With Halloween and Friday the 13th leading the pack of slashers in the early 80s, significant calendar dates became the ideal way to capture the imaginations of audiences. I mean, who cares about Tuesday, June 8th, for instance? We really needed relatable, annually reoccurring dates. Which means—holidays! Sure, Halloween=horror, but every holiday can be a gorefest with a little creativity. Hence, the obvious “have a heart” opportunity of My Bloody Valentine. Heck, it was released in February of 1981, four months before the second Friday the 13th and nine months before the second Halloween, making it ripe for excessive franchising—at least from the perspective of the holiday. But with the killer being a miner, how many fricking times would we want to watch a bunch of miners get hacked up?
The original film takes place in a town called Valentine Bluffs! How bad is that??? Not exactly as iconic a name as Camp Crystal Lake. But even so, this film has some worthy early 80s slasher charm, especially if you watch the extended cut, which totally rox the gore. Some fantastic makeup and special effects here—done without CGI.
Plenty of favorite slasher clichés are present. There’s T&A (and even a man shower scene for the guys—I mean, gays). There’s the typical practical joker pretending to be murdered in an early false alarm. There’s a crazy old man who warns the kids to stay away from the danger. There’s classic killer POV. There are numerous dropping body reveals. And then there’s the imposing presence of the miner and his pick axe.
Of course, all the best slashers begin with a slight back story. After the opening murder (the best ones begin with that as well), we learn that 20 years ago there was an annual Valentine’s Day dance in Valentine Bluffs. There were a handful of miners still down in the caves. The supervisors who were supposed to be monitoring their safety instead went to the dance. The caves caved. The miners all died—except one. Harry Warden…who is sent off to the loony bin when it’s discovered HOW he survived.
Now, two decades later, they are about to reinstate the Valentine’s Day dance. The mayor’s son, T.J., has returned after leaving town for a while. T.J. was in love with Sarah. Sarah was in love with T.J. Sarah has moved on to Axel. T.J. still wants Sarah. Sarah thinks she wants T.J. back. Hey, what do you want from me? It’s a Valentine’s movie, so there’s gotta be some sort of love story! But fear not, there are also kids who just want to have sex with no attachments. After the mayor receives a Valentine’s gift that makes it clear he needs to cancel the dance, the kids decide to head down into the mines to make their own party.
My Bloody Valentine has its fair share of 80s cheese whiz, but the setting, the killer, the jump scares and gore all make it one of the better holiday slashers. The kills are phenomenal in the uncensored cut. The pick axe is used to great effect to puncture various parts of victims’ bodies, there is an incredibly nasty discovery in a Laundromat dryer, a guy is drowned in a boiling pot of hot dogs (who wouldn’t want to die with their face shoved into a sea of wieners?), and there’s a nail gun to the head that doesn’t immediately kill the victim and could rival many of the torture porn elements of today’s films.
There’s also a super effective and creepy scene of a girl lying under rows of hanging miner costumes—a scene that seems to have been mimicked in the Jenny McCarthy death scene in Scream 3. Plus there’s a bit of a Texas Chainsaw Massacre girl-on-a-meat hook homage as well.
The memorable murderer move in this film is the Miner smashing each of the light bulbs in the cave as he passes them, and the climactic scene on a moving mining cart gave me horrific flashbacks to a similar moment in the Resident Evil 4 game. I know from personal experience just how trapped they were on that mining cart!
Most notable about the original My Bloody Valentine? It boldly and unapologetically concludes without a conclusion. It promises a sequel that we never got! Quite frankly, I think the 2009 remake should have just been a sequel. But instead, we got a 3D reimagining…
Nearly 30 years later, and it scares me that I am old enough to remember the original upon which a remake is based, which is happening more and more these days. While the remake tries too hard to deliver the twists and turns of modern slashers to keep you guessing, it’s actually one of my favorites of recent slashers. The gore, while CGI, works here because it’s paired with 3D, making for a super fun, in-your-face bloodfest. There’s serious T&A to appease the teens, but it’s inexcusable that Jensen Ackles doesn’t get at least shirtless. The film is also suspenseful and has a grocery store chase scene on par with Wendy in the original Prom Night and Sarah Michelle Gellar in I Know What You Did Last Summer.
The story doesn’t stray too far from the original, simply embellishing on it. Harry Warden is the lone survivor of a mining collapse, appearing to have killed all the miners trapped with him to save oxygen for himself. He wakes from a coma and leaves a mess behind at the hospital. As if compressing the scenario of the first film into one prologue, we see a bunch of kids going down to the mines to party—and getting slaughtered by the Miner.
Flash ahead 10 years. Jensen Ackles is Tom (the T.J. character). He returns home to the town of Harmony (not Valentine Bluffs this time—guess they realized how hokey that was) to sell the mines (which were owned by his dad). Tom is in love with Sarah, Sarah was in love with Tom, Sarah has moved on to marry Axel. Axel is cheating on Sarah with a hot little piece. Romance just gets more complicated as time passes. If I was expected to chose between Jensen and Kerr Smith…I’d opt for a spit roast for sure.
This remake is filled with tense kills and no one is discriminated against, with even a little person falling victim to the pick axe (well, actually, she doesn’t fall…she kind of gets sent upward). The only scene that is a disappointment compared to the original is the homage to the dryer scene—it was actually more gruesome in the original!!!! Like the original, there’s a crazy old man in the bar who spouts warnings about the dangers of Harry Warden. And as in the original, the killer smashes each light bulb in the caves while passing them. As a bonus, we get horror hunk Todd Farmer…looking pretty much just as he appears here.
The big difference near the end of this one is the Scream 2 conundrum in which Sarah finds herself when she is facing off against more than one person who could be the killer. But, just as in the original, the remake of My Bloody Valentine doesn’t even try to hint at a sequel. It spells it out.
I have nothing but love for the My Bloody Valentine movies. But again, how much mileage can you get out of a slasher about a miner? So maybe it’s best to pass on a sequel…and simply do another remake in 30 years. I’m looking forward to watching it when I’m 70…