My Blood Valentine (original and 3D remake)
Valentine’s Day is a special time of year. It’s a holiday that I’m pretty sure was the result of greeting card companies, candy makers, and flower shop owners colluding to sell their merchandise, perpetuated by television networks and movie producers creating shows and movies to keep the spirit of the fatuous holiday alive long enough for them to make money from advertisements taken out by the aforementioned companies. And of course, I fall for this crap every year anyway. Damn you Hollywood! I’ve watched your formulaic rom-coms and they warmed my atavistic, twisted heart. When I’ve had girlfriends to share the holiday with, I buy them flowers and chocolates and take them out to those cheesy movies, because I’m really just an old school romantic, a big softy who likes taking advantage of the holiday to treat a lady special. Of course, there are also ample benefits for romantic gestures, which is incidentally why I don’t try to limit them to once a year. However, this year I’m without a sweetheart and unlike most Valentine’s Day naysayers I’m not bitter in the least about it, because I have the next best thing…gory slasher movies about people getting killed on Valentine’s Day!
My Bloody Valentine and its remake, My Blood Valentine 3D are part of that weirdly specific subgenre of holiday slasher movies. I’m not sure what it is about slasher movies – or horror movies in general for that matter – but slasher movies are prone to gimmicks. My guess is that the slasher genre is prone to gimmicks, because it has a fairly simple but rigid formula and requires something overtly novel to distinguish it from every other movie of its ilk. With the original My Bloody Valentine coming out after Halloween, Friday the 13th, and a slew of imitators, it’s not surprising that it was formulated around Valentine’s Day to set it apart from the other movies. Each movie plays it for all it’s worth too, because the killer cuts out people’s hearts and puts them in heart-shaped chocolate boxes. Plus, both movies have gruesome parodies of Valentine’s Day cards. In the original, the killer leaves a Valentine for a woman that reads, “Roses are red/ Violets are blue/ One is dead/ And so are you.” In the remake, the killer paints “Be mine 4ever” and a cartoon heart in blood over a victim’s body. Both My Bloody Valentine movies may be using a gimmick based on a holiday, but they’re delightfully gruesome and effective when using it.
However, My Bloody Valentine also staked its claim on an interesting new setting and killer, so it’s novelty doesn’t just rely on the holiday. The killer in both My Bloody Valentine movies is a miner in a gas mask, who wields a pickaxe as a weapon. The gas mask is depersonalizing, which makes the killer scarier, and the pickaxe serves as an iconic weapon, like Jason Voorhees’s machete or Michael Myers’s knife. The setting is also unique in that it takes place in a mining town, but has its scariest sequences in the mine. The original movie in particular makes the mine look dark and claustrophobic, an ideal setting for a crazed killer to stalk teenagers. My Bloody Valentine 3D also had the added benefit of being a 3D film, a gimmick which it plays up as often as possible with the pickaxe and the occasional flying bit of gore moving toward the screen; unfortunately, the CGI looks a bit ugly and obvious when you’re watching it in 2D. Furthermore, the My Bloody Valentine remake was 3D before it was cool…again, because it came out after Avatar repopularized 3D film.
Although My Bloody Valentine 3D is technically a remake of the 1981 film, the two films are substantially different in terms of story and tone. The original My Blood Valentine is about a mining town that’s hosting its first Valentine’s Day dance in twenty years. Twenty years ago, there was an explosion in the mine, because two supervisors failed to check the methane levels in their hurry to get to the Valentine’s Day dance. Five men were buried but only one survived, Harry Warden, who resulted to cannibalism to stay alive. One year later, Harry returned to kill the two supervisors, putting their hearts in heart-shaped chocolate boxes and warning everyone that he would come back if the town ever had another Valentine’s Day dance. Unfortunately, the Harry Warden seems to be keeping his words, because several people die before the day of the dance. The local kids pay no heed to the old timers’ warning about Harry Warden, and they decide to have a party in secret on Valentine’s Day at the mine. Of course, the teens/young adults are killed off by a masked miner, whom they presume is Harry Warden. However, it turns out that it’s one of the young adults, who witnessed Harry Warden kill his father. There’s a final fight between the kids and the killer, but the killer manages to escape after the roof collapses on him, and he vows that Harry Warden will have his revenge.
My Bloody Valentine 3D takes the same basic premise involving an angry miner named Harry Warden, but little else from the previous movie. The explosion is the fault of the mine owner’s son, Tom Hanniger, and Harry goes on a murderous rampage trying to kill Tom before he’s shot and ostensibly killed by the police. The movie then flashes forward ten years, and Tom is back in town to sell the mine; naturally, all the miners are pissed off about this. Coinciding with Tom’s return to town, a masked miner has begun murdering people, leading the police to believe that Tom is the killer. In a somewhat odd move, Tom decides against selling the mine in favor of staying in town to investigate the murders, which he believes are connected to Harry Warden. At least, the decision would seem odd if it weren’t for the fact that Tom’s clearly staying in town to reconnect with his former girlfriend, Sarah, despite the fact that she’s married to Axel, the town sheriff. Although this kind of love triangle existed in the original film – Jesse Hanniger leaves town and comes back to find his former girlfriend, Sarah, dating Axel – the love triangle in this film is used to highlight what was only a latent ambiguity about the killer in the original film. There are some doubts in the original film that the real killer is Harry Warden, so the competing lovers, Jesse and Axel, seem like likely candidates for the gas-mask-wearing killer, but it’s not fully explored. My Bloody Valentine 3D brings that latent tension to the forefront and creates a situation where Sarah is unsure whether to trust Axel, her husband, or Tom, her former boyfriend.
Each My Blood Valentine is a pretty solid horror film, and I can at least say for myself that I’m feeling the romantic mood of the holiday. There’s just something about half-melted corpses stuffed in dryers and pick-axe wielding maniacs that chase naked ladies at hotels that makes me want to give someone a hug and a kiss…oh god, that makes me sound like a serial killer. Anyhow, happy Valentine’s Day everybody! I hope your evenings are romantic and free of surprise eye-gougings.