hold it’s own against comparable slashers of the era in this respect, and it’s certainly good enough to warrant a viewing either way.
Before we wrap up, I want to briefly address my favorite part of the film; the character of Hollis. Hollis is a supporting character- but dammit if he isn’t a bad ass. He kinda looks like what you would get if Garfield the cat was a real human being- and also a little like the product of a cloning experiment involving John Candy and Teddy Roosevelt. As far as I’m concerned, this guy is the film’s main draw. End of paragraph.