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My Bloody Valentine – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

1981’s My Bloody Valentine first made its way onto Blu-ray to coincide with the Todd Farmer/Patrick Lussier remake of the same name. A Paramount film, Lionsgate put out that release, which included a never before seen uncut version of the film featuring footage thought to be lost forever. That version had since gone out of print and was going for astronomical prices on the secondary market. For those of you who missed out on it the first time, hopefully you held out and didn’t pay out the wahzoo for it, as Scream Factory will be bringing it back to Blu-ray via a brand new 2-disc Collector’s Edition. This updated release will feature 4K scans of both the theatrical and uncut versions, previously a deleted scenes/branching option, as well as a plethora of brand new interviews and director commentary. As one would expect, Scream Factory is wasting no opportunity with their new Paramount deal, and giving this film the rock star release it has always deserved. Fans can finally own or upgrade their old copy when My Bloody Valentine – Collector’s Edition arrives on February 11th. Just in time to crack open a Moosehead and enjoy with your bloody valentine.

Film

On Valentine’s Day, someone always loses their heart. Twenty years ago, this small town lost more than that. When supervisors abandoned their posts to attend the town’s annual holiday dance, a tragedy claimed the lives of five miners. The sole survivor, Harry Warden, was institutionalized, but returned for a vengeful massacre on the disaster’s first anniversary. Nineteen years later, the town is gearing up for another Valentine’s Day party. Teen sweethearts T.J. and Sarah, along with their friend Axel, are among the excited partygoers. But when a box of candy containing an eerie warning and blood-soaked heart arrive, the townsfolk realize that romance is as good as dead. And so are they…

In the annals of slasher history, during the inaugural boom of the early 1980s, no holiday was safe from some madman wearing a mask and killing teenagers or college kids on whatever fateful calendar day it was. Right after Halloween and Friday the 13th, one of the most memorable holiday titles has been 1981’s My Bloody Valentine. A title that even inspired the name of a musical group (Personally, I enjoy their take on Louis Armstrong’s “We Have All The Time In The World”, but that could be my 007 fandom influencing that). Historically, the film was the unfortunate victim of severe MPAA cuts upon its release, unloaded a rather tame and bloodless affair in contradiction to what the title was promising. Despite that unfortunate blow, the film still managed to find itself a following through the VHS era and late night TV (A staple of USA’s Up All Night).

One quick look at the film and its pretty readily apparent how easy it was for people to latch to it. For one, the killer’s costume in the film is instantly iconic. The minor outfit has no problem giving us a myriad of great qualities for a slasher villain. The mask simply just crushes it from the start. Having the flashlight on the helmet lifts off with an added touch of great creepiness in the darkness. With the mask, comes the breathing apparatus which takes the “heavy breathing” killer to a whole next level. Lastly, the minor has a pick ax for which to hack at his victims. The biggest issue with the theatrical cut of the film was that he holds this incredible weapon and then we never see him use it on anyone. Well, with the advent of the uncut version of the film. we get to see that pick ax in action and it was well worth the wait as the damage done is bloody delicious.

Harry Warden is the killer miner as we’re led to believe in the film. There’s a colorful backstory of the mine long ago and a dance that took place on Valentine’s Day. When it comes to slasher tropes, My Bloody Valentine has the route of being the small town with the annual big celebration that seems to be haunted by one of those celebrations going ary in the past. You get your typical characters of the mayor, sheriff and the like to color around our kids being off’d and to assist in building the lore of our killer, setting stakes and discovering the danger they should be fearing. For good measure, they even have the old soothsayer in the form of a barkeep here who randomly divulges into the tale of Harry Warden one rowdy night at his pub. There is a lot done in this film to build this legend of Harry Warden, even a closing credits song, but its all a masterful rouse.

