Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

I've gotten pretty busy with classes and work so I haven't had time for a post in awhile which means I am really far behind and have a lot of catching up to do. I'm not sure when my next post will be so enjoy this Valentine's Day special!

My Bloody Valentine
I watched this movie with a bunch of friends in honor of Valentine's Day and we all agreed that it was better than expected. Usually we watch bad movies but this one was good and I legitimately liked it!

This Canadian film is set in the mining town of Valentine Bluffs. In 1960 there was an explosion at the mine after the foremen left early to attend a Valentine's Day dance. Some miners were trapped in a shaft for weeks and by the time they were rescued only one was still alive, Harry Warden. Warden had to eat his dead fellow miners to survive and went insane as a result. One year later he escaped from a mental institution and killed the guilty foremen by ripping out their hearts. Harry Warden left a warning that anyone else celebrating Valentine's Day in the town would suffer the same fate. Twenty years after these murders the town decides that enough time has passed and plan on holding a Valentine's Day party. However, some people planning the party get killed and there is a warning to stop the partying or else. Is Harry Warden back? Or is somebody else picking up where he left off? If so, why? You'll have to watch the film to find out!

The movie takes place over the course of three days: February 12-14th. And of course the 13th is a Friday! I actually haven't seen any of the Friday the 13th movies so unfortunately I can't compare the two.

Although this movie is by no means a masterpiece, it is well written and competently directed. Like most slashers this was made on a low budget but it doesn't really show. My Bloody Valentine is a slasher with a solid mystery and could be described as Halloween meets a "whodunit." Honestly I was not sure how it was going to play out as there was plenty of ambiguity and red herrings setting up a couple different possibilities that get narrowed down by the end.

The miner outfit of the killer is not only intimidating but quite memorable. The gas mask, construction helmet with headlight, and big leather boots are frightening. Unlike some slasher flicks, the killer's outfit was not chosen just to be scary or conceal the identity of the killer, but fits in perfectly with an interesting back story and motives. The main instrument of death for the killer is a mining pickaxe which is different than your typical slasher weapons, although to be fair the killer carries a knife as a back-up plan! Probably the best part of the movie is the isolated atmosphere with its unique setting of a small mining town and the mine itself of course. The movie was filmed in an actual mine (on location in Nova Scotia) which is already dark and claustrophobic without a killer trying to get you! The deaths are imaginative and gruesome with some nice special effects work.The creepy soundtrack also works well. Unlike a lot of 80s slashers which tended to go with a heavy metal theme, this one has a twisted folk song. Check it out here!

There are parts of the movie that are over the top (a crazy old bartender trying to warn the young miners, paper hearts turned upside down by the killer) but its still enjoyable. We have a decent amount of slasher cliches here such as typical jump scares, those who are promiscuous die but the virgin lives, and the movie's focus on a holiday/event. 1981 was just when the slasher genre was kicked wide open, so the movie manages to get away with them. My Bloody Valentine does break some slasher cliches though. For example, instead of the killer just going after high school or college students, the targets are anybody celebrating Valentine's Day, which makes perfect sense given the back-story. Of course several twenty-somethings are killed, but a couple of senior citizens bite the dust as well!

Some scenes are pretty slow although just when it starts to get boring something interesting happens. The acting is not bad but there are no noteworthy performances either. I liked fat guy as he was a fun character but nobody else really stood out. This isn't totally an acting issue as I wish we got to know the characters better. One reason for this problem is that there are simply a lot of characters to keep up with. We also switch back and forth from the young miners to the police chief. To play devil's advocate, this does work a bit in the movie's favor as it heightens the uncertainty of who the killer is. Although we never root for the brutal killer, I didn't find myself caring for these characters as much as those in better horror movies like Halloween for instance.

As an film junkie I must mention that in this movie some of the characters play the same stab a knife between the fingers game that is played by Bishop and Pvt. Hudson in Aliens. I wonder if James Cameron got the idea from this movie. I have only seen and heard of this game in these two movies. Do people actually play this game?!

