'My Bloody Valentine' (1981) Special Edition DVD Review


The 1981 Canadian slasher flick My Bloody Valentine spent a lot of years just ... sitting there on the video shelves, of interest to nobody besides the old-school, hardcore horror fans who were hungry for a little taste of the original-style slasher film. Genre enthusiasts will (correctly) point to Black Christmas, Halloween, and Friday the 13th as the great-granddaddies of the slasher sub-genre, but of course there were several (relatively "lesser") films that helped to keep slashers popular for a while -- until the sequels pretty much ruined the slasher flick for the next twenty years. One of the earliest and most memorable "copycat" slashers was George Mihalka's My Bloody Valentine, and it succeeds by utilizing the stuff that makes a slasher film so wonderful, but it also works because it marks a little territory of its own. (Think about it: How many slasher flicks can you name that deal with grown-ups? A love triangle? A creepy mystery? Not many.)

It should come as no surprise by now to learn that, yes, My Bloody Valentine has earned a new-fangled, shiny, and impressively three-dimensional remake -- which is probably the only reason why Lionsgate (not Paramount?) has released a Special Edition DVD for the original My Bloody Valentine. Having seen the remake, and having been pleasantly surprised, I'm feeling pretty good about My Bloody Valentine these days ... but get this: The new DVD has extra gore! Lots of it! As in: Someone found a bunch of footage that had been trimmed from the flick (thanks a lot, MPAA), and then placed the new footage BACK into the flick! The stuff of adolescent gorehound dreams, basically: Same flick we know and love, only most of the kill scenes have a little extra gristle. Now I call that fun. (Specifically, no less than TEN of the dispatches have been upgraded with extra splatter, plus you have options: You can watch the "new" cut of the film or the old version, but either way you can pick through the "new gore" when you visit the Deleted Scenes section.)

The plot is a comfortably familiar one: Following a horrific mining accident, the little town of Valentine Bluffs is under siege by a bad-ass killer who wields a gas mask, a miner's outfit, and one mean pick-axe. For the young adults of the town, who simply want to enjoy a nice Valentine's party, the arrival of the killer is powerfully bad news indeed -- but there is a method to our maniac's madness...

No, it's not exactly Shakespeare, but since most of the slasher flicks are best described as "young morons in the woods," I say My Bloody Valentine earns a few points for installing a few interesting components into a project that, frankly, would have made money even if it were simply "Friday the 13th in February." To its further credit, My Bloody Valentine really works, in a visual sense: The town itself is perfectly quaint and boring, its citizens are believably basic and normal, and the underground mines are consistently creepy throughout. And, now more than ever, the kill scenes indicate a group of filmmakers intent on scaring their audience through timing, atmosphere, and (yes) plain old nastiness. Jason and Freddy get a lot of credit for coming up with some creative kills, but the "mad miner" acquits himself surprisingly well in this department as well.

So the flick holds up surprisingly well for a low-budget Canadian import from 1981 ... but did we really need a Special Edition DVD? Absolutely, says me. Ask anyone of my approximate age who was also raised on a steady diet of VHS and Fangoria if they'd like to see the "uncut pre-MPAA" version of, say, Friday the 13th or My Bloody Valentine, and you'd get a response of HELL YES! Film fanatics always want to see the "trimmed" footage, especially if it's something that showcases some impressively creative gore-gravy ... and the new stuff found in My Bloody Valentine is pretty nifty indeed. Overall, this ‘new’ version runs maybe 50 seconds longer than the VHS cut, but one can clearly see that the MPAA was aiming to minimize EVERY kill scene, regardless of how much work actually went into it. So it's almost 30 years late, but I say bring on the splatter.

In addition to the extended version of the film and a separate section for the deleted footage, we also get a very solid 20-minute retrospective piece called "Bloodlust: My Bloody Valentine and the Rise of the Slasher Film." Here several cast and crew members share their memories and anecdotes on the film, and of course there's a good opportunity to include some material from the new My Bloody Valentine -- but since I like both flicks, I don't see the problem there. Unfortunately there's no commentary, but this disc closes out with a pretty slick click-around gizmo called "Bloodlines: An Interactive Horror Film History," in which slasher expert Adam Rockoff offers a bunch of essays on some of horror's most colorful sub-genres.

Most (old) horror freaks had long since given up on seeing the "missing" footage from My Bloody Valentine, which is what makes this nasty little treat of a DVD such a pleasant surprise. Fans of the old-school slasher flicks can definitely consider this an upgrade from the Paramount release (my old one is a double feature with April Fools Day), and should enjoy this new version as a whole before they head straight to the "found gore" department.