My Bloody Valentine (1981)
(Release Date: February 11, 1981)

He'll heart through the RINGER and head in the DRYER!!!He'll heart through the RINGER and head in the DRYER!!!He'll heart through the RINGER and head in the DRYER!!!

It's Valentine's Day and the Heartbreaker is back!
J.C. Maçek III... 

Gas Mask Killer Critic!
J.C. Maçek III
The World's Greatest Critic!!!

I was six years old and riding in the car with my best buddy Jeff. When our mothers decided to stop for petrol at a liquor store called Pearl & Syd's, Jeff and I had the bright idea to pick up the scariest magazine we could find in order to freak out my sister. It was, of course, Fangoria, but the plan failed miserably. I'd love to tell you that when Jeff shoved the photo of Savini's now-iconic "Machete Face" Zombie Victim from 1978's Dawn of the Dead in Haley's face she was frightened out of her itty-bitty-wits but she was actually more bored than floored. In fact, seeing as how she is (at the time of this writing) stationed in somewhere in Afghanistan with an M-16 in one hand and a scalpel in the other, I'm thinking she still wouldn't be terribly terrified.

That failure to scare her led to a very different discovery on my part, as just a few pages away was a pictorial featuring a Psycho Slasher Killer in a Gas Mask and Mining Helmet dispatching a few victims with his Pick-Axe. It was a compelling and creepy image to say the least and one that remains unique among its corn-ball splatter brethren. The film even had a cool name: My Bloody Valentine!

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Part of the 2009 Summer of Horror!
Harry Warden's Mask it's a GAS! GAS! GAS!

Ah, yes, such were my interests at age six. At around this same time I also watched Alien for the first time and had already been sent home from Kindergarten for kissing girls (and NOT making them cry!).

Precocious? Oh, but yes! And luckily long of memory. So, a few years later after video stores became prevalent (and I was old enough for a Blockbuster Card) I found a VHS copy of that very film. How was it? What can I say? I was still a kid, this was still VHS and My Bloody Valentine was still a low-budget Canadian Slasher Flick.

Luckily where VHS fails, DVD has succeeded. To tie in with the (surprisingly good) remake My Bloody Valentine 3-D, Lionsgate and Paramount released a special edition of the original 1981 thriller that piqued my dubious interest more than once!

Okay, it may still not be a "great film", but seeing it with a more experienced eye for horror, My Bloody Valentine is a unique and solid entry into the Slasher Subgenre of horror flicks. The killer has a great look, the story is interesting, the characters just well-planned enough to make sense, the camera angles are challenging and even the sound in the film is a success. In short, you may not fall in love, but you won't need a gas-mask to sit through the film either.

It's easy to see where the idea of a 3-D remake came from, considering the in-your-face killer and interesting camera framing and while the newer film doesn't follow the original script (by Stephen A. Miller and John Beaird) exactly, by any means, a great many of the original elements that made the 2009 film a success started right here in this dripping red 1981 film. You'll see what I mean.

In the small town of Valentine Bluffs a madman named Harry Warden (played by Peter Cowper) was trapped in a coal mine. He survived, apparently, by eating his fellow miners, which is really disturbing... because he didn't even cook them first! Doesn't this guy worry about Trichinosis? This seems to have driven him slightly insane. You know... just a little bit. In that it was Valentine's Day, The Miner had no trouble finding an entire town full of people to kill, especially, but not exclusively, at the town's annual Valentine's Dance... which quickly became a bloodbath more akin to a Homecoming Dance instead. Well, what was your homecoming like?

Twenty Years Later... the town of Valentine Bluffs is still reeling from the horrors Harry Warden meted on them, like an angry lunch lady with some bad olive loaf. Unsurprisingly two decades have gone by without any kind of Valentine's Dance, making damned sure that Harry Warden, wherever he is, stays the eff-you-see-kay away.

What sucks toes is that the horn-dog twentysomethings of Valentine's Bluff decide that this year they're going to have a Halloween Dance... oops, I mean VALENTINE's DAY DANCE... figuring that Harry Warden is, by now, just a boogey-man style memory. After all, most of the potential party guests were just kids when that mean old miner set out on his quest to "touch your heart". The older folks in town, however are not so sure. Mayor Hanniger (Larry Reynolds) and Mabel (Patricia Hamilton) from down at the Laundromat remember that black-lung rampage all too well. Let's face it... Valentine's Bluff could hardly support a Hallmark Store with its history, now could it?

But the show must go on! Definitely attending the dance are meddling kids (well, early twentysomethings) like Dave (Carl Marlotte) and Howard (Alf Humphreys), looking to hook up with some ladies, while couples such as John and Sylvia (Rob Stein and Helene Udy), Hollis and Patty (Keith Knight and Cynthia Dale) and Mike and Harriet (Thomas Kovacs and Terry Waterland). All eyes, however, are less on these charming contestants on "My Bloody Valentine", but on a certain love triangle.

