Directed by: George Mihalka
Written by: Stephen A. Miller and John Beaird
Starring: Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, Neil Affleck and Cynthia Dale
Reviewed by: Josh G.
ďRoses are red, violets are blue,
One is dead, and so are you!Ē
One is dead, and so are you!Ē
February 14th, 2004. It was the day that I became hooked by standalone slasher films. Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street were already in my schedule book. New Yearís Evil, Night School, along with the hordes of other early 80s cut-em-ups were of no major interest to me, until this fateful date when I caught a low budget diamond on the television. My Bloody Valentine. The cash-in slasher, shot in and around Canadaís Sydney, an area known as Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, would forever leave a lasting impression on my mind when thinking about legends, costume killers, and Valentineís Day. You see, I was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, and I still live a few hours drive away from it. Considering the smaller population that my home had, it wasnít every day that you watched a movie originating from just a block around the corner. The Moosehead beer was a dead giveaway to Valentineís birth, as was the Glace Bay scenery and Cape Breton accents. To think that I had stumbled upon an unknown horror film made on the edge of my inhabitancy, and I was just a newbie.
...but this was more than just an interesting trivia piece that crossed my path. My Bloody Valentine was the unappreciated cult classic slasher that had nailed everything on the head that made a killing spree good. Even the lack of a naked money shot couldnít dampen this oneís day. An authentic town atmosphere, a traditional murdering Ďfolkloreí surrounding the community, a constantly progressing love triangle character plot, and a slasher disguise thatís just as equally (or more) powerful than that of the icons from the day. Simple yet fleshed out with care, the purpose for treating Bloody as such a prize is not because it did something new with the genre, but for the stunning accomplishment that itís just a conventional slasher to the maximum. To say this might make it sound too mediocre, but rest assured, itís above and beyond expectations with many fun tweaks to transform it from rip-off to one of the inspirations for future horror filmmakers and fans alike.
On Valentineís Day in Valentine Bluffs, 1960, five miners were trapped below the Hanniger Mines when the methane gas levels were left unchecked by two supervisors, whom had decided to attend the local Valentineís dance party instead. After six weeks of searching, only miner Harry Warden was found alive, thanks to consuming the remains of his associates. A year later, February 14th, the crazed sole survivor dressed up in his minerís outfit, grabbed his trusty pickaxe, and butchered the supervisors responsible for the horrid event that he endured. Vowing to kill anyone who ever held a Valentineís Day dance again, Valentine Bluffs ceased celebration for twenty long years. Now, itís 1981, and cheerful young adults just want to have a little fun. With the help of the friendly Mabel (Patricia Hamilton of TVís Road to Avonlea/Anne of Green Gables fame) pink and red decorations can be seen from miles away; streamers and hearts too. But somebody is decorating too literally, sending the mayor a box with a human heart stuffed inside. When threats are sent in tiny heart-shaped messages, and Mabel is found murdered in her laundromat, a ban on the dance is put in place, disappointing the younger people. Believing that Mabel would have wanted them to go on with the party, since she worked so hard on decorations, a Ďhush hushí party is set at the mines, complete with beer, hot dogs, and an angry miner bent on knocking out the newer generation. It has been twenty years, but the hate has not gone away. Has Harry Warden, once again, come out to play?
Changing the identities of the cast from teenage school goers to twenty-something mine workers had its risks for My Bloody Valentine. Most of the early slashers, which this definitely was, were not so folksy or rough. Take the males; Axel (Neil Affleck), Hollis (Keith Knight), Howard (Alf Humphreys), John (Rob Stein) and T.J. (Paul Kelman) are no pretty boys. Representing real people, My Bloody Valentine is a far more pure Canadian film, holding off on the glamour of Hollywood and stepping up with the power of bonafide rural atmosphere. The females on the other hand, lead Sarah (Lori Hallier), Patty (Cynthia Dale of Canadian TVís Street Legal), and Sylvia (Helene Udy) are a mixture of two worlds, being noticeably plain but pretty through some dolling up and happy-go-lucky attitudes. Everyone seems like they are old time good buddies, always in friendly conversation with another, laughing and joking. With scenes of bonding, itís all the harder to watch the cast die off, especially when the creative methods range from vicious to cruel.
Havenít you learned though? Thereís always one rotten apple in the barrel, and bartender Happy (Jack Van Evera), whose everything but, is our highlight doomsayer just like Ralph of Friday the 13th. Warning the drinkers about Warden and his curse, heís a cheesy goof personality which is just what the doctor ordered for such a seriously toned piece. My Bloody Valentineís stronger points, however, actually come from the relationships between Sarah and her two lovers, Axel Palmer and T.J. Hanniger. When T.J. mysteriously disappeared from Valentine Bluffs, his girlfriend had no clue where to run, and Axel was the man she laid eyes upon. T.J. returns abruptly, and has the nerve to be angered over this, despite him being in the wrong. With drunken fights and kisses of betrayal off the cliff, this movie already had enough going for it to warrant a purchase. After all, good acting, atmosphere, raw/real appealing characters, a legend and a creepy original killer is all that a fun slasher needs to create a lasting impression when tied together correctly. And of course, the kills.
