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First Blood

Cult slasher 'My Bloody Valentine' hits the big time with remake, restored DVD

By Steve Palopoli

Not every movie psycho can be a megastar. There are the boogeyman kings like Freddy Kreuger, Jason Voorhes and Michael Myers. There are the less ubiquitous but still plenty popular bench players like Pinhead and Chucky. And then there is Harry Warden, the Miss Congeniality of horror.

In 1980, My Bloody Valentine was primed for success. It had its own horror holiday blocked out. It was early in the slasher cycle, so maniac fatigue had not yet set in among audiences. The film had a bankable take on the formula: After a mining accident in a small town, one of the survivors—the Harry Warden in question—takes his revenge during the annual Valentine's Day celebration. Twenty years later, the town thinks it's safe to start the V-Day dance up again, but the killings begin again. The killer—who may or may not be Harry—stalks townsfolk in a miner's uniform and mask, swinging around his pickaxe.

The movie's special effects were fairly edgy for the time—but no one got to see them. Instead, John Lennon was assassinated in December of 1980, setting off a campaign against graphic violence that shook Hollywood. My Bloody Valentine did come out in February of 1981, but with almost all of the violence removed. Not a good sign for a horror film—especially a slasher film—and indeed, "The Miner was buried at the box office under an avalanche of indifference.

And yet, it never totally went away. Partially because of its cool name—it's not hard to see why the famous Scottish shoegazer band adopted it—and partially because of good word of mouth from its hardcore fans, My Bloody Valentine gained a rep as one of the better slasher films. The Legend of the Missing Footage outpaced the Legend of Harry Warden, and horror fans have been clamoring to see it since DVD made deleted scenes de rigueur.

Almost 30 years after the film's release, that has finally happened. The new special edition disc for My Bloody Valentine may in fact be the best restoration of any horror film on DVD. The producers were lucky that the original footage still exists—unlike, we're told, the situation with most of the heavily cut Friday the 13th films. But they also went to commendable lengths to put that footage back in a way that actually restores My Bloody Valentine to the movie is was meant to be.

Which means that for the first time, it's possible to judge whether My Bloody Valentine deserves its celebrated status. The answer is absolutely yes, though understandably there has come to be some hyperbole associated with the movie among diehards. The story isn't great, and the "mystery" aspects are shockingly obvious.

But this is a weird and original film, to be sure. The opening scene is as stylized as a Guy Maddin movie—and just as symbolic, maybe. Those jumpsuits and gas masks are so fetish chic! The kill scenes are as creatively done as they were reputed to be, and yet even in the restored version there's an atmosphere of restraint, punctuated by occasional graphic shocks, that makes this among the moodiest of the early 80s horror films. It looks great and stays with you in a way lesser horror flicks don't.

What undoubtedly got all the hard and costly work on this DVD done was the fact that a remake of My Bloody Valentine is being released this week. True to the original story in some ways, but completely shifting up the story in others, it remains to be seen whether The Miner 2.0 can hook in fear-film lovers this time around. But worth noting is the fact that it's arriving in theaters in 3-D—reviving yet another horror artifact from the 1980s that never caught on. Look out, Harry Warden is back! Hollywood makes this pledge to you: No Psycho Left Behind.

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