‘80s slashers create a comfortable world for even the most casual horror fans, and a large reason these bloody chop ‘em-ups from decades ago are so effortlessly rewatchable comes from the way the characters just vibe with each other...
...They all know each other and just hang out without bogging the viewer down with extensive character development or emotionally complex backstories. The people (usually teenagers) just exist on the screen and become a group of comfortable acquaintances that we can just settle in and let our guard down with. The story of My Bloody Valentine (1981), which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, begins with a group of young adults who have grown up together in the small town of Valentine Bluff, population 3,735 (3,725 by film’s end). MBV becomes a cozy place to return to again and again, but even for those who grew up with the film and know all the characters as intimately as your regular bar crew, last year’s release of director George Mihalka’s cut of the film (written by Stephen A. Miller and John Beaird) offers a bit more gore to pair with all the warm fuzzies you might get from it. Even more interesting, the extended cut offers a level of foreshadowing to all the deaths. So, if you watch closely you can even predict how each resident of Valentine Bluff will meet their lovely and bloody end.
This article won’t cover all the deaths in the film; while the extended cut unburied some missing gore, unfortunately some of the footage remains lost. So, we will focus on just a few of the predicted demises.
Right Through the Heart: The film starts with a cold opening deep in the Hanniger Mine where we see two miner-gear clad people walking through the tunnels in search of a good make out spot. Ready for a romantic tryst underground, one of the ‘miners’ begins to undress, revealing a woman with a bright red tattoo of a heart on her chest. The small but very noticeable marking might as well say “Enter Pickaxe Here.” The predictability of stabbing someone through the heart (real or not) might seem more of a play-on-words than an actual premonition, but relax, this is just the warm-up.
The Dress Made Him Do It: As the day of the big Valentine’s Day dance gets closer, Patty (Cynthia Dale) and Sarah (Lori Hallier) walk through the town and talk about boys (Bechdel would be so disappointed). The discussion includes how to choose between a guy, how to get a guy, and how to drive a guy crazy. Patty gleefully talks about the dress she bought for the occasion, describing the sexy number as “cut down to here” as she indicates a spot right below her sternum and even mentions she “won’t make it out alive” in reference to how her boyfriend will respond to the outfit. However, while wearing the dress, Patty takes a pickaxe to the very spot she pointed to the day prior and she does, in fact, not make it out alive.
Just Hanging Around: Dear sweet (yet a bit creepy) Howard (Alf Humphreys) likes to pull pranks and make his presence known at all times. He abhors tense situations and prefers to keep the mood light-hearted, sometimes at the expense of others. At the beginning of the film Howard shows up with a handkerchief tied around his neck, which presents as a form of peacocking, but also a bit of imagery for things to come. Once the group makes the fatal trek into the mine, Howard separates from the group, only to appear later hanging from a rafter. He scares Hollis (Keith Knight) and the girls and makes a lame pun on the word “hang”. Moments later, Howard once again removes himself from his friends, but this time when he reappears hanging from the rafters, he has a rope firmly tied around his neck…which quickly becomes separated from the rest of his body. Definitely a “hangover” he will not forget.
In the town of Valentine Bluff the guy to girl ratio seems fairly even which allows every miner to successfully pair up with a lady to call his own. After the men leave the mine for the day, they all head to the community center to find their other halves decorating for the upcoming dance. The men enter the building one by one and immediately fly to the side of their girl to give them a hearty hug and a kiss. The couple of Sylvia (Helene Udy) and John (Rob Stein) probably have the strangest greeting thanks to their two foot height difference. Instead of bowing to kiss the tiny Sylvia, John grabs her head and hoists her aloft to lip level so she can partake in one of the most awkward looking kisses seen in film. An odd image obviously, but the scene sets the viewer up for Sylvia’s death. On Valentine’s Day, Sylvia runs into the killer while in the mine, and, most likely inspired by the uncomfortable kiss, he grabs the sides of her head and lifts her high off the ground. He slams her head into a cascading shower spout. So, next time John goes in for a kiss, Sylvia will be at the right height, but her kisses might be a little more wet.
My Bloody Valentine offers us characters who vibe so well we don’t care if they have backstories or even last names. And even though the director did not bother to tell us much (if anything) of their pasts, he does give us some helpful and fun hints at their not-too distant future.
By Amylou Ahava
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