Cross Your Heart And Hope To Die: My Bloody Valentine
The slasher genre, which began in earnest with Hitchcock's Psycho in 1960 is home to numerous well-regarded classics including Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and John Carpenter's Halloween. While all of those launched film series that were successful to one degree another, whether that be financially or through audience reaction, the number of slashers that never received a sequel, much less a franchise, are innumerable. One of the best of that bunch is without a doubt My Bloody Valentine, an oft-forgotten Canadian classic and one of the premiere slashers of the 80s.
Made off the heels of Halloween and Friday the 13th, My Bloody Valentine is just one in a long line of slashers based around a specific date or holiday. Featuring a young cast, as most slasher films usually do, and including some of the most gruesome kills the genre has to offer, it unfortunately was forgotten almost as soon as it left theaters. Historically, the blame for its lack of resonance can be lobbed at the MPAA, those uptight defenders of good taste. Without the gore they forced director George Mihalka to cut, mainstream horror audiences rejected the picture outright. It's a shame because even without that gore, My Bloody Valentine is memorable for its unique locations, inventive cinematography, and Harry Warden, the iconic killer of the piece.
Warden might be the greatest casualty here, a character that for all intents and purposes should've had a franchise of at least five films. He has everything that slasher fans require of their killers; a great look (the miner getup), a simple enough motivation, and a signature weapon (a pickaxe). It's in the unrated cut, finally released on home video in 2009 thanks to Lionsgate, where Warden’s brutality really shines. Every slice and dice, every impalement (of which there are numerous), every hanging, were all finally available to see. Although not restored to full HD like the rest of the picture, they work to the film’s advantage, giving it an accidental Grindhouse quality that helps My Bloody Valentine stand out from the pack. Those kills are overly gruesome however, so in the end it’s no surprise that the MPAA would only allow Mihalka to release a heavily neutered theatrical cut.
Storywise, My Bloody Valentine takes obvious cues from Friday the 13th, playing as a bit of a whodunit. We're never quite sure if it's the "real" Harry Warden stalking these twenty-something miners and their girlfriends, with numerous red herrings along the way to heighten our suspicion. The cast here is great, with character actor Don Francks playing the "better safe than sorry" Chief Newby. His interplay with both the miners and locals is both charming and believable, you feel he's been at this for years and you know he's still scarred from Harry Warden's initial killing spree years earlier.
Shot on location in Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, almost no sets were used. In an insane twist, Mihalka, with his cinematographer Rodney Gibbons, actually filmed inside a long-abandoned mine, giving the picture an authenticity that would've been lost had it been made on a typical soundstage. The fact that Harry Warden is chasing his victims through an actual mine only heightens the terror on display, leading to some more than genuine reaction shots from the mostly inexperienced (at the time) cast.
My Bloody Valentine might not have been a massive success at the time but it still warranted a remake, released in 2009. One of the better slasher remakes of the 00s, it starred Jensen Ackles (Supernatural) and horror/mustache icon Tom Atkins (Halloween III: Season of the Witch, The Fog) and was generally well received at the time. Shot in 3D with a script by Todd Farmer (Jason X, Drive Angry) My Bloody Valentine 3D is both reverent to its source but also not afraid to take the story in a different direction. Rather than copy the original, beat for beat, Farmer's screenplay is inventive enough to be its own thing, and true to form as far as remakes go, ups the gore factor, and switches up the original's already twisted ending. Not to be missed, the remake makes a great double feature with the 1981 classic and at the very least gives fans some more entertaining Harry Warden kills.
Clever and inventive, My Bloody Valentine is a fantastic alternative to all the well known slasher series. Sure you've seen Freddy, Jason, and Michael hack people to bits, but you don't know real killer fun until you've seen Harry Warden impale a man through the face with a pickaxe, popping out their eyeball. Not only a perfect fit for Valentine's Day, but terrific for October as well, this is a scary and highly entertaining slasher film that'll warm the heart of any horror fan.