1981 – R/Unrated – Paramount
90 (R)/93 (Unrated) Minutes – Starring Neil Affleck, Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier – Directed by George Mihalka
For every season, there is a holiday and for every holiday, there is a horror film and Valentine’s Day is no exception. Yes, even the patron saint of overpriced flowers and chocolates so you can look like the world’s best boyfriend for a nanosecond has a slasher flick for his special day. Given the easily playable theme of love and romantic getaways, I’m surprised there aren’t more Valentine Day horror themed movies (the only one coming to mind at the moment is that late 90’s Scream knock off, Valentine). However, the “holiday” does have perhaps one of the earliest and better Friday the 13th clones simply known as My Bloody Valentine, one of the finer things to come out of Canada.
I mean, it’s the perfect setting for a horror film; everything is drenched in shades of red, the theme of the roses and love, hearts… it presents itself full of opportunities for some scares, so how does it play out in this film?
The movie opens in a coal mine (there you go, that’s your connection right there… right?) as two people in miner suits, masks and overalls, seem to be alone. One of them strips to reveal that they are a blonde bombshell, which is fortunate for us, because I don’t think anyone would have wanted to see a dirty, hairy man strip down to his drawers . She tries to undress him, starting with his mask, which he rejects, but she continues her seduction anyway. Gotta say, she makes teasing a gas mask look sexy. His breathing becomes heavy and erratic, until he lifts her off the ground and slams her on a pick ax he previously stuck in the wall next to them. As she screams, a cool little animated intro drips blood as creepy music box type of melody plays over it, reminding you of the the Silent Night, Deadly Night title card.
After that, we see it’s Thursday, February 12… get it? Because it’s a Paramount film and they own Friday the 13th… Anyway, all of the men are rushing out of work at the mines to the rec center to meet their gals who are setting up for the big Valentine’s Dance. Normally, something like this wouldn’t be such a big deal to you kids with your iPads and hula hoops, but to the small town of Valentine’s Bluff, it’s the main attraction. Especially seeing as how this is the first dance in twenty years since the night Harry Warden’s killing spree.
You see, a couple of eager beaver supervisors decided to split early before checking methane levels and there was an explosion, trapping five miners down below deep in the mines. Only one man, Harry Warden was finally rescued, having eaten the other miners to survive. One year later, Harry took his revenge on the supervisors, carving out their hearts and putting them in heart shaped candy boxes, warning the townspeople for years to come to never have a dance ever again… ever! Looks like high school drama club is finally paying off.
Speaking of drama club, what would a slasher movie about Valentine’s Day be without a love triangle? TJ returns to his hometown, mostly to hang out in the corner of the room sipping a beer and smoking Marbs, after several years of being away on the west coast to find his girlfriend Sarah is now in the arms of Axel, who has the most animated lips of anyone speaking I have ever seen. It’s a classic pissing contest between these two as Sarah sits idly by moping and doing what she is told, because apparently this is the old West as two men battle for the affection of a woman.
So you may be able to see why it’s a big deal (hey c’mon, this was before the internet… what else were they supposed to do?) about the dance. With Harry locked up in the loony bin, dear old Mabel and the gals are working around the clock to make the dance look better than it’s ever been. This means hanging up streamers and construction paper hearts and… well, that’s pretty much it. But soon, the Mayor receives a heart shaped box with a human heart inside, along with a warning to cancel the dance. It appears that Harry Warden is back!
That night as Mabel works at her laundromat, she is attacked by someone in miner gear. The next day, Chief Newby stops in to gets his pants pressed or whatever laundry business he has, when he finds Mabel stuffed inside a tumbling dryer, burnt to a crisp. Trying not to cause a panic, Newby and the Mayor announce Mabel had died from a heart attack (well, they are halfway right…). Newby calls the mental institution where Harry Warden was locked up and they just so happen to no longer have any records of him being there. Gee, what are the odds? Finally heeding the warning, the dance is cancelled, but do kids ever listen? Our group of promiscuous teens decide they are going to have a dance after all and have it at the mine, because that sounds totally safe. But soon they will learn their lesson, one by one.
Even the crotchety old bartender doesn’t want the kids having their dance, as he over hears their plans. Wanting to trick the kids using the urban legend of Harry Warden, he brilliantly sets up a scarecrow type of miner, rigged to a door that raises a pick ax upon opening. Wow, between planning this idea and executing it, this man certainly has a lot of spare time. But it’s all taken down in a matter of seconds, as he drunkenly giggles to himself testing out his gag and who should be standing there, but Harry Warden, driving his pick ax through the bottom of the bartender’s jaw, popping out one of his eyeballs in what is probably the goriest effect in the whole movie and is it satisfying. But the killing, and visceral death sequences, don’t stop there.
Now it’s the time of the big dance, where TJ and Axel finally have it out over Sarah in a true beer drinking, chest thumping, sports fan kind of way… fist fighting. After the fight, Axel storms off, opening a beer in the most dramatic way possible and chugging it. Now that the happy mood is killed (along with a few of the party goers), a small group, including Sarah decide to go down into the mines to get their minds of that neanderthal way claiming women as property, but Harry Warden follows them down and his cover is blown when the kids come across a few dead bodies. Finding Axel, TJ devises a plan to go down into the mines to rescue Sarah, but as the Newby makes his way to the crime scene, he receives some disturbing and interesting news… there were no records of Harry Warden because he died a few years prior. So if it’s not Harry, then who is assuming his identity and carrying out his vengeance?
After Axel falls into water, seemingly drowning, TJ finds what’s left of the group as he and Sarah are now chased by Harry Warden, only it’s not Harry. After being pinned by rocks after they fall from the ceiling, it is revealed to be none other than Axel! It turns out, Axel’s father was one of the supervisors that was responsible for mine explosion and after witnessing his father being killed when he was a boy, it snapped his fragile little mind. Before being caught, Axel saws his own arm off to free himself from being trapped in the rocks, swearing to return and get his revenge! Hey, if you can saw your own arm off in an escape attempt, you deserve to get away and have revenge.
A sequel was proposed, but unfortunately never made due to poor box office results, which is a bummer seeing as how this is a really decent slasher flick. Although it’s one of the many that are considered to be a Friday the 13th “clone,” I would say it has more than enough substance and story to be considered one of the more original “clones” in Friday’s shadow, enough to stand on its own, even if it does share a lot of similarities, like the prophet of doom character, a masked killer who suffered the loss of a family member, creative and over the top kills… okay, so they are pretty similar.
Luckily, the most readily available version of the film is the uncut version with the deleted scenes edited back into the film. But since they all came from different sources or Lionsgate didn’t feel like putting the money into it, they aren’t remastered in HD or cleaned up too well, but if you ask me, I think it the aged look gives it a nice touch. So, remember all those graphic and spectacular special effects and kills I’ve been talking about? Yeah, those aren’t in the R rated version. I suppose I could pick on it a bit for being a Canadian film, but I have a new found soft spot for Canada… So cuddle up with the one you love and watch horny teens get murdered, because nothing else says, “I love you.”