Non Canon Review: My Bloody Valentine (1981)

FEBRUARY 13, 2008


Fuck you, Paramount. Fuck you in your mountain’s ass! The atrocity that is the Friday the 13th boxed set is nothing compared to the criminally weak treatment that My Bloody Valentine was given for its DVD release. I hope whoever decided “they don’t even need the trailer on this disc” was promptly fired and then shot for good measure. At least some of the F13 movies had commentaries and such. Christ.

See, unlike most of the other slasher films from 1981, My Bloody Valentine is actually quite good even without all of the gore. Something like The Burning or even Halloween II pretty much rely on their gore setpieces to keep viewer interest. But MBV is great fun even with almost zero splatter (with one minor exception, the only blood you see in the film is on already killed folks), all of which was removed by the MPAA (rumored to be around 9 minutes of footage!) for theatrical release, and never restored. Some of the kill scenes are rendered wholly incomprehensible, particularly the death of Howard (which is that one exception to the splatter I mentioned). Instead of, you know, what is happening, you just see a few drops hit the face of one of the heroines and then Howard’s body fall down a shaft. Huh? After about a dozen viewings now I am pretty sure that his body was hung from his neck and then thrown from above, and the impact caused his head to be severed, but when you’re talking about a genre that more or less exists primarily to showcase effects work, cutting it to the point of confusion seems a bit counterproductive.

Luckily, as mentioned, the film works without it. There is quite a lot of character development, but the film never feels slow (there are 3-4 kills by the 40 minute mark). And it’s still one of the only slasher movies with a cast of folks in their late 20s or early 30s (whether they are SUPPOSED to be teens is unknown, everyone refers to them as “kids” but maybe that’s just Canadian slang). I also consider Chief Newby, despite his stupid name, one of the best slasher movie cops ever, up there with Sheriff Garris in F13 part 6 and of course, the patron saint of the horror police force: Sheriff Leigh Brackett.

Also I am forever in love with Cynthia Dale, aka Patty, the hottest slasher victim ever (sorry, Vicky from F13 2):

It also works on a suspense/scare level, which is again, ironically not a strong point of any of these early 80s slashers. The scene of the Miner smashing all of the lights as he heads toward our heroines continues to impress, and the vicious attack on the poor old lady at the Laundromat (and who the hell is Jake, by the way?) is a great setpiece. I also think the mystery holds up, even on repeat viewings there aren’t a lot of “oh why didn’t I notice THAT!” moments, something that cripples Scream on a 2nd viewing (check out how many times Stu and Billy give each other weird looks).

So besides the abhorrent editing, is there anything I don’t like? Well, not really, though a couple things sort of bug me. One is the driving in this movie. Every scene of someone driving involves a car nearly swerving out of control. What the hell is up with these Canadians? I wouldn’t want to drive anywhere near a single character. Also, the accents are distracting, because they are thicker than any other Canada-lensed movie I can remember. I don’t think they ever specify that the film takes place in America or Canada (the town of Valentine Bluffs is fictional, so that’s no help), but still, hearing Axl say “We didn’t knooo waarrr you were!” sort of lessens the impact of the scene. Since they don’t say it’s Canada, I have to assume they are supposed to be Americans (don’t forget, 90% of all movies filmed in Toronto try to pass themselves off as being New York, Boston, etc). I also never got why TJ was so delighted to be climbing that ladder after finding some of his friends dead:

But those are mere distractions (and it's in my contract that I nitpick at least SOMETHING for every review). There’s nothing actually bad about the film other than the editing, and that’s the MPAA’s fault. The recent announcement of a remake is actually good news – maybe Paramount will finally get off their ass and release an uncut special edition DVD of the filjavascript:void(0)m. It’s widely considered one of the better of the genre (Tarantino himself counts it as his favorite slasher, and Entertainment Weekly called it “criminally under-appreciated”).

You may wonder why I haven’t mentioned the theme song. For 14 years now (literally half of my life!) I have been trying to find out who sang the damn thing. No one knows, and the internet doesn’t help, because if you Google “My Bloody Valentine song” all that comes up is either the Irish band or people asking about who sang it. I’ve just about had it. SOMEONE HAS TO FUCKING KNOW!!!

(*Robert Stack voice* UPDATE! Paul Zaza, the film's composer, confirmed via Email that he is both the composer and artist behind the theme song, which is titled "The Ballad of Valentine." I consider the matter closed.)

Speaking of my long association with this film, yes, I first saw it when I was 13 or 14 and have watched it every year since, on my illegal dupe, then on a VHS, and now DVD (maybe next year will be a Blu Ray?). I even wrote a treatment for a sequel when I was like 15, which would involve the staff of the mental hospital where the killer was locked up having a party and then, shockingly enough, being killed when he got out of his room (OR DID HE?). It was pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

Anyway, I hope you celebrate tonight or tomorrow with a viewing of this classic. Butchering aside, it remains the all time best non-franchise slasher movie and serves as a reminder that you don’t need to have a lot of splatter (or any, in fact) to make an effective one.

