My Bloody Valentine


In the gory, glory days of the golden age of the slasher movie, the titles that rose to the top of the pile became household names often due to their reliance on setting their blood thirsty carnage on a particular date – thus leading films like Friday The 13th and Halloween to persevere to this very day. However, what of the other masked marauders that constantly stalked the cinemas of the early 80’s? What of such mean-spirited, slice and dicers like The Prowler, The Burning and Terror Train, that didn’t go on to have endless sequels that helped them carve their way into pop culture immortality?
Of all of these “also-rans”, the one that had the best chance of cracking the slasher code (on paper, anyway) was George Mihalka’s My Bloody Valentine that nailed the holy slasher trifecta of snagging a public holiday, a recognisable mask and even a related modus operandi to boot – but does this Canadian production, that creatively kills Canucks just as gruesomely as either Jason or Michael, still have the ability to feel the love all these years later?


The Canadian mining town of Valentine Bluffs has had something of a dodgy history when it comes to that time of year where everyone sends heart-shaped boxes of candy and flowers to the that special someone. You see, 20 years ago there was a methane explosion that trapped five miners underground thanks to the carelessness of a couple of supervisors who ducked out from work early to attend a Valentine’s day. The only survivor was Harry Warden who only managed to survive the ordeal of being buried alive by promptly going batshit insane and resorting to cannibalism, but a year after his ordeal, he snapped (I mean, even more) and murdered the two men responsible with a pick axe and then carved out their hearts just to further underline his mental state.
Two decades later and the town has banned all Valentine’s Day celebrations for the entirety of that time, but this year Mayor Hanniger has decided to lift the ban, superstitions of Walden’s return be damned. This has obviously gone down well with the younger, more rambunctious members of the community who seem to spend every waking hour they’re not working in the mines either shotgunning booze down their gullets or getting into awkward love triangles. Anticipation is at an all time high, but the shadow of the past looms when familiar looking boxes of Valentine candy start showing up containing bloody human hearts and warnings not to go ahead with the romantic festivities – is that Harry Warden stalking throughout the town in miner’s gear and gas mask seeking revenge at the tip of a pick axe, or has someone taken up the mantle to exercise a grudge of their own?


It’s always something of a challenge when reviewing a slasher movie from the early eighties, as this notorious sub-genre (Halloween aside) has always been usually distinguished by their lack of artistic merit rather than the benefits, but within the limited means of the stalk and slash template, My Bloody Valentine does all that it needs to to score cult reverence, if not genuine acclaim.
Basically, it’s meat and potatoes filmmaking that lacks the flair of John Carpenter’s seminal Halloween or the trashy character of Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday The 13th, but MBV still has a refreshing directness that allows ample chances for the filmmakers to get to the nasty stuff. As slasher set ups go, the film boasts one that’s stronger than most, throwing together town superstition, gory calling cards and various other aspects that mostly ties events nicely into the holiday theme – although I’m not exactly sure where a miner’s suit and gas mask sits in Valentine lore… but never mind. The parts of the film that depict the Mayor and the pipe chewing police chief scampering around town, understandably wringing their hands every time another person’s blood thumper pops up with threatening rhymes keep the intrigue chugging along nicely although the fact they choose to warn absolutely nobody does saunter carelessly into movie logic on more than one occasion.


Less effective is the gaggle of “young” folk who populate the victim list as all of whom easily look at least in their mid-thirties and their personalities are all solely gaged by where they rank on the annoy-o-meter. Be it flirty girlfriends, donkey-toothed jokesters, elaborately moustached party animals or tiny virgins, however, they’re all linked by the fact that they all consume ungodly quantities of alcohol on a nightly basis that surely should negate the threat of a gas masked killer when their livers are undoubtedly due to pop like paper bags at any moment. Lethal cirrhosis aside, the only ones out of this gaggle of lushy boozehounds who stand out are our leads, T.J. and Sarah, who fill the runtime with their turgid romance until we get back to the killing. You see T.J. left both Sarah and Valentine Bluff presumably to make his fortune in a town that doesn’t have an 80% mortality rate in drunk driving but has returned with his tail between his legs only to find that his previous beau is now going with the equally bland Axel and the toxic posturing between the two make up the bulk of the story. To put it bluntly, they’re as appealing as Crohn’s disease, but salvation is at hand in the form of some surprisingly graphic deaths that hit all the more harder once witnessed in its restored version. To clarify, My Bloody Valentine doesn’t fuck around and the violence has that gritty edged feel that only an 80’s slasher can provide as the mysterious miner goes to town with some creative killing. Highlights include one hapless fucker catching a pick axe under the jaw with the point protruding from his eye socket and a poor woman who has her skull impaled on a shower head with the flow of water exiting from her gaping mouth and FX guru Tom Burman excels in the art of jagged wounds and squelchy remains (the body stuffed in the washing machine is nicely macabre).
Not, not exactly art, but who the hell ever said that an 80’s slasher movie should be and while it willfully hurls itself into the many pitfalls that plague the sub-genre, at least it attempts a shock, Scooby-Doo style reveal and ends in a different, if clumsy manner.


My Bloody Valentine does what it needs to to claim a spot on the shaky pedestal of cult slashers alongside such other sleazy purveyors of puncture wounds such as Silent Night, Deadly Night and, as such is well worth a look if you fancy a stab-a-thon that’s devoid of hockey masks, post modern snark or Jamie Lee Curtis for a change. While it hardly warrants a secret admirer, its grungy heart is out for all to see for fans of old school mass murder.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s