Home Video Hovel: My Bloody Valentine, by David Bax
In an effort–a massively successful one or a complete failure depending on whom you ask and what sort of movies you value–to boost film production in the country, the Canadian government offered, from 1975 to 1982, to make any investment in Canadian films fully tax deductible. Many, many of the resulting “Canuxploitation” boom were horror flicks, sex comedies or entries in other, similarly disreputable genres. This tax shelter law gave us Shivers, Prom Night and one of my personal favorite horror movies of all time, Black Christmas. And it gave us George Mihalka’s notoriously gory 1981 delight My Bloody Valentine (out now on Blu-ray from Scream Factory), as drenched in blood as it is in Molson, denim and “sore-y”s.
In a tiny Novia Scotian mining town called Valentine Bluff, Valentine’s Day used to be a big deal. That all changed twenty years before our story begins when a cave-in on the holiday drove a miner insane and turned him into a deranged killer after he was rescued. Two decades later, though, the memory is starting to wear off and plans to reinstate the annual dance are underway. Until, that is, bodies start turning up, mutilated in the same way they were by the murderous mineworker. On top of all this, screenwriters Stephen Miller (no, not him) and John Beaird lay a surprising engaging love triangle plot among local beauty Sarah (Lori Hallier) and two young miners, the jockish Axel (Neil Affleck) and bad boy T.J. (Paul Kelman).
Mihalka makes it clear to the viewer what kind of movie this is from the jump. No slow burn, My Bloody Valentine‘s prologue has bared breasts and an impalement before you’ve swallowed your first fistful of popcorn. If that sounds like lazy filmmaking, though, Mihalka disabuses the viewer of any such assumptions by making the absolute most of his setting. Every implementation and more that you can think of for a mine setting are exploited, from creepy stuff like the killer hiding among the workers’ doffed and hanging overalls to creative make-up effects having to do with the specific angle and length of a pick-axe. The splatter of blood and guts never becomes redundant.
Under the piles of viscera, My Bloody Valentine, intentionally or not, contains observations about generational memory. To the town elders, the slayings of twenty years prior are still fresh memories. But to the young and horny, they might as well be ancient history. You know what they say in Canada. Those who forget history are doomed to have their hearts cut out of their chest and delivered to the sheriff in a festive candy box. Or something like that.
Cheap as the tax shelter films may have been, cinematographer Rodney Gibbons brings nuance, texture and depth to both the festive town above and the shadowy mines below. Scream Factory’s new 4K scan of the original negative preserves his effort in shockingly clean, sharp and vibrant detail. The stereo audio is clear and full.
Scream Factory went all out on the two-disc set, which has many, many special features, most of them brand new. They include both the theatrical and “uncut” version (the latter has a video intro by Mihalka), interviews with Mihalka, Kelman, Hallier, Affleck, actress Helene Udy (whose Sylvia gets one of the most memorably disgusting death scenes), actor Rob Stein (he plays the poor guy who discovers Sylvia’s corpse) and make-up designer Tom Burman; a featurette on the differences between the two versions; a commentary by Mihalka; and footage from the 35th anniversay reunion at the Bay of Blood convention.