One of George Mihalka’s goals making the film was to focus on character, and giving this film some living, breathing, three dimensional humans to populate the mining town of Valentine Bluffs (LOVE IT!). He felt that the gore and kills would sell themselves. Mihalka has honestly succeeded as the cast of characters here are some of the strongest ever put on the page for a slasher film. They have their own drama and completely separate plotline that is honestly almost as interesting as the “miner kills people” one going on in the background and working its way to the forefront. Sure, its a soap opera-y love triangle story, but it works and really challenges all of the characters friendships and allows for some of the hollow, background characters to actually dig in and add more than was there in the script. It balances having some good scripted characters and having some good, memorable actors that uplift background players. And on the goofier side of things, the film has a bit of unintended cheese added with the very strong Canadian accents they all carry. But credit the movie, they proudly display them and make no try to hide them or “American them up”. These characters work well enough to feel bummed when one gets bumped off and then get really dismayed once a big reveal happens and you realize you’ve been watching a murder mystery all along and now only have a short amount of time to solve it.

George Mihalka may have thought the gore would sell itself, but he’s done some pretty terrific  and clever work in the action and graphic violence arena. With the restored uncut version, you have really see how effectively he was at shooting someone getting an ax to the face and eyeballs hanging. There’s also a cute touch Mihalka nonchalantly adds for measure as one of the days this movie takes place on is Friday the 13th, in which there is a kill. Quite possibly one of the neatest things in all of My Bloody Valentine, I didn’t recognize until watching it for this review.  There is a victim later in the movie, a woman, who is grabbed by the head by the miner and then lifted and impaled on a shower head in the mine. This time around, in her first scene, I noticed that her boyfriend picks her up by the head and raises her up off the ground to kiss her in the same manner in which she’s killed. Perhaps this is a happy accident, but I’d like to think that this was some clever staging from George Mihalka.

My Bloody Valentine is one of the seminal slasher films of the 1980s. Since 2009, with the discovery and restoration of the previously excised gore sequences, it has only improved its stature. The film features an iconic killer, terrific kills, and some surprisingly endearing characters with which to be led to slaughter. In the advent of Blu-ray, we can see that the negative for the film has been kept in tip top shape and it truly looks great to watch and even enhances its horrific environments and sheds light on some great practical effect work that make this a fun throwback bit of slasher fun.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition of My Bloody Valentine boasts a new 4K scan of both the theatrical edition’s original camera negative and the uncut version’s original camera negative. As far as appearance, the theatrical version and the uncut one are pretty much negligible when it comes to differences. The frames pretty much look almost identical, so its not worth putting them under a microscope to sit and compare. You’ll be fine whichever way you decide (But, lets be honest, do we need the theatrical version of the film the film anymore aside from being a collector’s item?). While the uncut version of the film looks a bit more seamless in its image when it hits those excised gore scenes, there are a couple spots where you can still make out that a different source is being inserted. Its not distracting, bothersome or poorly done, it just is what it is. This new image showcases a pretty solid improvement over what was already a very impressive transfer on the 2009 Lionsgate release. What this one has done is refined it a bit, a little crisper, some more detail present, better color saturation. In addition the depth is improved and the blacks are much more pronounced and deeper, carrying closer to a natural look and proving more haunting where it counts.

Depth: This new transfer improves the depth of field with even better amount of 3 dimensional feeling settings. From the inside of the dancehall getting set up with characters spaced well and freely moving loosely in the environment to the deep tunnels looking endless and far down the way, this one truly has some nice depth in the frame.

Black Levels: A notable uptick here, with a bit deeper, closer to natural (As a standard Blu-ray can get) black levels. The image features a bit more definition and sharpness as well as holding on to details in the darkest depths, while also provided some terrific shading and shows. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Colors feature pretty good attention to normal colors and fluffing up the nicely colored fabrics worn by characters or display on some upholstery. To no surprise, and of course absolutely fitting, reds are quite well loved here in every frame they appear. From decorations, to clothing to the gushing blood they are very well saturated and pop right off the frame. Lights from helmets, flashlights, outdoor lights and such provide a nice glow that effectively adds some dimension to the image.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from the opening hookup gone wrong all the way to the “The Ballad of Harry Warden” strumming over peoples names rolling upward. Facial features and textures come through with great clarity and definition. Stubble, wrinkles, dimples, blemishes, cuts and scrapes all look pretty window like from most shots, best done in medium and closeups. The dirt from the mine and make-up brush lines all show strokes and trajectory on the actors’ faces.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: My Bloody Valentine retains its original Mono mix from its original release. A bit upfront here, for some reason, the default volume is set lower on the uncut version. You’ll have to crank that one up, but it works quite effectively once there. This one isn’t a big time player in the deep sounds department, but it knows how to sting with the score and manages to translate the bigger jump scares and attacks pretty effectively. This mono mix includes some really nice ambiance in the track that gets through, especially the airy, empty mines which carry a realistic but creepy aura about it. Sound effects are pretty well rounded, layered and impressed with the natural order of things (Doors opening, footsteps) and grisly mayhem (Axe pick kills!). All in all, the mix here easily works out for the best and gives it a respectively true to its vintage roots feel.

