Movie Review – My Bloody Valentine (1981)
There aren’t many horror films more iconic than those based off of certain days of the year; Halloween became the staple-point in the late ’70s (even after Black Christmas began the trend of using holidays), and My Bloody Valentine soon followed as another entry into the slasher scene utilizing an otherwise innocent celebration as a way to kill off teenagers in bountiful bloodbaths. Suffice to say that once one has seen or been introduced to My Bloody Valentine, the holiday’s loving connotations can never be the same.
The cult status of the film has long been established, just as it has with any of these early slasher films – the same principles apply in all of them, and so the fan base is large and loving. But My Bloody Valentine‘s status isn’t earned by good filmmaking like it is with other series like Friday the 13th or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; instead, the popularity of the film stems from its immediate proximity and similarities to predecessors. Because My Bloody Valentine is not film rife with memorable scenes or quality storytelling.
Its plot follows the ideas of any other slasher movie you can think of. A traumatic event that happened years ago has haunted the town ever since, and in My Bloody Valentine the event coincidentally occurred on Valentine’s Day. A miner, trapped in a collapsed mine, seeks revenge on the men who were supposed to be looking out for his safety – they left because of a Valentine’s Day dance – and now that man, known as Harry Warden to the community, supposedly returns every year to stop any festivities from happening by bludgeoning happy party-goers with a pickax.
Of course, the town doesn’t heed the warnings of the crazy man behind the bar who knows this story. They decide to have the party anyway, and when murders begin to plague the town, the mayor cancels all events. Except the young, fool-hardy teens who don’t know they aren’t invincible hold a party anyway, near the mine no less. You know the rest.
There are a few problems that My Bloody Valentine can’t overcome, but first we should talk about the good. For a low-budget film hastily thrown together, the movie has some great special effects. There aren’t a lot of on-screen deaths, but the aftermath is shown in awesome detail – and there are a few moments where the gore gets center stage.
My Bloody Valentine also features a couple of characters who are elevated above random teen status. TJ (Paul Kelman) and Axel (Neil Affleck) have their little spats over their shared girlfriend Sarah (Lori Hallier); this is a major plot point of the film, and it’s explored in much more detail than normal.
However, even if the film creates a couple of good characters, it’s populated with a whole town of badly drawn ones. Patty (Cynthia Dale) in particular is most egregious; this is simply because her character, trapped in the mine, becomes the most grating and disturbing thing about the conclusion. Her helplessness becomes a distraction, and instead of a terrifying chase sequence, the viewer is forced to sit through minutes of tiresome sobbing.
The premise of My Bloody Valentine, too, is strangely ignorant of common sense. (Since this film has been out for three decades now, I believe that I can safely divulge some spoilers.) If Axel’s father was once killed by Harry Warden, why would anyone in the town not notice this, or question him, after the first murder? It seems like an afterthought in the film, especially the final scene where the mayor reveals that, “Oh yeah, I guess Axel’s dad did get axed by Harry!” That this was ignored throughout the film is a serious oversight, a way to present a surprising twist to the audience who might not question how no one in the town knew about this small tidbit.
Unlike its brethren, My Bloody Valentine suffers from a few defects of the heart. It fits other slasher films like a glove, but as one might expect from this copycat technique, it can’t harness the best parts of its forefathers. Instead, the most any viewer might get from this viewing experience is a little bit more spirit for a holiday that rarely associates love with blood.