MY BLOODY VALENTINE: UNCUT VERSION (1981)
My Bloody Valentine is one of the more renown of the 80s slasher flicks and yet another from the Great White North. Canadian horror takes place in the small, rundown mining town of Valentine Bluffs as Valentine’s Day draws near. 20 years earlier, while the annual town Valentine’s Day dance was being held, 5 miners became trapped in the mine when two supervisors left early to attend the dance and carelessly left the men behind. Their failure to do proper safety procedures resulting in an explosion. Six weeks later the men are found with only one, Harry Warden, still alive having survived by having eaten his fallen comrades. A year after being hospitalized, Harry returns to Valentine Bluffs, murders the two supervisors, cutting their hearts out and placing them in heart shaped boxes with warnings to never hold the dance again. Of course Harry is apprehended and institutionalized, but the town has never forgotten and the dance has not been held since …until now.
Based on the gruesome murder of a pretty girl in the opening scene, we know from the start that someone is keeping Harry’s promise to leave a pile of bodies if the dance resumes and that is exactly what starts to happen as locals are gruesomely slaughtered one by one, their hearts sent to the mayor and police with ominous warnings to halt the dance and thus the killings. Even when the dance is canceled, a group of young mine workers and their girlfriends sneak into the mining company to stage their own Valentine’s Day bash and soon they begin to fall in horrible ways to a person wearing mining gear and wielding a pick axe. Will any of them survive and who is exacting this bloody revenge? Is it Harry returned to keep his dire word, or is someone else holding a grudge against the people of the town and this celebrated day.
Written by John Beaird, based on a story by Stephan Miller, and directed by George Mihalka, this slasher has become a cult classic and is one of the most recognized titles from this era of horror, but personally, I have never been overly impressed with it. The film is very slow moving even for a time when films like this were more moderately and methodically paced. We have some of the time honored elements of the post Halloween slasher, such as a killer exacting revenge or triggered by an earlier event where they or a loved one was wronged. We have a group of young victims, though here they are slightly older twenty-something working class youths instead of high school or college kids. And of course, we have a creepy old bartender to deliver the ominous warnings and tell the tale of Harry Warden to the ‘stupid kids’ and provide exposition for the audience. Even with the familiar elements present, Mihalka really doesn’t create much suspense and while there is an atmosphere of foreboding, the film never really cranks up the scares or action and even the miner’s attack scenes are slow paced and lack energy or excitement. Add to that a fairly dull cast of characters played with little flair by a group of unknowns and we have a flick that doesn’t really live up to it’s reputation in certain respects.
What does work in it’s favor, aside from a healthy budget for a flick like this, is some really good and gory kills. If you get a hold of a recent release, with all the gore restored, that was initially removed to secure an R-rating, then you can be treated to some really bloody kills with some top notch gore FX. The film also has some nice 80s nostalgia and does also benefit from it’s rural mining town setting in Nova Scotia, which adds a lot of atmosphere on it’s own.
The cast, as said, are fairly-by-the numbers with their performances. They are not bad, but really don’t give the blue collar townsfolk any real character or life to make them memorable like a Laurie Strode or Friday The 13th‘s Alice. Leads Paul Kelman as T.J. and pretty Lori Hallier as his ex, Sarah are perfectly adequate, but again, not really endearing or strong. T.J. is especially aloof at times and really doesn’t lock in as the film’s hero despite him being so.
Having a soft spot for these flicks, I do find it moderately entertaining and do appreciate some of the great kills by our mysterious killer. The big reveal is a surprise though, upon some thought, may not really make sense when you think about proximities of kills and character. I do still say that it is required viewing for someone wanting to familiarize themselves with this era of horror or wanting to see some of the more prominent examples of the 80s slasher film. It is considered a classic after all and while I don’t think it quite lives up to it’s reputation, it still is representative of it’s era and during a time when the genre was becoming flooded with these kind of films. It indeed still ranks as one of the better ones, though not as good as it’s reputation suggests.
The 2009 remake is actually not a bad flick either.
2 and 1/2 pick axes.