Dir. George Mihalka
Reviewer. Dan Cook
It isn’t kind to play with someone’s heart on Valentines Day - especially if you’ve just ripped it out with a pickaxe. Released in 1981 during the height of the post-FRIDAY THE 13TH slasher boom, George Mihalka’s seasonal cult classic MY BLOODY VALENTINE is one of the most notorious entries in the entire subgenre. However, this isn’t due to its violence or gore but rather the distinct lack of it.
Savaged by the censors who were sensitive to on-screen violence (a sensitivity provoked, according to director Mihalka, by the murder of John Lennon a few months months prior), an astonishing 9 minutes of cuts were made to the film, leading to the omission of almost all of the bloodletting, impalings, gougings and other such gruesome joys in which the other slashers of the time were able to revel. Even today, MY BLOODY VALENTINE is only available in a heavily edited version here in the UK, with some of its nastiest moments, sadly for genre fans, completely lost to the annals of celluloid history.
However, while it is unable to reach the gory heights of many of its genre contemporaries, MY BLOODY VALENTINE still manages to be a thrilling and atmospheric slice of Canadian exploitation, with some strong performances, inventive deaths and cinematography that makes the very most of its relatively small yet memorable location. Set in the misty mining town of Valentines Bluff, the film tells the story of a group of people terrorised by a pickaxe-wielding psychopath who, having committed a series of atrocious murders 20 years before, has seemingly returned to his hometown to continue his gruesome quest for revenge.
Plotwise, MY BLOODY VALENTINE is very similar to many of the other slashers of the time, with a town being haunted by the memory of a tragedy and the stupidity of a group of kids inadvertently bringing the nightmare back. However, while it does follow many of the conventions set down by the glut of gory horrors that followed in the wake of Sean S. Cunningham’s influential hit, MY BLOODY VALENTINE stands out from the crowd and actually turns out to be a very entertaining watch thanks to some very enjoyable slasher set pieces, its uncharacteristically likeable characters, it’s consistently acerbic tone, a terrifyingly claustrophobic final act underground and a story that plays out like the most horrifying of urban myths. If you’re a fan of slasher movies, then MY BLOODY VALENTINE is a must see - but only in its most intact form. Oh, and if you received a heart shaped box of chocolates this year, think twice before opening it!