Valentine's Day Slashers!
It's that time of year again when love is in the air. Young people look toward spring with affection and hopefulness. Love blossoms like spring flowers. There is excitement. There is merrymaking. Hands are held. Cheeks flush with sweet anticipation. First kisses. Hands roaming. Human hearts ripped from unsuspecting victims and stuffed in heart shaped candy boxes.
Ah, Valentine's Day. A time for new love. A time for renewed love. A time for trapping your beloved in a gonzo hospital and torturing the snot out of her all night by killing all the people around her.
What better time than Valentine's Day to avenge those hateful middle school girls who have made your life a living hell?
My Bloody Valentine design copyrighted by Fright Rags
Valentine's Day has proven time and again that it is one of the more reliable holidays to stage a slasher movie. Everything is there, decorations, rambunctious horny teens, alcohol, greeting cards, parties, a Cupid character to use as a mask if needed.
The best of the Valentine's Day slashers, without question, is George Mihalka's 1981 slasher My Bloody Valentine.
The small mining town of Valentine's Bluff, U.S.A. (really Canada) suffers a cave in on the cusp of the 1981 Valentine's Day dance. Miners are trapped in the Hanniger mine but the big bosses left early to make it to the town's holiday celebration so they could drink, laugh loudly and probably chase a few skirts around for a roll in the hay.
One miner, Harry Warden, survives the cave in by cannibalizing his fellow miners. By the time they find poor Harry, he's lost his damn mind.
Fast-forward twenty years and we meet a bunch of new young miners (one the son of miner owner and town mayor) and the first Valentine's dance in twenty years is being planned.
It is obvious somebody doesn't want them to hold the dance, especially when the mayor and the sheriff get a heart shaped candy box full of human heart and a warning not to hold the dance.
The murders continue until the dance is cancelled. But these young people are horny and want to party, so they plan a party at the mine. A psycho dressed in miner's garb crashes the party. Beers + Sex = DEATH for these young horndogs.
"Harry Warden did it!"
It is for good reason that My Bloody Valentine, some forty-plus years after its release, is considered one of the great 80's slasher films. It is a tightly constructed mystery and the players are all characters, characters we care about when they are about to get murderized. The Miner has become iconic and the pickaxe has never been used to better effect in any other slasher movie. (Maybe Return of the Living Dead did the pickaxe-head-slam a little better, but that's not a slasher movie.)
Upon its release, distributor Paramount Pictures had to cut all the gore out of the film. A year earlier, Paramount released Friday the 13th and the slasher violence enraged everyone except the teen horror fans who made it a hit. Everyone was up in arms that this little slasher flick was so gory, so the MPAA was really brutal in their treatment of MBV. The film was hacked worst than the job Harry did on the characters in the movie.
It's to My Bloody Valentine's credit that even without the gore it was still a good damn movie, mainly because of the characters and that they had more to do than just stand around with a number on their back waiting to die. It always got a pass by gorehounds on the basis of being a solid flick. The story of the hacked scenes became legend, and when those scenes were finally reinstated in the movie upon its Special Edition DVD and Blu-ray release in 2009, the film was finally seen as it was intended. It is a fine achievement in slasher filmmaking.
I think I first saw it on Commander U.S.A. one Saturday afternoon on a double feature with The Children (1980). (Or it could have been Friday the 13th, which makes more sense, but for some reason it is burned in my memory that the co-feature was The Children.) Edited further, it was still a great movie.
In the U.K. My Bloody Valentine was released on a double feature with Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse. In some U.S. theaters, My Bloody Valentine was paired on a double bill with the year's previous holiday slasher, New Year's Evil from Cannon. Either slasher double feature seems worth the price of a ticket. (A few short years later, Hooper's film would be confused with a Roger Watkins film and be slapped with the label "Video Nasty.")
Cannon's 1981 slasher X-Ray never got the attention it probably deserved in theaters, but it built a reputation via cable viewings and home video. Part of the issue might have been the plethora of titles this movie was released under, including Ward 13, Hospital Massacre and Be My Valentine...or Else.
Once enough lil' slash-heads figured out that the fifteen different movies featuring Barbi Benton trapped in the hospital were all the same movie, the flick began being remembered. And it is mostly remembered for one thing, a long uncomfortable examination where Barbi strips to her skivvies and has a doctor "check her out." As a teenage boy, this was an exciting moment in our cinematic learning, as we were all familiar with Barbi from her appearances in Playboy, and here she was, in all her naked glory. Watching it now, years later, well... it's just creepy.
The story: when Barbi was in middle school, she was mean to a kid named Harold on Valentine's Day. It resulted in the death of another kid. Now, 19 years later, it seems she is the target of a mad slasher in City Hospital. There is some early suspense, until that suspense is diluted by the fact that every geek in the building proves to be a suspect.
The British Quad ads a top, security strap and high heels to the film's most disturbing scene.
Israel born director Boaz Davidson proves early on to have very little grasp of either the American way of life or the Hallmark Card holiday of Valentine's Day. His depiction of two kids playing Valentine's Day Train and sharing a Valentine's Day Cake create an instant bizarro world where the movie takes place. Later, when Barbi is trapped within the hospital, time stops and all the weird shit that happens is acceptable because we know we are not dealing with real life. (And it gets weird, man. Real weird. There are weird exterminators, a weird custodian, weird sawbones, weird wards full of spastic mummies, a weird trio of old women and one, I swear, is a man in drag, weird patients who wander through the halls eating hamburgers. This movie is like getting drunk but without the benefit of alcohol.)
