Before watching my screener, I only vaguely remembered this little-known 1981 slasher flick. My Bloody Valentine was one of the midway entries in the horror holiday craze cash-cow — think: Black Christmas, Halloween, Friday the 13th, Mother's Day, April Fool's Day, Prom Night, and even Happy Birthday To Me. Having little memory of it, aside from a few iconic scenes, watching the remastered, widescreen, uncut DVD was like seeing it for the first time.
But even better than it was back then, because all the so-called "lost footage" has been restored and edited into the film rather than just thrown in separately with the extra features. The extended gore sequences aren't quite up to the picture quality of the film, so you can actually see exactly what was banned by the censors. It's really interesting! It's not only extended murder moments, but also flashes showing the victims' fear of impending doom, reaction, and some suffering.
The movie begins with a brutal kill straightway, then segues into the everyday lives of the residents of quaint, tucked-away Valentine Bluffs ("The Little Town With A Big Heart"). Their stock in trade is mining, and just about every able-bodied young man toils away in the dark, dangerous labyrinths by day and blows off steam downing Moosehead Beer (blatant product placement abounds!) in the tacky tavern by night. It's here where we get to know our leads and storylines: Mainly, there is the love-triangle between Sarah (Lori Hallier), her new boyfriend Axel (Neil Affleck), and her ex, T.J. Hanniger (Paul Kelman). T.J. has recently returned to the mines his family founded after trying, and failing, to make it on his own in the big city. He's not happy to have to come back tail tucked between his legs, but he's determined to win Sarah back.
Apart from this, we learn that back in 1960 Valentine Bluffs' annual February 14 dance was marred by murder… well, delayed murder. While the mine's supervisors were out doing The Twist, they forgot about five men still below. Calamity occurs, and several weeks later there is only one survivor: Harry Warden (Peter Cowper). How'd he make it? Well… let's just say it was thanks to "the other white meat." Warden's gone insane, is sent away for a year, and makes it back home just in time for the 1961 Valentine's Day Dance to wreak his revenge. After that tragedy, all dances were canceled. (Shades of Footloose.) But surely, 20 years later, it should be OK to start the festivities up, right? Wrong!
As the 1981 Valentine's Day Dance is being enthusiastically planned by the town's laundress, the elderly and lovelorn Mabel Osborne (Patricia Hamilton), bad things start to happen. The first hint is given with a bright red candy-box that's stuffed not with tasty chocolates, but with a torn-out human heart! And bad poetry! (Sayeth the sonnet: It happened once/It happened twice/Cancel the dance/Or it'll happen thrice.)
And so it goes, until the dance is duly canceled and the killer drops the couplets (he doesn't actually stop slaying, he just quits rhyming his prose for some inexplicable reason). Even though Chief Jake Newby (Don Francks) officially calls the celebration off after Mabel's death ("She had a heart attack," he says… kind of true!), you know "those crazy kids" — T.J. moves the party to the employee rec room next to the mine, without telling anyone but his buddies. Still, that doesn't stop a certain uninvited guest from crashing the bash (and a few skulls).
My Bloody Valentine, especially in its restored state, definitely stands the test of time as one of the most entertaining 80s-era slashers. The death scenes are quite gruesome and ingenious; the miners are likeable; the obligatory "funny fat guy" (played by Keith Knight) is endearing; the young ladies are voluptuous (but sorry guys… no gratuitous nudity); and there's the token "crazy old man" spouting warnings; properly solemn small-town law enforcement officers, and a few other other characters who are more than just cardboard cutouts. The dialogue is laugh-out-loud hilarious at times, and you've gotta love the dated tunes and far-out fashions.
The My Bloody Valentine Special Edition is definitely better than a diamond in the rough. In addition to the edgy added scenes, you also get a new interview with director George Mihalka who talks candidly about the censorship of the film back in the day. There is also a gem of a featurette starring noted genre author Adam Rockoff who shares several tidbits (such as: why not a spawn of sequels?) that are sure to delight fans and newcomers alike.
= = =Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson