My Bloody Valentine!

There’s more than one way to lose your heart…

MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981)

Once upon a time on a sad Valentine, in a place known as Hanniger Mine…a legend began. Every woman and man would always remember the time. And those who remained were never the same, you could see the fear in their eyes. Once every year as the 14th draws near there’s a hush all over the town. 20 years came and went and everyone spent the 14th in quiet regret. And those still alive know the secret survives, in the darkness that looms in the night. In this little town when the 14th comes round there’s a silence and fear in the air. Remember the morn that the legend was born, all the shock and the horror was there. For the legend they say on a Valentine’s Day is a curse that will live on and on, and no one will know as the years come and go of the horror from long time ago.

And what would Valentine’s Day be without a deadly love triangle? T.J. Hanniger (Paul Kelman) moves back to town with his tail between his legs after splitting town a few years earlier and heading for the west coast…where he really fell on his ass. T.J. reluctantly goes back to work in his old man’s cole mine with his old wisecracking pals. He also puts the squeeze on his old love interest Sarah (Lori Hallier), much to the ever increasing disgust of Axel (Neil Affleck), T.J.’s former best friend who also happens to be Sarah’s current boyfriend. The late, great Keith Knight (Class Of 1984, Meatballs) co-stars as the token comic relief fat guy Hollis, who cooks TV dinners on car engines, sports a sweet looking moustache, and has a really good looking girlfriend named Patty, who promises to rock the upcoming Valentine’s Day dance in a red dress that will be appropriately cut and slit. She might not make it out of there alive.

Actually, no one is going to make it out of there alive. Not if old Harry Warden has anything to do with it. Harry has a hard on for Valentine’s Day dances because he was once trapped inside Hanniger Mine on Valentine’s after a massive methane explosion. Harry then spent the next six weeks nibbling on the remains of his fellow miners before finally being rescued. Harry then went to a mental hospital for a few years before breaking out…on Valentine’s Day. Harry cut out the hearts of a couple people he held responsible for the accident, and then fled town with a warning. “From the heart comes a warning, filled with bloody good cheer, remember what happened as the 14th draws near.” 

But the kids in town don’t remember. Or more importantly, they don’t care. After 20 long years the community finally decides to throw another Valentine’s dance. Harry isn’t happy about it and sends a freshly severed human heart inside a box of chocolates to the Mayor as a warning. Harry then pays a visit to a sweet old lady named Mabel who was helping organize the dance and plants a pick ax in her chest for her efforts. The police chief later shows up  at Mabel’s laundromat and stumbles upon her charred corpse. He also finds a Valentine stuffed inside her chest cavity. “It happened once. It happened twice. Cancel the dance or it will happen thrice.” 

The mayor and the chief immediately shut down the dance. In the interest of public safety, they decide to cover up the murders and the chance that Harry Warden might be back in town. They blame Mabel’s death on a heart attack, and tell the kids the dance will be cancelled. The chief also tells them not to hold any parties either. The wacky, middle aged kids don’t listen to reason and decide instead to throw a big Valentine’s night bash at the coal mine’s recreation center. Harry wastes no time crashing the party, and promptly starts wasting the party goers. A small group of kids, including our love interest Sarah decide to take a trip on the coal cart into the depths of the mine. As they descend into the darkness they are blissfully unaware that a killer is on the loose. The corpses are eventually discovered, and T.J. & Axel have to temporarily put their differences aside and go into the mine to look for Sarah and their friends. Harry’s out to steal their hearts.

Director George Mihalka’s MY BLOODY VALENTINE is one of my all time favorite flicks. Like many of the clas-sick horror films that I love so much, I was first introduced to this one as a wee Brain Hammer. I first saw “My Bloody Valentine” on USA Network’s Saturday Night Nightmares, and it had a lasting effect on me. MBV is a very scary slasher flick, and the abandoned mine shaft setting is especially claustrophobic and creepy. Harry Warden is also a really bad ass looking killer! The miner’s mask, the breathing, and the pick ax are all very effective and memorable. The sudden and violent deaths of almost all of the characters on the film also made this one stand out to me. It still does. I think “My Bloody Valentine” is one of the very best “stand alone” slasher flicks from the glory daze of the 80’s horror craze. It’s also one of the greatest Canadian horror flicks of all time, with only David Cronenberg’s “Shivers” & “Rabid” (also produced by MBV’s John Dunning and Andre Link) being superior.

Like many other horror flicks from that era, “My Bloody Valentine” was heavily edited to receive an “R” rating. Most of the juicy splatter and graphic gore effects went out the window, but the film still managed to pack a punch and be effectively shocking. It helps that (most of) the characters are well defined enough to actually care about. The real star of the movie in my eyes is Keith Knight, who I also loved in “Meatballs” and “Class Of 1984.” Keith’s death scene in MBV via nail gun was especially drawn out and brutal, and most of it was scissored upon release. The other death scene that really stands out, even in a truncated form is the nasty impalement that sweet Sylvia suffers in the showers. No respectable 80’s horror flick is complete without a “prophet of doom” who warns those damned kids that they’re doomed, and “My Bloody Valentine” has a big winner with “Happy,” the world’s angriest bartender. Happy’s death scene is also a real pisser. Speaking of laughs, I get a kick out of the fact that the town is apparently completely controlled by two grumpy old men – the mayor and the sheriff, and that they call everyone “kids,” despite the fact the cast is mostly in their late 20’s/early 30’s.

“My Bloody Valentine” was originally released by Paramount just in time for Valentine’s Day, in February of 1981. The film wasn’t exactly a “Friday the 13th” sized blockbuster, but still slashed up a respectable $5.5 million at the box office. It later became a hit in the home video market, and eventually developed a well deserved cult following. I remember shelling out $29.95 for a brand new VHS copy around 1999 or 2000, and then feeling like an idiot when it came out on DVD in 2002. For years afterwards I can remember seeing online talk about the missing gore footage, and catching glimpses here & there of bloody production stills and lobby cards. An uncut version of MBV was the holy grail for carnage collectors, and incredibly enough – the gods of gore were kind enough make it a reality!

In 2009 Paramount/Lionsgate released a fantastic special edition DVD of MY BLOODY VALENTINE that included the never before seen deleted footage. Finally getting to see the gory death scenes uncut, the way they were meant to be seen was a real treat. All of the death scenes are considerably longer and much more gruesome. The restored footage adds previously unseen impalements, dismemberments, cannibalism, and decapitation! Best of all, this footage can be watched in the film itself, or seen separately with introductions from the cast, director, and special effects designer. The special features also include “Bloodlust: My Bloody Valentine and the Rise of the Slasher Film” and “Bloodlines: An Interactive Horror Film History,” both of which I watched once and retained no positive memory of. All that really matters is finally having an uncut copy of MBV in my collection. I highly recommend this one, watch it with someone you love. And they say romance is dead.

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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