Lionsgate // 1981 // 93 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // November 24th, 2009
Cross your heart...and hope to die.
Hitting theaters in 1981, My Bloody Valentine sticks closely to the slasher flick formula established by John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) and solidified by Sean S. Cunningham's Friday the 13th (1980). Set in a Canadian mining town called Valentine Bluff, the movie is about a close-knit group of young miners about to throw a Valentine's Day party -- the first the town has seen in two decades. Twenty years before, on Valentine's Day, a methane explosion trapped five miners. Only one survived: Harry Warden. After his rescue, Warden was committed to an asylum but escaped the following year, returned to the town, and used a pickaxe to murder everyone at the annual Valentine's Day shindig. The town's old-timers aren't keen on another Valentine's party, but the miners, too young to remember Warden's rampage, press on anyway. Among the miners is the mayor's son T.J. Hanniger (Paul Kelman, Black Roses), newly returned to Valentine Bluff after trying and failing to find success outside of his cloistered hometown. T.J.'s ex-girlfriend, Sarah (Lori Hallier, Heartstopper) is now with Axel Palmer (Neil Affleck, Scanners), creating a rivalry between the former best friends and a palpable tension among the entire group of miners. As the night of the party draws near, police chief Newby (Don Francks, The Star Wars Holiday Special) and Mayor Hanniger (Larry Reynolds, PCU) receive a heart-shaped candy box containing a human heart -- Harry Warden's ominous calling card. Has the deadly miner returned or is some other macabre plot afoot?
Like the slew of other slasher pictures made in the 1980s, My Bloody Valentine concerns a faceless killer and a group of young people isolated and ready to be served up for gruesome and creative deaths. The kids are walking stereotypes -- T.J. is the sullen rebel, Axel the small-town regular Joe with an inferiority complex, and Sarah the hot girl everyone wants. There's even a zany comedian (played with gusto by Alf Humphries, The Uninvited) whose jokes about snorting coke (through a straw poked in his drink can) make one hope with fingers crossed for a brutal pickaxe murder in the character's near future. The acting ranges from competent to utterly atrocious. The plot barely holds together. None of these flaws matter, though, because the kills are creative and, more important, the movie packs a wealth of local charm. Shot in a Nova Scotia mining town, the locale is grittier and more textured than any studio-bound set. The actors aren't much better than community theater players, but their average looks and thick Canadian accents represent a welcome return to a simpler time when horror movies weren't peopled with cover models and cast members from teen dramedies on the CW network (see, My Bloody Valentine 3D). The small town miners in My Bloody Valentine look like small town miners. Scenes in which they share beers in a local watering hole convey a genuine, good-natured camaraderie. That easy-going charm is paid off with some truly inventive kills that include an eyeball bursting from its socket, a shower nozzle through the back of the head, and a full-faced plunge into a stock pot full of boiling wieners. My Bloody Valentine isn't a great movie, but its '80s slasher charms easily outweigh its shortcomings.
When released in theaters in 1981, My Bloody Valentine's gory content was significantly cut back by Paramount, who, according to director George Mihalka (Bullet to Beijing), were still gun shy from the critical backlash aimed at Friday the 13th, released the previous year. The movie was finally released on DVD with its original blood and guts effects restored early in 2009. It is that Special Edition release that is the basis for this Blu-ray edition. Like the DVD, the BD contains both the original theatrical cut of the movie as well as the bloodier uncut version, which runs three minutes longer. Image quality is astonishingly good. Colors are natural but fully saturated. Black levels are excellent, while shadow range is supple enough that detail isn't lost to black crush. The image isn't slick or crisply detailed like a modern production, but it offers a clean and accurate reproduction of a flick shot with early '80s technology. The material reincorporated for the uncut version consists primarily of gory extensions to the many kills. They add to the movie's bloody fun, though their quality is noticeably inferior to the material from the theatrical cut, displaying weaker colors and coarser grain. All things considered, the new material doesn't look bad, though. It's certainly a welcome addition to the disc.
The original analog mono track is presented in a two-channel mono mix as well as a DTS-HD 5.1 expansion. The surround mix is far from reference quality but it's a decent upgrade of an old and limited source. Dynamic range is cramped and most of the dialogue and effects sit in the front soundstage, but the audio is free of snaps, crackles, and pops.
The Blu-ray contains the same batch of extras as the previously released DVD. The scenes added back to the uncut version of the movie are presented in a separate featurette with introductions by Mihalka and other members of the cast and crew. "Bloodlust: My Bloody Valentine and the Rise of the Slasher Film" is a 20-minute featurette that explores the history of slasher films and the making of My Bloody Valentine. "Bloodlines: An Interactive Horror Film History" is a lame, text-based extra that delivers note card-sized blurbs about various slasher subgenres, from thrillers to gialli.
There are no HD exclusives.
My Bloody Valentine is a fun little excursion down memory lane for anyone who grew up on '80s slasher flicks. For all others, it's a quaint relic of the past. With a more film-like image, the Blu-ray is perfect for anyone looking to buy the movie for the first time. Given the absence of new extras, the BD's slightly improved image makes it a poor upgrade candidate for anyone who already owns the Special Edition DVD.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical and Uncut Versions
* Deleted Scenes
* Horror History