My Bloody Valentine (1981)

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My Bloody Valentine (1981)
Cast: Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, Neil Affleck
Director: George Mihalka
Nutshell: Typical slasher template elevated by memorable imagery and effectively creepy mood and atmosphere.

“strangely compelling… photography and stuntwork are excellent as the murderer stalks” Creature Features

intense but typicalSplatter Movies

one of the uglier Halloween inspired slasher moviesBlockbuster Video

another gory Friday the 13th cloneMaltin’s

Very few slasher films have aged well with time and My Bloody Valentine stands apart as a film that actually appears better than it did when it appeared back in the early 80s as just another conveyor belt Friday the 13th/Halloween rip off. Producers were falling over each other trying to secure the rights to any particular “Day” of the year. With Halloween and Friday, the 13th setting the trend, there was a race to secure Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Graduation Day, Happy Birthday to Me and their kind raced with one another for a quick bite of the box office pie while slasher movies remained profitable. In the early 80’s they were the perfect thing; low cost, fast profit trouble free. Paramount had picked up Friday the 13th and had scored a massive hit worldwide following on the heels of Halloween which had already established itself as the most successful independent film of all time. My Bloody Valentine’s director and crew were told in no uncertain terms that they had a deadline to meet which was of course Valentine’s Day.

They did make it to theatres in time and I happened to be lining up on the opening weekend in Boston, rather excited about this new slasher entry having drooled over the deliciously gruesome pictures printed in Fangoria’s current issue. Sadly, as with Friday the 13th 2, My Bloody Valentine was butchered by the censors who demanded a whopping 9 minutes worth of cuts to each of the death scenes featured in the film. 9 seconds is bad enough but 9 minutes taken from a horror film of this nature is a kiss of death.

I have to admit feeling a little underwhelmed when watching My Bloody Valentine initially finding the film rather uneven. 30 odd years later watching the quite gorgeous looking Blu Ray released by Lionsgate, the film has never looked better. As a slasher film it has pretty much all the prerequisite elements of a “typical” slasher film template but it does differ in that the victims are not teenagers but more in their 20s and above. Secondly the setting is unique with the mines and its tunnels as a perfect backdrop for a slasher on the prowl. After all these years I still believe the film is uneven to some extent with the first half being by far the stronger of the two. The menacing figure of the miner wearing his gas mask and carrying a rusted pick axe slowly prowling the dark alleys is classic slasher movie imagery.  The kills which had been so horribly abbreviated by the censors now have most of their glory restored as Lionsgate have reinserted the offending sequences and they are quite wondrous to behold.

The film builds takes a leaf from the Grimsdyke episode from Tales from the Crypt in the best way possible and My Bloody Valentine manages to set a tone of brooding menace and dread. The killers silhouette cuts a memorably terrifying figure and his amplified breathing through his gas mask is in the finest Michael Myers tradition.

For a slasher film, it is quite Beautifully shot and these qualities manage to lift it well above most similar films that were being churned out weekly during the early 80s. For just another quick Halloween cash-in, this film has more craft and artistry than most of the others. The gore effects are largely excellent and the acting better than usual for the genre.

The plot (!) is the typical 80’s horror where an incident/accident/prank in which the geekish, loner type usually gets “killed” only to return several years later on the anniversary of the very event to wreak the most horrendous revenge. Well in this case there is a tragic accident in a mine on St. Valentine’s day which kills several miners. The disaster occurred while supervisors abandoned their posts to attend the festivities at the town’s annual Valentine’s Day dance. The one survivor from the accident, Harry Warden was confined to a mental institution (for potential slashers) after his terrible ordeal. However, on the anniversary of the Valentine’s Day dance, Harry returned for his grisly revenge. 19 years on memories have faded and the town’s people are once again about to stage a Valentine’s Day dance, the first since Harry Warden’s return. Could it be that Harry might make another party-pooping appearance before the night is over?

My Bloody Valentine follows the typical slasher movie template with even a “Crazy Ralph” like character in the local bar who warns the kids not to make light of the legend of Harry Warden. Where it triumphs is on the beautiful camerawork, the moody lighting and the prowling sequences that are genuinely unsettling. The film is now more enjoyable than it was upon initial release because almost all the wonderful death scenes have been restored to their original glory.

My Bloody Valentine is pretty standard early 80s slasher fare yet there are elements to the production that elevate it head and shoulders above most Halloween and Friday the 13th pretenders. A surprisingly enjoyable slasher film and one that has endured better than most.  The film also has arguably one of the greatest slasher movie posters of all time and is rightfully a Valentine’s Day tradition in many an anti-Valentine’s Day reactionaries home, including mine.