What say you?


  1. MBV is unquestionably one of my all time favorites. It spawned from that period where Canada had an output of decent slashers. I agree that the suspense always held up to multiple viewings. Few films can boast that - especially in the slasher genre (maybe up there with Black Christmas and, up to a point, Halloween).

    I will remain an unabashed supporter of the unrated version. Look how pleasantly The Beyond turned out.

  2. Totally agree with you on this one, BC. I think I would count this as my favorite slasher too, and the lost footage as one of my personal holy grails of horror filmdom.

    Incidentally, I always assumed they were meant to be Canadian, and that they were all meant to be in their 20s and 30s, being mine workers instead of high school students. And the dude's delighted to be climbing that ladder because he thinks that he's escaping the grisly fate his "friends" just suffered.

    There are so many great things about this movie, I don't know why it's not lauded more. The setting is unique, and is actually used to fantastic effect--I once toyed with a critical piece on the film that compared the characters' descent into the mine as a throwback to the classical Greek stories where the heroes must go down into the Underworld to face its horrors. Of course a toga party in the mine would have solidified that, but I guess you can't have everything.

    And the Ballad of the Film has to be the greatest thing ever. Even better than Madman's "The Ballad of Madman Marz," which is none too shabby itself.

  3. I dig the film too, but enough with the cheap shots against The Burning! I actually like the film with or without gore, I just like most of the kids. Of course, anyone who likes the movie must like the kids at least a little, there is a long stretch without a murder.

    If I still lived in the same country as you, I'd kick you in the nuts every time you take an unnecessary cheap shot at The Burning.

  4. Sorry Carl... The Burning just aint that good. Prowler kicks its ass.

  5. I agree that the Prowler is the better film, but I still enjoy the Burning. It's got Jason Alexander!

  6. I remember The Burning being quite good - but it was back in about 1985 when I saw it. May be worth a re-visit....

  7. That may be Lee Bach, Canadian country songwriter, performing "The Legend of Valentine's Day" at the end. (This Japanese-language site may have more links of interest.)

  8. I think I might have commented on this movie before through another movie post, but in 6th Grade I actually went as the killer for Halloween. The school would not let me bring my pick axe to school so I carried a little gem pick instead, and of course no one knew who I was. The scene where the guy is setting up the dummy is awesome, and there has never been any better foreshadowing than the boiling hot dog pot! Great movie.

  9. I have to say I'm a big fan of the 80s slashers, but this movie just didn't do it for me. I don't even think the MPAA cuts restored would help it for me. The killer looks great, but beyond that I wasn't feeling it like a Friday the 13th part 3 (which I love).

    By the way I have an mp3 of the MBV main theme. The artist is Paul Zaza. I'll try to get that posted to my blog in the next day or so for your enjoyment. Great tune, better than the movie itself.

  10. So i saw the trailer for the 3D remake of this movie...
    and i have to say it looks like its going to be an interesting movie.

  11. I assume it is meant to be set in Nova Scotia. The setting looks exactly like my home (mining) town. If you are Canadian, you can see enough little giveaways to NS, like Moosehead beer and the licence plates. It's much like how you can tell Happy Birthday To Me is very much set in Quebec. My tax dollars at work!

  12. Oh, and the accents are thick because it's the maritimes, kinda like how a Boston accent is distinct from generic "American".

  13. Holy crap!

  14. Holy crap indeed! Lucky goddamn Canadians!!!

  15. Good things come to those who wait. So, I just watched MBV for the very first time, and lucky me, I got to see the January 2009 cut of the film. This means that my first exposure to the film was the way it was intended (sans the whole big screen thing). I was very impressed! It funny hearing your review that this thing was pretty much bloodless, when seeing this version if the film is sooo bloody. I mean, it's not like Inside or anything, but for a film from 81, it pretty damn gory. The director even mentioned that the effects were the main reason for doing the film (or something like that). My two personal favorites were the pick under the chin and out the eye, and shower head through the head. Awesome effects.

    So the movie was remarkable in that it introduced a very different backdrop than most slashers. The mine was a brilliant idea!

    I really liked the characters. The love triangle worked pretty well. I pretty much figured out that Alex was the killer early on. But then I started wondering if it were T.J. (even though he obviously had the wrong physique). They probably could have squeezed more red herring wonder if T.J. had a similar physique to Alex's.

    There was definitely strong suspense. I watched Child's Play 2 & 3 last night and never felt any suspense (the animatronics and Brad Dourif are the only draw there), so it was nice to feel a strong, foreboding atmosphere.

    Had this film remained untouched, it'd've gone down in history as one of the best for effects.


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