With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, horror fans are clamoring to their collections to find the perfect movie to put in and watch with their Valentine. Horror and romance go hand-in-hand and I’ve found that if your significant other can sit through the right slasher film, then it’s the horror equivalent to Cupid’s arrow. It seems only fitting that during this holiday of love and paper hearts that the Canadian slasher classic “My Bloody Valentine” should be top of everyone’s list as it’s one of the few Holiday slashers to take on this specific day.
“My Bloody Valentine” is a strange film, not in the sense of story or concept, but more in the sense that it hasn’t caught on over the years as being one of the seminal slashers. It has a strong cult presence, but it’s not in the same breath as films like “Halloween” or “Friday the 13th”. In my personal opinion, it’s one of the best examples of an ’80s slasher that I can think of and deserves a lot more credit.
“My Bloody Valentine” is the story about a small mining town called Valentine’s Bluff and their dark past. 20 years ago there was an accident where a group of miners got trapped inside the mine while others were decorating for the annual Valentine’s Day party. The sole survivor, a man by the name of Harry Warden, killed the other miners and warned the town never to celebrate Valentine’s Day again… or else. Then, a group of young people in town decide to defy this omen only to unleash the wrath of a killer in mining gear. MBV takes it subject matter seriously and doesn’t go too over-the-top or too goofy. Sure, some of the characters may be a little silly, but they feel genuine and not forced. It’s one of the most atmospheric slasher films ever produced and uses it’s dreary locations to it’s advantage. From the catacomb-esque interiors of the “Hanniger Mines” to the sleepy, Nova Scotia town used as “Valentine’s Bluff”, nothing felt out of place or inappropriate. To this day as I watch MBV I believe in these characters, their town and the bloody omen left by Harry Warden.
Each time I watch this film I’m left with a heartbroken feeling by the end that I’ll never see these characters or this town again. You grow to really feel for the characters and feel strongly invested in the love triangle between T.S., Axel and the women they love, Sarah (played by the really gorgeous Lori Hallier). In 2009, a 3D re-make was made of MBV, but even though I enjoyed it for what it was, it felt watered down and didn’t have the small-town atmosphere of the original. None of the actors in the remake felt like they were really from Valentine’s Bluff, while the actors in the original felt as if they were cast at the local watering hole.
I also have to say that Harry Warden is one of the most iconic killers of all-time but has never really caught on. Many have used a gas mask to great effect (the first to come to mind is the film “Blood Junkie” made by fellow Wisconsin filmmakers Drew Rosas and Nick Sommer), but few have stood with me the way that Harry Warden has.
I believe part of the reason MBV never caught on was because of all the censorship by the MPAA. The film was considered far too graphic and the filmmakers had to go in and make cuts to every single death in the film! Some say that Paramount was still feeling the backlash from the lack of edits in “Friday the 13th” and happily agreed to the new edits. It wasn’t until 2009 that a version of the film was released with the cut footage re-added. I believe, as do other horror fans, that if the film had been released sans the edits, it would have been much more well received by genre fans and would hold a place in the annals of Slasher History. Two and a half minutes may not seem like much time to cut from a film, but in the context of blood and gore that was removed, it adds up significantly. Any film editor can attest that two and a half minutes is much longer than most people expect.
And, in closing, let’s not forget the chilling theme song written by Paul Zaza that still lingers in my mind today. When it starts over the end credits with a demented laugh, the hairs on your arm stand up! In my personal opinion, it’s the best use of an end credits theme with “Sleepaway Camp” come in a very close second.
It’s hard to forget lyrics as chilling as these:
Once upon a time, on a sad Valentine,
in a place known as Henniger Mine.
A legend began, every woman and man,
would always remember the time.
And those who remain, were never the same,
you could see, the fear in their eyes.
Once every year, as the fourteenth draws near,
there’s a hush all over the town.
About the Author
Michael Viers is an award winning filmmaker from Milwaukee, WI. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee’s with a Bachelor’s Degree in film and has made two successful short films during his stay at the university: From the Darkness Theatre which screened at the Short Film Corner at the 66th Festival de Cannes and Love You Still which debuted at the 2013 Milwaukee Film Festival. He’s currently trying to get more work writing articles about film and allocating resources to make his first feature film.