1981’s My Bloody Valentine has nearly everything you could want in a 1980s horror film : goofy deaths, silly clothes, gratuitous boobs, and a human heart simmering quietly in a pot of hot dog water. It even manages to overcome its inherent silliness for a second and be a little bit scary, thanks to being filmed in a real mine–someone chasing you down a winding pitch black tunnel is terrifying whether they have a pick-axe or not. It is a fun movie, and I think it becomes even more impressive when you learn 9 minutes of gore were cut out of it by the MPAA when it was released- while there’s lots of things missing from this movie (motivation, coherency and logic), I wouldn’t have said it was light on the red stuff.
The story of this ostensibly-Valentine’s Day themed film is somewhat unexpected. You’d think that when you were scripting up your Valentine’s Day slasher film, coming up with the killer’s motivation would be a no-brainer. Obviously, the killer needs to be a jilted lover, or that kid in class who never received a valentine, or maybe you could go out on a limb and have a big reveal at the end that it’s a deranged confectioner, whose factory went under when they outsourced candy heart production to Turkmenistan. You’d think the killer’s reason for killing would have SOMETHING to do with the giving or receiving of valentines, but you would be wrong. The origin story of the killer in 1981’s My Bloody Valentine, the preeminent Valentine’s Day horror film — so important it was remade in 2009 –is a gosh darn mining accident.
The mining accident that birthed the film’s oxygen-mask wearing, pickaxe wielding villain occurred in part because the mine’s supervisors were rushing off to attend a Valentine’s dance, 20 years before the start of the film, which opens on preparations for the first Valentine’s held since that night.
This all makes more sense when you learn this movie was retitled MY BLOODY VALENTINE following the success of HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13th. Some sad movie executive apparently thought people liked those movies because of the date theme. So a Valentine’s Day concept was grafted onto a mining themed horror film, and the town of Valentine’s Bluffs, with its penchant for holding Valentine’s dances and parties on what is everywhere else a day of quietly romantic candlelit dinners , was born.
Much of the film’s best action takes place inside a real mine, and the director’s decision to shoot on location was a good one. Mines are creepy and dangerous, and that really comes across when characters are hurtling through black corridors, yelling into the dark, and getting impaled on the chunks of sharp metal that are just all over the damn place. Don’t party inside a giant industrial accident, folks
I don’t want to spoil the varied ways this movie kills its victims, or the film’s big reveal, since those things are kind of the only things a movie like this has got. But I will say that reveal is a little jarring, since it comes with no foreshadowing, or possibly foreshadowing too subtle for me to catch. I like to be surprised as much as the next person, but ideally you should be able to look back and realize the story was always going in the direction it ended up, even if it tricked you on the way. In MY BLOODY VALENTINE, it almost feels like the target of the big reveal was chosen at random. But that doesn’t matter, no one sees a movie like this for the foreshadowing. You see a movie like this to see silly people get silly murdered in a goddamn coal mine, and heart shaped boxes that contain real human hearts. For that, MY BLOODY VALENTINE delivers.