My Bloody Valentine

Film review by Thomas M. Sipos




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My Bloody Valentine  (Canadian, 1981, dir: George Mihalka; cast: Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, Neil Affleck, Cynthia Dale)




Before there was Valentine (the new "slasher" film starring Denise Richardson), there was My Bloody Valentine.

A bit of history: After Halloween became the highest-grossing independent film in US history, producers tried to strike gold again by recreating the formula of a psycho-killer whose skills and craftwork ties-in with some festivity. There was Mother's Day, Happy Birthday to Me, Graduation Day, New Year's Evil, the Silent Night, Deadly Night series (and Don't Open Till Christmas, and Christmas Evil, and several other Yuletide treasures...), there was the Halloween series, and there was Trick or Treats. By 1986 latecomers were scraping the holiday barrel with April Fool's Day. The cycle petered out before any slasher got around to commemorating Arbor Day.

But St. Valentine's Day got its due in My Bloody Valentine.

There's nothing especially different about My Blood Valentine, although like most slasher fare, it has distinctions. The key distinction that some critics highlight is that this film is set in a mining town. So is The Boogens, but that film is about a monster in a mine, whereas My Bloody Valentine is about a slasher in a mine.

Well, not exactly a "slasher." Taking full thematic advantage of its mining milieu, the psycho-killer in My Bloody Valentine utilizes a mining pickax. So he's not technically a slasher, but rather a ... what do you call it when someone slams a pick ax through your chest?

Anyway, that's what he is.



Like most slashers, he was traumatized long ago. Twenty years ago, in his case, when five miners were irresponsibly abandoned by supervisors who wanted to attend the town's Valentine Day Party. See, it's the party of the year in this town. Not Christmas or New Year's.

Well, the town is named Valentine Village.

Anyway, the whole town partied, unaware of a methane explosion that buried the five miners. By the time they were unburied days later, four had died. The remaining miner had gone mad. He was committed to an asylum, declared cured, and released one year later. On Valentine's Day he returned and killed the two supervisors, then vowed that he would kill again should the town ever again hold a Valentine Day's party.

Twenty years later, Valentine Village does just that ... and the body count mounts!

Befitting the holiday, My Bloody Valentine features a love triangle. Two miners (Paul Kelman and Neil Affleck) after the same girl (Lori Hallier). She was Kelman's girl once, until he left "for the west coast" to make his fortune. Having failed, he returns to Valentine Village. But by then she's taken up with Affleck. Naturally, the two miners were once best buddies. And naturally, the girl is torn over whom to choose.

The rest of the cast is largely comic relief, female eye candy, and slasher fodder. There's the cutup whose "class clown" antics are more appropriate to a frat house than down in a mine. There's the fat one. There's his chubby girlfriend. There's the couple whom we've never seen before, until, late in the film, they accompany our heroes down into the mine. You know they're just coming along to be killed.

While the lead actors provide some depth, most of the cast seem drawn from among director Mihalka's friends. We know whenever they're scared or shocked because then they clutch their heads and stare googly-eyed in frozen fear. Enough of them do it to indicate that it's at the behest of Mihalka's directorial guidance.

Story and dialogue are banal and inanely generic. Much time is spent wandering around drinking beer, or "whooping" and giving thumbs up to show they're partying or thinking about partying, or clutching their googly-eyed faces to show they're scared.

Some critics have highlighted My Bloody Valentine's Canadian location. It works. Clear wintry sky and plain houses reinforce the sterility of life in a small company town. One understands Kelman's decision to try his luck on "the west coast." A romantic interlude between him and Hallier upon windblown grass fronting a lake (a bay, the Atlantic?) deepens their characters, raising the film a notch about standard slasher fare.




My Bloody Valentine opens with death, and the killings continue till the end. The gore is common slasher fare. A head is dunked into a pot of boiling water (although my favorite boiling pot death is from Sleepaway Camp). A body is frozen in the fridge (as in Paralyzed). Two lovers are jointly spiked upon their bed (as per Friday the Thirteenth: Part 2).

The killer's face is hidden by a gas mask until the film's end, which is appropriate. Horror psychos are empowered when depersonalized behind masks. Psychos often appear weak and pathetic when we see them (Don't Go in the House, Visiting Hours, Maniac, The Toolbox Murders), and such films often devolve from mythic horror into sordid suspense.

My Bloody Valentine is a golden oldie from 1980s slasher cycle, not much different from the other 743 Halloween clones. Unlike today's smug, slick, smart-alecky, self-referential, post-Scream, studio "horror" films, My Bloody Valentine is grassroots splatter. A simple, honest body-count film, from an innocent bygone era. What more can you ask?

Review copyright by Thomas M. Sipos


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