Editor's Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on January 12, 2009, and we're proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.
Friday the 13th has the rep and spawned the sequels, but for this child-of-the-slasher-era’s money, My Bloody Valentine is the best stalker flick to come out of Paramount—or any studio, for that matter—in the early ’80s. What notoriety it has had stems from its severe scissoring in deference to the MPAA back in the day—a truncation that it has taken another distributor (Lionsgate, for the new special-edition DVD) to rectify.
Yet even in not-so-bloody form, Valentine has always had a number of qualities that set it several cuts above its dead-teenager brethren. For one thing, its characters aren’t teenagers but working young men and women (and their elders) in the mining town of Valentine Bluffs, where a long-ago massacre has led to a ban on V-Day celebrations ever since. But history is history, and so a group of fun-loving guys and gals decide to party it up, and are soon being stalked and slain by someone in miner’s getup, including the attendant mask that stands as one of the subgenre’s scarier disguises.
The victims-to-be are more personable than usual, and the movie also benefits from atmospheric lensing on Nova Scotia locations, not to mention underground in real mines. Director George Mihalka makes excellent use of the dank rooms and spooky caverns as staging grounds for the mayhem, and given the inherent depth of the settings, it’s not hard to see why this vintage kill flick is the first to have received a 3-D makeover in the 21st century. (One of its best setpieces, in which a young woman is freaked out by falling mining uniforms before being impaled on a shower pipe, practically cries out for a dimensional restaging.)
The reinstated gore footage on Lionsgate’s disc, which beefs up the running time by two and a half minutes (the option is also offered to view the movie in its original theatrical version, like anyone’s gonna take that one), is in fairly rough and occasionally discolored shape, but not so much that it’s too distracting. (The widescreen transfer otherwise appears pretty much identical to the solid, colorful picture on the previous no-frills Paramount DVD, with both Dolby Digital 5.1 and the original mono audio tracks.) Considering what R and even PG-13 genre films get away with these days, it’s surprising to see what had to go back in ’81, right down to a not-terribly-extreme shot of a boiled and bloated face. Some of the other edited footage is pretty damn savage, but in any case, the MPAA was clearly laying for this one after Paramount literally and figuratively got away with murder in the first Friday, sparking quite a vocal outcry at the time and leading its subsequent sequels to be seriously snipped.
In his introduction to the first of the gore segments (which you can also watch separately), however, Mihalka attributes the board’s antiviolence attitude to the shooting death of John Lennon, with no mention of the Friday controversy. Similarly, there’s lots of talk elsewhere in the intros, and in a Bloodlust: “My Bloody Valentine” and the Rise of the Slasher Film retrospective featurette, about how the ghastly FX created by Thomas R. Burman and Ken Diaz (both interviewed) were the first of their kind, with no acknowledgment of Tom Savini’s groundbreaking Friday and Dawn of the Dead illusions. Still, to give credit where it’s due, the work of Burman, Diaz and their crew is pretty impressive, and perhaps will be a little more appreciated in the pantheon of makeup mayhem now that a general viewership has a chance to see it.
The minidocumentary and gore-scene bumpers also give on-camera time to several of the actors, the producers and Going to Pieces author Adam Rockoff, all adding up to a satisfying if condensed history of My Bloody Valentine. (But with all these folks available, why no commentary track?) You’ll want to stay through the featurette’s end credits, by the way, especially if you’re a fan of movie music. Bloodlust also makes no bones about this DVD partially serving as a promotional tool for the new Valentine redux, with director Patrick Lussier and several others involved given a chance to both plug their movie and pay their respects to its inspiration. Similarly, there’s also a Bloodlines collection of interactive text screens written by Rockoff, which trace the history of slasher fare by subcategories—from the classic franchises to gialli to homages and spoofs—while also duly noting Lionsgate’s contribution to the trend, tangential and otherwise.