Bought by Paramount for release in February Ď81, the makers were forced to cut a great deal of graphic footage by the MPAA, resulting in a barely bloody horror that couldnít live up to its name. Even after the butcher was heavily butchered, Valentine still became a cult classic, and among others, I too held it in high regard as one of the best slasher films ever made. Now as of 2009, thanks to a 3D remake of the film, Lionsgateís special edition DVD of My Bloody Valentine was released incorporating lost deleted footage into the experience, giving us a taste of what this lovely delight was supposed to look like all those years ago. The film really does benefit from these inserts for two reasons: for one, itís now an even darker, brutal terror with entertaining death sequences, and two, certain scenes actually make sense now. While I believe that the opening death scene is stronger in the original rated version, along with one other, I canít complain. Cannibalism, self-mutilation, tumbling dried up corpses and heart squeezes are just some of the new grue to be seen in this must have release. Itís nothing spectacular compared to other outings, but it does deliver the goop required which is all that we fans ask for. A young woman is lifted up by her head before being plunged onto a shower head, spitting up blood all over the killerís shoes. A manís chin is rammed from underneath with a pickaxe, escaping through his eyeball which hangs out grotesquely. And in one of the most surprising moments, a previously dull and weak murder is enhanced immensely when the reaction from its loveable victim, who sustains a morbid woozy feel through his ordeal, derives great sympathy from the audience after being shot twice with a nail gun to the head. Thatís only the tip of the iceberg!
My Bloody Valentine is clever and knows just what people are thinking while watching it and includes plenty of foreshadowing. ďYouíd lose your head if it wasnít tied on with rope.Ē - a funny but true statement made to an individual by everyoneís favorite large guy, Hollis. The girl described in the previous paragraph, who is lifted up by her head in the mining showers, is early on in the movie lifted up by her boyfriend the same way for a quick kiss. And the common ďI may not get out alive.Ē statement is always welcome to the slab. Progressing, the film takes another viewpoint, this time of Don Francks who plays Chief Newby. Heís the one trying to find out just what the hell is going on in a quiet town like this, and demands answers, asking himself where Harry Warden is now? Whose hearts do these presents belong to? Why has the killing not stopped, even though the dance has been cancelled? Heís the crime segment of the movie, sharing with Mabel a tear-jerking moment. But I swear...uh, I never cried...not once I tell ya! How could I, with comic relief characters like cocaine Howard brightening our night. Or is that the minerís hat?
With all of this said, it might be a shock to learn that the true magic of My Bloody Valentine has not been touched upon yet. Itís not the music, though I love me some Irish singing. Itís not the personal setting, nor the inclusion of a great character driven story. Even the body count is second place here. I donít know about some people, but to me, Valentine has never been about the quality or creativity of the murders. It was satisfying enough just to know that one has died, no matter how it was done. No, the sparkling centre of it all was within the final third, where Sarah, Patty, Hollis, Howard, Harriet and Mike dive deep into the mines, where the finale takes place. An ingenious idea. Dark, cool, eerie, unique; the mine served as a place for atmosphere with no boundaries, the mystery of who could be around the next corner, the sounds that could sweep away your imagination, and the multiple mining equipment pieces that could be used to the killerís advantage. An isolated feel, defining the group as a small selection of prey. The killer could be anywhere, and all bets or feuds go out the window when itís a formed effort to stay alive. It goes without saying, that the best part of setting this story deep in the tunnels of the mine, is that it also goes all the way back to the beginning, where the cause of this mayhem erupted Ė the insanity of Harry Warden.
Finishing it all off with a short-lived but grand chase ending, the big twist comes into play. What a payoff! Even more so in the unrated version, with one of the best effects in the film for its sheer wince factor. What do we have now? After that, the creepiness remains, a few shaken up words are spilled, and a folk song reliving the entire filmís plot (!!!) is spread over the credits. For the purpose that itís a fun, glowing horror that does almost everything correctly, youíve got to have this one. Iconic, worthy of many sequels, and no doubt that it will be talked about for years, My Bloody Valentine is one of the strongest holiday slashers Ė no, one of the strongest slashers ever created. A Lionsgate/Paramount DVD release, the extended version of the feature includes never before released scenes of gore, and though when they appear is highly noticeable by the drastic change in picture quality, itís not distracting at all. If anything, it adds a special feel from a time of long ago. The sound is quieter, but again, nothing unwatchable. The fact that this even came out is praise enough, so there really can be no moaning from this reviewer, as Iím sure that the editors did the very best they could to clean it up. The rest of the film is clear and well preserved, and is basically the same as the top notch 2002 Paramount transfer, but in 1.78:1 ratio instead of 1.85:1. Itís obvious which is the better purchase. Lionsgateís disc is unrated and includes a documentary on both MBV, its remake, and slashers in general. I didnít even mention the slasher family tree feature, which is a read-only info section with general known details about things like Psycho and Scream. Amazingly, it also includes surprisingly in-depth H. Gordon Lewis paragraphs, gialli notes, and other nice nods. Even the obscure Home Sweet Home is spoken about. You can view the deleted scenes separately too, with commentary by the cast and crew. And for those strange cats out there, you can relive your childhood with...gulp...the theatrical cut. Where people truly do have heart attacks, itís a brilliant slice of horror and Canadian film history. ďSarah, be my bloody valentine.Ē Essential!
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