First a little fear…
My Bloody Valentine (1981); Directed by George Mihalka
Quite simply, 1981 was an amazing year for horror film. Fans were treated to the first sequels of the beloved Halloween and Friday the 13th franchises.Three of the most beloved werewolf stories, An American Werewolf in London, Wolfen and The Howling, all came to life on the big screen. A little flick called The Evil Dead took us into the woods and a whole new level of low-budget scares. The Beyond, The Burning and The Prowler each started their journey toward becoming the classics they are today. But just weeks before this year of cinematic terror got rolling,singer/songwriter and co-founder of The Beatles, John Lennon,was shot to death and the world turned its back on violence both real and imagined.
One of the first films released that year was My Bloody Valentine, and its disappointing turn in the box office can be directly attributed to the moods of the moment. The MPAA chopped somewhere in the neighborhood of five full minutes from the film due to the fear of audience’s reactions. Who knows how these changes also led to a lackluster performance in theaters? But times changed as they always do, and it wasn’t long before My Bloody Valentine was becoming firmly established as a cult classic from the shelves of mom and pop rental shops across the country. This renewed and long running fan-base even led to the production of a slick and streamlined, yet inferior remake in 2009…but if you can have only ONE Valentine date this February I suggest age over beauty.
I must admit…with the success of Halloween, Friday the 13th, Terror Train (set on New Year’s Eve) and a slew of Christmas horror releases in the half-decade or so preceding, it is immediately evident that My Bloody Valentine is going to beat you over the head with the “holiday” theme. At times the filmmakers get more than a little ham-fisted in shoving the romantic holiday into every nook and cranny of the story, but truthfully it adds a certain cheesy appeal that is a large part of this film’s fun-factor.
The mining town of Valentine Bluff (yup) is about to have its first Valentine’s Day dance in twenty years. It has taken this town that long to get past the memories of its former Valentine Day tragedies. Two decades before, there was an accident in the mines…an accident that could have been prevented had the supervisors on duty not left early to get to the town’s Valentine’s dance. Four men died that night and the one survivor of the ordeal came out of the mines much worse for wear. Harry Warden emerged mentally scared from being buried alive hundreds of feet below the surface of the Earth, apparently long enough to resort to cannibalism,and was sent to a mental institution…for the period of exactly one year. That’s right! The very next Valentine’s Day, Harry Warden returned to Valentine Bluff and committed a series of grisly murders; leaving the freshly cut out hearts of his victims in heart-shaped candy boxes as a warning to never hold a Valentine’s Day celebration again. Thing is, Harry Warden was never caught…he just disappeared without a trace promising to come back should the town hold another dance on February the 14th.
I did tell you that this Valentine’s Day stuff was laid on thick right? What if I told you the town’s radio station was QPID? Well, it is. Deal with it.
So here we are, two decades later, with a town that has healed and is ready to move on. There is a new generation of miners now, and they are itching to get back in the swing of Cupid’s day! But all is not bliss on the romance front in Valentine Bluff, and when TJ comes back to town after disappearing to the West Coast for a year, he finds his old flame Sarah has found a new guy to take to the dance. Trouble in paradise already and we haven’t even gotten to the murders…murders which pick back up just two days before the dance. The kindly old lady who was in charge of setting up the Valentine’s Day decorations around town has her heart found in a candy box. Could it really be happening? Is Harry Warden back in town making good on his promise, or is TJ taking his jealous rivalry for Sarah a little too far?
As far as 80’s slashers go, My Bloody Valentine holds up surprisingly well. You will find all the dated styles and cornball humor of say a Sleepaway Camp, but with much better scares, gore and a pretty decent villain. Our guy is roaming the underground mine in a jet-black Carhart style coverall, a mining helmet complete with light and the creepiest gas mask you can imagine. The look is surprisingly effective, and timeless in the best possible way. There is something especially frightening about being face to face with a killer wearing an expressionless mask…but add a light which shines in your face so you can’t see even that much and the result is pure terror.
Now, despite the fact that this film was originally heavily edited to avoid the MPAA’s threatened X-Rating, you can now bask in all the gory glory as long as you are careful which release you find (some early DVD releases were of the original, cut film). The unrated editions puts all the best stuff back on screen and there is some really great splatter happening in this film. We get boiled heads, pick-ax blows to the face, dead bodies air-fried, nail-gun strikes to the forehead, hanging, decapitation, impalements, hearts torn out with mining tools and even some good old cannibalism. The edited version offers you less than HALF of these practical effect treats, and the ones it does give are heavily cut. Seriously…imagine how crazy gory a film has to be for a rating’s board to cut out FIVE minutes of material. If you find the DVD from 2003, leave it alone. Don’t even bother checking out this film unless you find the 2009 Unrated DVD or Bluray from Lionsgate as it is currently not offered streaming that I have seen.
