Loretta Sisco On… My Bloody Valentine (1981)

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Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favorite things. Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years. Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too. Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on… something they love.

This week BBP contributor Loretta Sisco takes on one of her favorite horror films, My Bloody Valentine.  Check it out after the jump.

He’s tall, dark, and presumably handsome. He’s a real heartbreaker with an ax to grind, but you would rather not be his valentine. I’m referring to miner Harry Warden, of Paramount’s My Bloody Valentine.

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I’m not alone in my love of this film. I’ve read that director Quentin Tarantino has said that this is his favorite slasher movie, so I consider myself in good company. It’s fair to say I’m a bit obsessed, as it’s so often overlooked in the slasher genre.

By the time My Bloody Valentine was released on February 11, 1981, Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees had already staked their claim on Halloween and Friday the 13th. Holidays weren’t safe from monsters, and Valentine’s Day was no exception. You can watch the original trailer below.

I love the originality of the plot. A normal day at the coal mine ends in tragedy when, eager to attend the Valentine’s Day dance, supervisors leave the job site without checking the methane levels in the mine or ensuring that all the workers have reached the surface safely. An accident happens, killing innocent men. Miner Harry Warden survives and a year later exacts his revenge by killing those responsible for the accident. He removes their hearts and places them in candy boxes. Harry sends his macabre treats to the authorities, with a dire warning to never hold a Valentine’s Day dance again in the small town.

For years no dance was held, but memory fades and police chief Newby relents and allows a dance at the request of the young people of Valentine Bluffs. Harry must catch wind of this new development because the chief soon receives an unwanted valentine. Concerned that other murders will follow, Chief Newby cancels the dance. Disappointed by the change in plans, the kids decide to hold their own celebration at the mine where several of the young men work. Will they fly under Harry’s radar or will they incur his wrath?

Entwined in this horror film is a bit of a mystery. Is the killer Harry Warden, believed to be locked up in an institution for several years? Is it someone else, perhaps one of the guys involved in the love triangle with Sarah? Maybe it’s none of these choices. The perp’s identity is revealed at the end, but it’s a real whodunit until that point. Just when you think you know who the killer is, something happens to change your mind.

For an early 80’s slasher, My Bloody Valentine has a respectable body count. The miner’s gimmick is dispatching people with a pickax before removing their hearts and placing them in candy boxes. Although the pickax is his weapon of choice, the miner will change his method of execution, making him a more sinister character.

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Further adding to his creepiness is the fact that he is entirely covered. He is outfitted from head to toe in traditional mining gear. Everything he wears is dark, reducing his visibility to potential victims. The head lamp acts as a searchlight when stalking his prey, and is chilling to watch.

Gas masks are scary in general, but on the face of a madman, they’re downright terrifying. The mask is worn over a head covering, and the lenses of the mask are blacked out. Not an inch of the miner’s skin shows, making him even scarier and almost not human.

While Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees have their own theme song, Harry Warden has his own ballad. If you listen as the closing credits roll, you will hear The Ballad of Harry Warden, penned by popular film score composer Paul Zaza. This is a great obscure tune for your Halloween or Valentine’s Day playlists.

I love My Bloody Valentine because of its unique villain and setting. It’s not heavy on gore (although more can be seen on the DVD containing extra footage) but the variety of kills make up for that. If you’re looking for a good old school slasher film with a bit of a twist, check out this diamond in the coal mine.

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