Back in the 1980s, film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert went on a crusade against slasher movies which they perceived to be misogynist. In 1980 they even dedicated a whole episode of their TV show to the subject, which they entitled "Women in Danger." You can watch it on YouTube here.
Maybe if I watch more slasher movies I'll make a post to further weigh in on this topic, but I didn't see My Bloody Valentine as anti-female at all. The killer takes out both men and women equally and the two survivors are one man and one woman instead of the typical lone "final girl." The surviving woman is feminine, but she is strong enough to fight back and unmask the killer at the end. The murderer in this movie doesn't discriminate based on gender, just don't go to a Valentine's Day party or have a tattoo of a heart! There also is no nudity in this movie which seems to be unusual for early 80s slasher flicks. There is a shower scene but its all men from the mines! I couldn't find out what Siskel and Ebert thought about this movie but I hope they weren't too quick to judge it based on other slasher flicks.

Siskel and Ebert liked Halloween but generally hated the other "dead teenager movies" as they often called them. While I can't comment on if a lot of these movies were misogynist since I haven't seen too many of them, I disagree with some of the assumptions Siskel & Ebert make in the above YouTube video. These movies weren't made to appeal to audiences who wanted to see women attacked and killed, but because they could be made very cheaply and therefore would almost always earn a profit no matter what. Slasher movies still exist today, but the ubiquity of the genre from about 1979 through 1984 was mainly due to the popularity of Halloween and Friday the 13th. Popular movies always indirectly create knock-offs since producers see it was a way to make a quick buck. This was always the case going back to the early days of cinema and is certainly still true today.

The ending is open for a sequel although it stands fine on its own. I'm glad My Bloody Valentine did not turn into a franchise as the sequels probably would've sucked. This movie had a lot cut out on its original release because it was too violent. Ironically I think is probably why it didn't do so well in theaters. I saw the Uncut version which is what I would recommend. Just be aware that the scenes which were originally cut from the theatrical release are much rougher than the rest of the movie. I think it works in favor of the gritty tone but is noticeable and a bit jarring at first as these scenes look like they were filmed on Super 8. It kinda takes the viewer out the experience, especially because you know something bad is going to happen when the film switches to these low quality scenes. That said, I always like to see the filmmaker's original intent so I'm just glad this footage survived.

My Bloody Valentine has gained a cult following over the years which led to a 3-D re-make in 2009. There is even an Irish rock band named after this movie! Who is the most famous fan of My Bloody Valentine you ask? Why it's none other than director Quentin Tarantino! Here is what Tarantino has to say about the film: "as far as slasher films go, of course, I love Halloween and all those. But as time's gone on, I think My Bloody Valentine may be my favorite."

I don't watch too many slasher films but this is a solid movie that deserves more attention. You certainly could do a lot worse within this sub-genre (Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2).


  1. Nice long review. Still need to check this one out. Can't believe you haven't seen any Friday the 13th though - you need to rectify that quick!

  2. My Blood Valentine is worth the watch, especially if you are a horror/slasher fan. I don't know how I haven't seen Friday the 13th yet but it is one of many movies on my "must see" list. Which reminds me, I don't know how busy I'll be in October but I really want to do the October 31 horror movies challenge.

  3. "My Bloody Valentine" gets a solid 8/10 from me. I liked it a lot when I first saw it in a little movie theater in Thibodaux, LA, and I like it even more today after watching it for probably the fourth or fifth time. How can one not love a line like, IT HAPPENED ONCE... IT HAPPENED TWICE... CANCEL THE DANCE... OR IT'LL HAPPEN THRICE! The 3D remake was pretty good too, but I'll probably watch the original at least once or twice more. Maybe THRICE!

  4. Thanks for sharing Delton, pretty cool that you got to see My Bloody Valentine in theaters. I haven't seen the remake yet but if I ever do I'll probably re-watch the original around the same time.