director George Mihalka
A lot of Moosehead beer went into the making of this movie no doubt. It’s a Canadian slasher film, one of the classics, if you will, of the period. And if the Canadian accents didn’t give it away, all the Moosehead beer cans would.
I don’t think I’d ever seen My Blood Valentine. The original, that is. I did manage to see My Bloody Valentine (2009) the rather inauspicious 3-D re-make a few years back.
My mind flew back to 1981 because, though I don’t think I’d ever seen it, I was highly aware of the film. I have the vaguest recollections of commercials for the film or seeing it reviewed on At the Movies with Siskel and Ebert. And I remember talking about the movie with friends.
The slasher film became an established “thing” around this time, though the genre apparently reaches back to Black Christmas (1974). I think, as a kid around this time, these films had some eerie power beyond their own existence. I think we were all aware of them, even when we didn’t see them. There was a sense, right or wrong or totally fictional, about what happened in a movie, what the most gruesome thing was, the literal gory details. In the case of My Bloody Valentine it might well have been the human heart in a heart-shaped candy box or the woman flayed alive and thrown into a clothes dryer. Oddly enough, maybe these weren’t fictional aspects of the films but their real elements, but they added to a sense of awe and fascination with films of this genre crafting an almost urban legend of the film itself.
It’s funny because today as an adult, I see My Bloody Valentine and I see it’s Canadian-ness above everything else. I see a low-budget film, clearly produced outside of Hollywood, shot on location in a small mining town somewhere in the Great White North. The actors, while being a lot of pretty unrecognizable faces, are not bad. They reek of their era. The reek so much of it that they actually reek of probably the 1970’s still more than the 1980’s.
The story is of this small town of Valentine Bluffs, preparing to throw the first Valentine’s party in 20 years following a horrible disaster on that date before. Apparently on Valentine’s Day, back in the late 1950’s, a mine explosion occurred that trapped several miners for days, resulting in the lone miner to survive to cannibalize the others. He becomes institutionalized but escapes to hunt down and kill his supervisors who left the mine unattended during the accident, gone off to a Valentine’s Day party. So, he threatens that the town should never again have a Valentine’s Day party or he’ll come to kill them all.
As convoluted as it is, it actually reckons of the kinds of horror stories that kids tell one another, urban myths, campfire stories. And it gives the killer a logical reason to wear a miner’s gas mask, helmet with a head lamp, and to swing a pick through willing flesh.
The film has some clever gruesomeness to it. In fact, according to my readings, it was considered very gruesome in its day and led to a lot of cuts in the film to get it down to an R rating. For the slasher genre, it has a pronounced lack of nudity.
It’s led me to want to revisit the slasher genre in more earnest. I realize that I haven’t seen too many slasher films in the past 10 years that I’ve been keeping this film diary. I would say that as far as it goes, the slasher genre isn’t overly titillating to me, the masked, deathless killer, punishing society ruthlessly. It comes from a strange Id of the world of the late Cold War and signifies perhaps more than genuinely scares.
My Bloody Valentine is actually pretty good. It’s a low-budget Canadian slasher from back in the day, and by it’s very existence has more going for it than any retreaded soulless remake ever could.