My Bloody Valentine (1981) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

My Bloody Valentine (1981) Review

Horrorific content by Jessica Gomez on February 12th, 2021 | Movie Review | Slasher, Killer, Teen, Revenge

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Friends defy the rules of a legendary murderer and discover he is real when they start celebrating Valentine's Day.

My Bloody Valentine was directed George Mihalka (also known for Hostile Takeover) and stars Lori Hallier (from Buried Secrets), Paul Kelman, Keith Knight (from Of Unknown Origin), Cynthia Dale and Helene Udy (from Pin and Mrs. Claus).

Cross your heart...and hope to die.

My Bloody Valentine Review

On the heels of horror juggernauts Halloween and Friday the 13th, Paramount capitalized on the holiday-themed slasher boom with My Bloody Valentine. The title may make you think this relies on typical 80s camp, but if you’re looking for a ruthless, haunting horror film, you’ve come to the right place.

Just before Valentine’s Day, in the aptly named small town of Valentine Bluffs, Canada, the entire community is getting ready for a big Valentine’s dance - the first one the town has had in twenty years. After the police are sent a valentine with a cryptic poem and a bloody heart inside belonging to a young woman, the story of a tragic accident, thought to be local legend, is revealed.

Twenty years ago, a group of miners, in a rush to get to the Valentine’s dance, forget to turn off the methane, and an explosion kills all but one of them. After a year in a mental hospital, the lone survivor, Harry Warden, comes back to town and kills his former supervisors, cutting out their hearts and displaying them in valentine-themed chocolate boxes at the dance. He’s committed once more, but when the bloody valentine arrives twenty years later, there’s suddenly no record of Harry Warden in the hospital. After the organizer of the dance is brutally murdered, the Chief of Police cancels the dance, at the request of one of the killer’s poems.

Meanwhile, there’s a group of friends who work in the mines who are involved in somewhat of a love triangle. Perspectives shift between the Mayor and Police Chief, who are trying to keep the new murders under wraps, and the miners and their girlfriends who throw a Valentine’s party in lieu of the dance, despite warnings from the police.

A horror film first, but a love story second, the plot is surprisingly developed for an 80s slasher. You have the Chief of Police, who is haunted by the town’s past though the younger generation has moved on; the connection between the miners now and then; a rift between friends over their feelings for the same woman; and the motive for the murders, which I won’t spoil, adds an additional element. There’s some entertaining overacting in the beginning, but everyone eventually settles into their roles, and all of the acting during the kill scenes are quite believable and impressive. It really takes me out of a film when characters have little to no reaction when their friends are murdered, and My Bloody Valentine does a great job balancing horror and believable emotion.

Nine minutes of the final film were cut due to censorship requirements to receive an R rating, but there is still plenty of blood, and the murders are as grisly as any horror film today. Though the weapon of choice is a pickaxe, which is in and of itself able to provide some gruesome kills, there are some really intense scenes without it, including a washing machine scene that’s impossible to forget. The set design, from filming in an actual mine to the small-town feel of a local holiday dance at a community hall, was incredible, and the town became a character of its own.

Despite the limited theatrical release, the miner costume has become an icon for fans of the genre, and for good reason. The writers and director George Mihalka created a concept that was entirely its own, and they executed it so well with pacing and ingenuity that the film still holds up against any slasher today.

Worth Watching?

This is by far one of the best slashers of the 80s, for its direction, its unique story, and its unrelenting, creative kills. A love-themed holiday gone wrong, this is the perfect watch for Valentine’s Day.

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