My Bloody Valentine 1981


This Classic Slasher Succeeds Everywhere Except Where It Matters Most

Main Cast: Paul Kelman and Neil Affleck

Director: George Mihalka

Twenty years ago, during the town of Valentine Bluffs’ annual Valentine’s Day dance, a cave-in at the local mine trapped six miners. It took several weeks to dig them out, and by the time they were rescued, only one, Harry Warden, remained alive, having survived by eating his fellow miners. Locked away for a year, Harry escape on the next Valentine’s Day and went on a murder spree, killing everyone responsible for the dance that he blamed for the accident. See, the two supervisors who were supposed to make sure everyone made it up safe were too distracted with the dance and took off early.

Now it’s two decades later and for the first time in all those years, Valentine Bluffs is planning a Valentine’s Day dance. But someone out there is going to great lengths to insure this doesn’t happen. Bodies start to turn up with their hearts missing, the organs having been boxed up and left for the local authorities with written warnings against holding the dance. The sheriff is convinced Harry Warden has returned.

Unfortunately, he keeps this news quiet and instead blames the death of the dance’s organizer on his reason for cancelling the dance. Thinking the old fogey is just trying to harsh their buzz, the “teens” decides to hold the dance anyway, this time in the rec room at the local mine. And that’s when things get REALLY bloody.

My Bloody Valentine has been something of an unheralded cult classic for decades. Released during the holiday slasher craze of the 1980s, it never quite got the wide appreciation of movies like Friday the 13th or Halloween. Having only seen the cut version of the movie, the 90-minute one, I can see why. The missing 3 minutes from the theatrical release have not only left the movie lacking in any real money shot kill scenes, but it’s also left the ending somewhat disjointed and implausible. Especially the ending. I mean, the ending makes sense, sure. But there’s a pretty big cut there that leaves an obvious gaping hole and it not only throws the viewer out of the movie, but it leaves a bad taste as well.

With a concept from Stephen A. Miller (writer on “Archie Bunker’s Place” and “Evening Shade” of all things) and a script from John Beaird (one of the writers of that year’s Happy Birthday to Me, another slasher classic), My Bloody Valentine was directed by George Mihalka, whose only movie to that point had been the previous year’s Picl-up Summer, which, judging by the synopsis, makes Mihalka an odd choice. But given this movie’s eventual following, he was doing something right. In fact, I was surprised at just how much I did end up enjoying this one, and not just because it’s a slasher movie, but because Mihalka held my interest constantly with one interesting shot after another.

Sure, the movie looks and feels cheap and dated, the acting is worthy of many face-palms, and the wardrobe and haircuts remind us just what a low point in our cultural history the late 70s/early 80s were. But Mihalka knows how to frame a shot and carry it through with maximum tension.

I want to see this movie probably had franchise potential, but given that ending, I’m not so sure how it would have been pulled off successfully. And, really, franchising is where the slasher genre really makes its mark. So maybe the fact there was no immediate sequel might also have something to do with this film not becoming the blockbuster I think it probably deserved to be back in 1981.

However, I still have to lay most of the blame on those cuts. There’s plenty of blood and gore here, sure. I mean we’ve got a handful of human hearts found in blood-drenched Valentines boxes, what’s not to love? But the gore is completely absent when it counts most. We don’t SEE the kills, only the after shots. We see the bodies post-slaughter, but the fans come to these movies to see the kills, not the clever hiding places. We don’t want to see the guy’s face heading for the boiling pot, we want to see his face BEING boiled. We don’t want to see, very vaguely at the corner of the screen, the woman with the shower water spewing out of her gaping mouth, we want to see her skull impaled with the makeshift shower head.

I like to believe these scenes were filmed and meant to be in the movie, but were removed by the studio later in order to please the ratings board. That’s what I tell myself. Because the rest of the movie is so entertaining and fun to watch, I can’t imagine Mihalka dropped the ball on this one very important aspect of the slasher film. No. I tell myself he knew exactly what the fans wanted but had to remove it under protest.

Unfortunately, those cuts just leave My Bloody Valentine less a successful slasher movie and more a post-slasher movie. Fuck it, I’ll take it. Cuz it sure as hell beats another romantic comedy that is neither romantic nor comedic.

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