The pacing is great, with enough kills to get things moving from the get-go and never really letting up. The fact that the story moves from up around town to down in the mine gives a building sense of claustrophobia and isolation that also adds greatly to feel of things. Watching our characters flee up and down ladders, across underground water sources and through the narrow shafts all while being chased by a headlamp-headed figure in black with a pick-ax is like letting Jason Voorhees loose on the set of The Poseidon Adventure.
My favorite bits of My Bloody Valentine are both at the end. The film wraps up in a very different way in regards to its killer. I won’t go much farther than that, but it is refreshing to see a more ambiguous wrap up to a slasher that doesn’t feel forced or like a setup for future franchise plans. And then there is the ballad. Oh man, the ballad! Paul Zaza composed and performed a folk song to play over the closing credits that is just too awesome for words. Acoustic guitar strums with the crooning of lyrics like, “For the legend they say, on a Valentine’s Day, is a curse that’ll live on and on. And no one will know, as the years come and go, of the horror from long time ago” will have you wishing that every horror film had a sing along theme to go along with it. This is something that could and would only have worked at the time it did…today’s themes would be performed by Top 40 artists in some horrific, modern style and have none of the innocence and brilliance of this song.
If you are like me, then you spend the time leading up to every Holiday, no matter how small or trivial, thinking of what horror-themed films you can watch to get into the “spirit” of things. It’s not our fault…there needs to just be 12 Halloweens a year and cut all the crap…except Christmas, cause that’s when we get horror movies as gifts from people that love us! But until then, rest assured that you have the perfect movie lined up for Valentine’s Day. In fact, no greater test has ever been devised to prove compatibility.
“Wanna watch My Bloody Valentine on Valentine’s Day?”
“No?? I’m sorry, but this isn’t going to work out.”
…then a little beer!
AleSmith Brewing My Bloody Valentine Red Ale (6.66% ABV) – San Diego, CA
So it feels like I am cheating a little covering another AleSmith brew so soon after the last one; even more so, it is another seasonal red ale. But when you are talking about the brewery who RateBeer.com says is the best brewery in California and the second best in the World, well some exceptions have to be made. And when you have penchant for naming your mind-blowing beers after horror movies…well, you’re probably going to wind up on DreadFrightAndBrew.com a few times to be sure.
AleSmith is currently being distributed to 18 States all across the country which is another great reason to tell you about their products. Despite all the great beer here in the Pacific Northwest, I want to talk about products that can be accessed by as many people possible. So let’s get to talking about this seasonally appropriate beer named after this installment’s featured film, My Bloody Valentine Red Ale.
First, it is worth noting that AleSmith refers to this beer as the “red-blooded cousin to Evil Dead Red”, and to be quite honest, I wasn’t even sure they were going to be a different beer! Both brews weigh in with the same ABV of 6.66% (which I’m sure has been rounded on both of them for thematic value), the same OG of 1.073 and even the same IBU listing of 10. Don’t get me started on the pointlessness of the IBU rating scale, but you can see that it isn’t a far reach to think these beers are just the same gal in a different dress.
Honestly, I do still believe they are both based on the same basic recipe as there are a lot of similarities between the two beers. But My Bloody Valentine certainly stands on its own enough to wash thoughts of a repeat experience out of my mind. Pouring a deep and velvety umber brown with amber highlights, this beer is a bit darker than its cousin, and the inch of khaki head stands strong and lasts much longer.
The aromas were the next sign that I was holding a different creature this time around, with the hops making a much bolder statement. No longer taking a backseat to the malts, the hops push forward with strong florals and citrus fruits (grapefruit?) with a backbone of pine. Just underneath are the amazing malt aromas I was waiting for; buttery, caramel sweetness with just a hint of roast grain provides the perfect counterpart to the aggressive hop aromas and assures you that there is going to be a good balance of flavors at work here.
Sure enough, the flavors present themselves in much the same way, and entirely backwards from My Bloody Valentine’s cousin beer. Up front is the hop hit…a jolt of bitterness giving way to juicy tropical fruit, bright citrus and floral rosiness. Then the malts begin to come alive with burnt caramels, sugar glaze and light chocolates. The mouthfeel is medium bodied and bright with carbonation, but ends with a brief dryness that is perfect after all the previous complexity.
My Bloody Valentine feels much more like a Northwest style red ale than it’s cousin, but I feel that such a simple labeling would not do it justice. What we have here is another wonderfully balanced medley of flavors and aroma that is truly representative of how many directions a style can be taken in…sometimes even all at once!