“For the legend they say on a Valentine’s Day is a curse that’ll live on and on.”
In the pantheon of Slasher Films—whose heyday was in full nightmare mode after the 1980 release of FRIDAY THE 13TH—one film stands apart. MY BLOODY VALENTINE was Paramount Pictures next big slasher film, rushed into production in September 1980, the filmmakers had one goal in mind; finish the film before February 14, 1981—a street date set in stone by a marketing department desperate to cash in on the trend of Holiday horrors that began as far back as BLACK CHRISTMAS and continued through HALLOWEEN, APRIL FOOLS DAY and so many others. Amazingly, with no script to be had, Director George Mihalka and writers Steven Miller and John Beaird managed to not only beat the odds, they delivered one of the most memorable stand-alone slasher films of the 1980’s. No small feat considering the time restraint. However, even with the tense shooting schedule, MY BLOODY VALENTINE’s biggest enemy turned out not to be time, but fate.
On December 8, 1980, Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon to death outside the Dakota apartment building in New York City. The shockwaves were felt far and wide, especially in the editing room of MY BLOODY VALENTINE. Beseeched by a nationwide cry against senseless violence, the MPAA saddled MY BLOODY VALENTINE with an X rating and Paramount demanded cuts be made. Only a year earlier FRIDAY THE 13TH had received the same puritanical edicts, but even after its trims, the groundbreaking effects work that propelled the film to box office glory remained largely intact. Such was not the case with MY BLOODY VALENTINE. Every death scene in the film—from the most innocuous passing’s to the most elaborate gore drenched impalements—was sliced to pieces. An estimated nine minutes of footage was exorcised from the production, leaving some of the most costly and spectacular effects work completely removed from the film. Audiences who saw the theatrical cut were left with little more than quick edits, out of focus attacks and off screen eviscerations. In the end, the MPAA’s bloody fingerprints left the writing on the wall. Paramount’s next big smash hit had total box office receipts less than FRIDAY THE 13TH had made on its opening weekend. And thus the legend of MY BLOODY VALENTINE was born.
The cult of MY BLOODY VALENTINE is a strange beast. To this day, the film survives in the same truncated form that left audiences disappointed back in 1981. Yet somehow, the film has transcended that to become a beloved and respected headstone in the horror graveyard.
The story begins, in similar fashion to 1981’s THE PROWLER—with a dance—a Valentine’s Dance that provides the catalyst for an event that inadvertently causes the death of several men, working the local coal mine. The lone survivor of the cave in, Harry Warren, returns one year later to the small town of Valentine’s Bluff to exact his revenge on the attendees of the annual dance—promising that if the town was to ever hold Valentine’s Day festivities again, that he would return and kill them all. 20-years later that’s exactly what happens.
When the mayor decides to hold the first Valentine’s Dance in two decades, a masked miner suddenly begins slaughtering the townsfolk in the most brutal of fashions. But, when the sheriff calls off the annual dance, a group of locals decide to have their own party. Guess who shows up?
Devoid of all the signature gore effects that were designed for the film, what MY BLOODY VALENTINE is left with is simply story—something that most horror films (specifically stalk and slash horror films) are missing. Incredibly, the story is what makes the film survive. Set in a small mining town (and shot in a real working mine) the film bears a distinct tone and authenticity about it. The location and mood recall the rural working class reality of THE DEER HUNTER. The characters feel genuine and their situations in life never feel contrived. Sure, it’s still a slasher film by all the broadest strokes of the genre brush, but at the same time MY BLOODY VALENTINE transcends the stereotypes that typify what one would immediately use to identify it. The film doesn’t engage in rules of the genre. There is no Final Girl, there are no moralistic murders, and the killer isn’t an omnipresent boogeyman or an unstoppable force of evil. The film is grounded in 100% reality. In other words….it could have happened that way—and that sets it miles apart from the realms of HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH.
Nearly 30-years after its original butchering at the hands of the MPAA, Lionsgate and Paramount have finally decided to release MY BLOODY VALENTINE in its unexpurgated form. The DVD release of the film includes options to watch the production with the formerly trimmed footage reinserted, or to watch the theatrical version and view the cuts as deleted scenes. All in all, there is one deleted scene for every death sequence in the film (a number I won’t disclose for the sake of spoilers). The deleted scenes have not been remastered so, you’ll have no problem picking out the cuts when they appear on screen, but I would suggest that if you haven’t see the film in a while, you give it a whirl one more time in its theatrical version—if only to appreciate how well it has held up for 30-years—with very little “bloody” left in the MY BLOODY VALENTINE. The footage can also be viewed with cast and crew introductions, including one in which Director George Mihalka discusses the Lennon assassination and its effect on the films post production.
The DVD release also contains the documentary BLOODLUST: MY BLOODY VALENTINE AND THE RISE OF THE SLASHER FILM. The first half of this featurette is dedicated to the original film and it features interviews with Director Mihalka, writer John Beaird as well as cast members Neil Affleck and Helene Udy as well as several others including Going to Pieces author Adam Rockoff. The second half of the documentary is more of an extended EPK for the new MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D which hits theaters on January 16, 2009 (a street date obviously chosen due to the fact that February 13, 2009 is the intended release date for the remake of FRIDAY THE 13TH.) It features interviews with current stars Jamie King and Kerr Smith along with Director Patrick Lussier. By the way, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the Original MY BLOODY VALENTINE opened in Canada (where the film was shot) on Friday the 13th of February, 1981. The film takes place between Thursday the 12th and Saturday the 14th—Valentine’s Day. In 2009, those dates once again coincide.
The final special feature on the DVD is BLOODLINES: AN INTERACTIVE HORROR FILM HISTORY. This point-and-click map, traces the twisted family tree of slasher films from their Herschell Gordon Lewis beginnings to Wes Craven’s nightmares and from Kevin Williamson’s revisions to their current HOSTEL status. It’s hardly encyclopedic and one would be better serviced by visiting innumerable websites on the subject or simply reading Adam Rockoff’s book. But still, it’s a nice and neat little introductory package about the history of the Slasher Film.
It may have taken 30-years for fans of MY BLOODY VALENTINE to finally get the blood that the film initially promised, and anyone who has ever said a bad word about remakes of beloved horror films should at least take a moment to step back and realize that if it weren’t for those remakes, original films like this would hardly ever see special edition DVDs—proof of that exists in the bare bones DVD edition of this very film, by the fine folks at Paramount back in 2002. So, pony up genre fans, another classic slasher film is finally getting the treatment it so long ago deserved!
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