I remember X-Ray playing on HBO (maybe Showtime?) as Ward 13. I didn't catch up with it until I found it available on VHS courtesy MGM/UA as Hospital Massacre. This was one of those glorious big box releases that stood out from the rest of the pack. Usually, back in the day (and I'm speaking about the mom-and-pop era in the 80's, not the "Suck-all-the -fun-out-of-it-and-kill-an-industry" era of 90's Blockbuster) the way video shops were set up, the walls were lined with 1X4s attached to paneled walls with shelf brackets. They held no weight so they were cheaply made. Only enough room was allowed between shelves for maximizing space. (Movie boxes were displayed face out, not spine out.) All the big boxes lined the top shelf an that was always the most glorious shelf in the shop! All those giant MGM/UA, early Warner, Wizard, Thriller, Unicorn, Paragon and Super Video, and all the rest, commanded your attention when you walked up to the horror section!
It seemed like a long damn time before we had another Valentine slasher. I've racked my brains trying to think of some SOV Valentine slasher but I keep coming up with nothing. But anyway, this gets us to 2001 and Jamie Blanks' slasher offering Valentine.
After Scream was a hit in 1996, slasher movies had a resurgence and one of the earlier hits was his 1998 Urban Legends. The Aussie born Blanks was a fan of slashers, making a perfect filmmaker for the job, and his follow-up, Valentine, was met with much expectation.
On all counts, Valentine proved an excellent slasher film with huge production value, a great cast, some brutal kills and lots of references to past slasher movies. (The most slasher savvy viewers, however, were able to figure out who the killer was easy enough, partly thanks to Jack Shoulder's Alone in the Dark.)
It was a return to the killer moving among the partygoers of My Bloody Valentine with a cast of tough, beautiful women who were determined not to die, but, you know...slasher movie. It also had a great trailer with a scene not in the movie, reminiscent of early 80's slasher trailers like Happy Birthday to Me and He Knows Your're Alone.
I saw Valentine during it's theatrical release and really adored it for embracing all the tropes of the genre. It understood what a slasher was and what a slasher had to deliver for fans. I don't think it was the hit everyone expected, as the slashers were falling out of favor in the early aughts, having run to the end of their cycle.
Much like other fans my age, who grew up watching slasher films on cable and VHS/Beta, I just about lost my damn mind when they announced the remake for My Bloody Valentine. No, I didn't take to the Interwebs to cuss and complain, but anyone who asked me "What's wrong, dude? You look upset," I told them with all the venom and passion I could muster. "They're remaking one of the greatest slasher movies from the 1980's! They're killing my childhood!"
And, by God, when it was released in 2009, I was one of the first people in line to buy a ticket. (Do you remember going to a theater and standing in line, even if just behind one other person? Remember paper tickets?)
I was also among the many people who happily ate his words about this remake, as My Bloody Valentine 3-D delivered the goods!
At the end of the aughts, there was a craze to make every movie 3-D as well as remake every movie (especially horror movie) that had ever been made and made money. This was a perfect collision of both worlds.
Writers Todd Farmer and Zane Smith, and director Patrick Lussier, understood what worked in the first film as well as slashers in general, and they kept all that stuff. Iconic killer. Check. Gory murders. Check. Likeable characters. Check. Relentless nakedness. Check. All they added was a dash of humor (and the original had some funny moments- it's what helped make the cast so likeable) and 3-D carnage and we had a winner!
The characters have been changed up but the basic story is the same and a new mystery settles in to make this just as engaging as the original. Upon your first watch, this is as much fun as the original. You can watch it just as easily in 2D and still enjoy yourself, but the 3-D presentation is outstanding. (I know, 3-D doesn't work for everybody.) When films were made with 3-D from the beginning (and not processed after the fact to cash in on the higher ticket prices) we always got something a little more special.
There is a moment when The Miner is pursuing victims from the mine massacre. The kids scurry into a pick-up truck. The Miner slings his pickaxe. The pickaxe stays in focus as it spins through the air towards its intended victims. In the truck, the axe pierces the windshield but doesn't shatter it. The point jabs right into your face, inches from your eyes! It is a perfect moment and it received a rousing spattering of applause by the crowd I saw it with. (I've since seen it at least a half a dozen times on Digital 3-D and the effect loses none of its potency on the smaller screen.)
Although not as tightly written as the original, My Bloody Valentine 3-D is a fine addition to your Valentine holiday viewing. Surprise someone you love this Valentine's Day with a special dinner, chocolates and an all-night Valentine's Day slasher movieathon!
Seriously, Nothing says "Date Movie" like a 3D RIDE TO HELL!
For even more slasher movie madness, please check out Book 2 of our cinema journal It Came From Hollywood. Our Salute to Slashers includes a look at 1981, the biggest year slashers ever had, as well as interviews with such people as Bud (The Mutilator, Mutilator 2) Cooper, Lynne (Black Christmas '74, Curtains) Griffin, Richard (Splatter University) Haines, Sandy (Halloween '78, Halloween '18) Johnson, Katherine (Sleepaway Camp, Silent Madness) Kamhi, David Howard (Terrifier, Terrifier 2) Thornton, and Mitch (Knucklebones) Wilson and a ton of other slasher material- novelizations, music, Cannon Slashers, 3-D slashers, Maniac '80 vs. Maniac '12 and a reprint of the My Bloody Valentine Press Kit and much, much more.
It Came From Hollywood Book 2, as well as all of our books, is available at these fine retailers: