The thirtieth entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series is George Mihalka’s My Bloody Valentine (1981). This holiday-themed slasher tells the tale of miner Harry Warden, who was the sole survivor of a mine explosion on Valentine’s Day. After the deadly incident, Warden had to resort to cannibalism while waiting to be rescued and lost his mind. The town of Valentine Bluffs bans the annual Valentine’s Day dance following the disaster. Twenty years later, the young townspeople have decided to hold the dance again. Sarah (Lori Hallier) is also involved in a complicated love triangle with TJ (Paul Kelman) and Axel (Neil Affleck). When murders start taking place throughout town, the mayor decides to cancel the dance. The disappointed youth decide to have a party at the mining company canteen, anyhow. Could Harry Warden really be back to take revenge on the town that left him trapped in a mine twenty years ago? Will Sarah be able to choose the love of her life? Will any of them live to see another day?
The film does an excellent job of creating a sense of the holiday at the heart of its narrative. The storefronts in town, as well as many interior locations, are decorated in fun holiday displays. I always just love seeing holiday decorations from different decades. That is something that I always love about films set at Halloween, as well. You get to see all of the kitschy holiday decorations, and that is always a fun time. The film also features a folksy song entitled “The Ballad of Harry Warden” that adds a level of mythology and storytelling to the narrative. Everyone in town is familiar with the story of Harry Warden, so the song has become an embedded part of life in Valentine’s Bluff. Instead of simply being a creepy story told around campfires, Warden’s backstory has developed into a musical folktale.
The main draw of My Bloody Valentine is definitely the location and how it is so thoroughly integrated into the story. The small Canadian mining town serves as a perfect setting for this slasher. The small-town aesthetic is incredibly charming and also encourages the young folks to rebel against the adults in town. The most effective location of the film is easily the mine, however. Filming in an operational coal mine, Milhalka truly takes advantage of the eerie and dark corridors that create a labyrinthine effect that disorients the victims of the miner. It contrasts so nicely with the tidy appearance of the small town, as well, that the darker sequences become all the more engaging.
The film also features some tremendous death sequences that definitely set the film apart from the majority of its peers of the time. There are just so many iconic horror moments tucked away in this little film. One particular favorite of mine is the death of one of the partygoers in a crockpot full of hotdog water in the canteen kitchen. You just don’t really get more iconic than that. While that sequence may be quite comedic, the film also features many sequences in the mine that feature quite shocking practical gore effects.
Through its excellent use of location, its innovative death sequences, and the simple fact that there is a theme song for Harry Warden, My Bloody Valentine proves to be an excellent addition to your movie marathons this Spooky Season. While it is obviously required viewing on Valentine’s Day, this slasher is a great watch at any time of the year!
My Bloody Valentine can be streamed with membership on the Hulu, Paramount+, DirecTV, and Epix apps. It can also be rented on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube, and Vudu. The Shout! Factory blu-ray, which features a fantastic restoration and an extended version of the film, can be purchased HERE.
I’ll be back tomorrow with the final entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!