See, Old Man Hanniger's son Jesse (AKA "T.J.", as played by Paul Kelman) left Valentine's Bluff a few years back, seemingly never to return. Yeah, because in Horror Flicks that's always permanent, huh? Over the years the girlfriend he left behind (Lori Hallier's Sarah) has moved on to Jesse's old buddy Axel Palmer (Neil Affleck)! But now T.J.'s BACK, to let you know... he can really shake 'em down! And, yes, it's not long before the Valentine's Day spirit does take hold of him and he's forced to ask Sarah "Do you LOOOOOOOOOOVE ME? Now that I... can Daaaaaaaaaaaance!"

Well, not in so many words, but you get the idea.

Things start to get a bit more serious, however, when the Mayor and his trusted Police Chief Jake Newby (Don Francks) receive a very special valentine of their own. One of those spiffy heart-shaped candy boxes. This one, however, doesn't contain any truffles, turtles, or even the mostly nasty gooey cherry variety. No, man... this one has a real human heart in it! Dick move! Not only is that a Dick move, but it also happens to be the very same Dick move that Happenin' Harry Warden employed way back on that "Happy V.D." Twenty Years Ago!

From there, the body count starts rising like... flies. (Seriously, that makes more sense than "Dropping like Flies!") Let me tell you, there are some very brutal deaths here, not all of which can be predicted by the swing of the Pick Axe. You've got human bodies cooked in clothes dryers, cave-ins on the living and more scenes of pick-axes going where pick-axes don't belong than you can shake a Freddy Claw at! That's not to mention a certain kitchen scene that shows us a guy who really puts his HEART and HEAD into his cooking! Might I please add "Yuck!"

Naturally, this sets those who know about it on edge. The problem is, things happen so fast that most people in town actually don't know about the killings yet and, again, the show goes on. Like most Slasher Flicks of the day, this points dramatically at the arrogance, lust and sinful appetites of the town's young people, most of whom use the excuse of the party to break a few rules and take their dates down into the mines themselves. You can guess, of course, that Down in the Mines, they will all be easy Pickings for the Killer!

GET IT? "Easy PICKings"? Because "The Miner" is dispatching his victims with a Pick Axe? What? Bad even for me? Okay, I'll move on, then!

The question of just who is trying to kill the whole gang (and seems, so far, to be succeeding with flying colors [mostly red]) is central to the second half of the film. Is Harry Warden back? If so, where has he been and what's the beer like there? If not, who is picking (no pun intended [this time]) up where he left off and why? To the credit of director George Mihalka, the mystery stays pretty strong until the end and manages to work reasonably well even after "The Great Reveal".

True, My Bloody Valentine is one of many similar slasher flicks of the early 1980s that went by a certain formula, most of which is repeated verbatim here. You've got your silent killer with a unique mask (CHECK!), your gang of unsuspecting young people (CHECK!), your warnings from the past (CHECK!), your list of new and special ways to kill people in graphic and memorable ways (CHECK!) and even your peculiar weapon (CHECK!). There are a few things that set this one aside from the standard gaggle of imitators of Halloween and Friday the 13th! The Gore effects are comparable, as is the body count, but the look of the killer and the surprise twist both work in this film's favor. In addition, Mihalka's focus is much less about the splattering blood and mindless murders and more about the mystery and suspense here. Yes, there are some moments of silly startles and jolting jumps, but Mihalka does do a good job of building tension by playing with near-misses and almost-clues here and there. The overall feel of the film may not be for everyone, but for fans of Early '80s Slasher Flicks, this one is a surprise winner.

Three Stars out of Five for the Original My Bloody Valentine! It's a gory, disturbing good time with some campy and unintentionally cheesy moments, but an over-arching exciting story. The strange, folky, almost "Love Song" by John McDermott that plays over the end credits gives another odd feeling about the whole thing. It works, but in an ironic and needling way. It's a real surprise that a 2009 remake managed to be not only good, but even somewhat better than this one. Will there be more from Harry Warden? Who knows? But after seeing two movies that focused on him, you might want to think twice when someone is bold enough to AXE you to... "Be MINE"!

Okay, enough Bad Puns. I'll just say "see you in the next reel" before someone writes a movie about me becoming a villain who kills people with his bad, bad, bad jokes.

Scary Harry was feeling Alien, too,
so he took a Descent into the Cave with his Axe
(which his prized Possession and his Executioner part, too)
and cut through the Mist to find a Cold spot.
But he stifled a Frozen Scream and ascended from the Tenebrae just in time for Visitng Hours.
Back in The Village he didn't heed The Omen
and was Psycho enough to log on to FearDotCom.
Feeling Repulsion (that was for The Birds)
he clicked THIS LINK in a Frenzy!
Suddenly he felt less Unhinged and he spent some time
reading More Reviews
for Alien 2, The Descent, The Cave, Axe, Possession, Executioner, Part II, The Mist, Coldspot, Frozen Scream, Tenebrae, Visiting Hours, The Village, The Omen, Psycho, FearDotCom, Repulsion, The Birds, Frenzy and Unhinged.

My Bloody Valentine (1981) reviewed by J.C. Maçek III
Who is solely responsible for the content of this site
but not for the fact that he's not a Canadian.
That was a whim of God, ay?
Be My Valentine and, as always:
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