Back when Brian Williams claimed to have false memories of an RPG attack on his chopper, I wondered how that could actually happen. That was until realizing that all of the years that would have sworn that I had seen My Bloody Valentine (1981). I was dead wrong. I can’t say how it happened. Maybe it was years of movie clips or that time I worked in a haunted house wearing a WWII gasmask. Having recently come into a copy of the 2009 Lionsgate release, I thought I would give it a re-watch. However, quickly learned was that it was really my first time seeing it.
Hockey, Maple Syrup and Murder
Released in 1981, My Bloody Valentine is a Canadian slasher film directed by George Mihalka and written by John Beaird. It represents one of a plethora of Holiday Massacre Movies to be ushered in by the release of Halloween (1978). The version that I obtained came from the Lionsgate 2009 release that restored nearly three minutes of the films runtime. As the story goes, the MPAA slaughtered this film. That my friends is extremely unfortunate because this film really basks in the glow of its gore. The extra footage makes this My Bloody Valentine work exceptionally well.
The footage restored by Lionsgate sticks out conspicuously as it looks faded with visible artifacts from storage, time and damage. However, this really allows the viewer to see exactly how bad the MPAA can jack up a movie. Quite literally, the MPAA removed some of the most entertaining bits of the film. It’s not a stretch to say that My Bloody Valentine offers some of the most creative kills up until that moment in splatter history.
Who is Harry Warden
A small Canadian mining town called Valentine Bluffs deals with a sordid history. 20 years earlier a tragedy befell 5 miners. The supervisors left their posts so that they could celebrate the annual Valentine’s Day Dance. The supervisors neglected the rising methane levels and the unsuspecting miners triggered an explosion that buried them alive. The only survivor, a man named Harry Warden, was found feasting on the bodies of his co-workers. The ordeal drove Harry to total insanity.
On the anniversary of the accident, Harry Warden murders the culpable supervisors. He punctuates his revenge by placing their recently beating hearts into heart-shaped candy boxes. His message to the people of Valentine Bluffs is a stern warning to never again hold the Valentine’s Day Dance. Failure to comply would cause him to resume his rampage. For two decades Harry Warden rotted away in the insane asylum. The town decided that it was time to move on. Having reinstated the Valentine’s Day dance, the town of Valentine Bluffs was about get a reminder from Harry.
Bring in the Meat
One of the fringe benefits enjoyed by setting a slasher film in a mining town is a healthy supply miners and their girlfriends to line up for the culling. T.J. Hanniger (Paul Kelman) and Axel Palmer (Neil Affleck) battle through their love triangle with a girl named Sarah (Lori Mercer). The local police chief, Jake Newby lived through the original incident. He must manage the town as it devolves into chaos. Valentine Bluffs owns its own version Crazy Ralph with the local barkeep “Happy” played by Jack Van Evera. Another fringe benefit of setting a slasher in a Canadian mining town comes from of a bloody finale 1500 feet under ground in total darkness.
A Proper Killer
One that George Mihalka and the production team gets right is the killer. Donned in a black gasmask and all black overalls, he is a behemoth of a man that leverages brute strength to overcome his victims. Rather than the slow an methodical pace of Michael Myers or Jason, the killer use speed and guile to hunt victims. While he use surprise, he makes no qualms about running his victims down. Most importantly, he uses a wide variety of tools and implements to dispatch his victims.
First there is Mabel, attacked in the laundromat. It’s not enough to simply rend her heart from her chest and send it to the sheriff. She comically spins inside the tumble drier as the Sheriff arrives. Then there is Dave, yet another man with his heart ripped from ribcage. This time, the heart is boiled to a delicious shade of tan with the party hot-dogs. The young lady shoveling hot-dogs out of the water doesn’t even know what it is as it bobs around a pot of boiling water.
Last but not least in this list, Hollis gets a steel spike embedded in his skull. In a cool perspective shift, the camera switches to the victims blurred 1st person view while the killer slowly loads another nail.
And, we’re not kidding when we say that this just scratches the surface. Every kill is worth seeing, especially with the extra footage.
Fumble at the Goal Line
Even at the early year of 1981, almost all innovation had been sucked from the slasher genre, one holiday at a time. Likewise, My Bloody Valentine, does not innovate so much as it executes a proven formula to near perfection. It might have been a perfect slasher had it avoided the pitfall of trying to outdo itself with a late game plot twist the size of Whistler Mountain. While we won’t spoil the film, we had to call out that an otherwise fantastic film really jumped the shark in the final frames. Sometimes its okay to just close hard with the obvious. Just give the people what they want.
Heading Back to the Surface
I’ll say it again, it was a treat to watch this film for the first time. It still boggles the mind that I really thought that this one was in the bag. Not a single frame triggered an recollection of the events. It would have been a darn shame had I ignored it. Director George Mihalka really nail what it takes to make a great slasher. He went big with the special effects and over the top violence. He and John Beaird combined to create a really cool slasher from The Great White North.
My Bloody Valentine exceeds expectations and honestly deserves to be considered one of the classic 80’s slasher films. I assure you that once you see it, you’ll remember it for real.
My Bloody Valentine (1981) - From Canada with Love - Malevolent Dark
Director: George Mihalka
Date Created: 1981-01-01 10:00