Height: N/A

Low-Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. It has a hint of its analog sourcing, but the environmental ambiance weaves this voices in as to not show so much. No matter the environment, everyone is plenty clear and feeling layered in perfectly with the interior/exterior for which they are living within. Oh and those charming Canadian accents come through plenty clear and pronounced, don’t you worry.

Extras

My Bloody Valentine – Collector’s Edition is a 2-Disc set with reversible cover art featuring the original theatrical poster. This release features 2 cuts of the film, both receiving their own disc.

Disc 1 – Theatrical Release

Interviews – All of the interviews have text prompts of questions, many of them the same questions asked to different people. Examples being knowing the killer’s identity when shooting, the Canadian horror boom in the 1980s and whether or not there are still scenes that might not have surfaced even after the excised gore has resurfaced.  There are a lot of similar answers. Forewarning, its a bit tedious to get through.

  • My Anemic Valentine (HD, 24:09) – Interview with director George Mihalka. Only cinematic influence on the film was Black Christmas (“I loved the POV shots”). The script was originally title “The Secret” and his goal was to create a community and characters that were authentic and felt the gore would just do its job. He’s a pretty sincere guy, and we get the story of what brought him to My Bloody Valentine, enjoying the shoot, trying to forget the film after the MPAA cut the film to something he didn’t approve of and finally fandom bringing him to come around and love it. He briefly makes a comment regarding the remake, gives a tribute to a deceased cast member and brushes on a desire to make a sequel.
  • From The Heart (HD, 14:15) – Interview with actor Paul Kelman. Almost unrecognizable, he played TJ in the film and he seems to have a pretty good recollection of the film and understanding of the character. When it comes to the Canadian horror films of the 1980s, he says he was embarrassed by the schlock being put out for a quick buck and some corruption that came with it. As for finding out the film’s cult following, it came down to receiving lots of friend requests on Facebook asking if he was really who they thought he was (“They’re just good people and they love having fun with horror”). As for the remake, “I bought it, but I never watched it.”
  • Axel, Be My Bloody Valentine (HD, 14:48) – Interview with Actor Neil Affleck. He figured out he was the killer when he saw early on there was a scene with the miner killer having his arm hacked off, then a week later having to go have an armcast made of his arm for the special effects team (“I put two and two together.”). Affleck says he doesn’t regret not playing the miner for any of the kill scenes of the movie. After, we then go through a roster of questions that will haunt every interview on this disc, where he gives quite similar answers to it (Location, working with the director, the Canadian horror boom, remembering Alf Humphreys, etc.)
  • Friends of Mine (HD, 19:20) – Interview with actress Lori Hallier. She opens answering the first question of whether the cast knew the killer’s identity with “I’m sure you’ve heard this from every single one of us” which, yes. When all the questions are the same, you get a lot of the same answers. Originally, Hallier turned down the film because of her theater studies, but director George Mihalka went and spoke to the directors of the school and convinced them to let her do the movie. She echoes the director’s desire to “make The Deer Hunter of the genre” that really spoke volumes to the cast. Hallier says that her and the cast have remained good friends, and that’s all thanks to George Mihalka.  “The film changed the who trajectory of my life.”
  • Becoming Sylvia (HD, 17:17) – Interview with actress Helene Udy. Her audition was predominately screaming. She discusses meeting the director on a movie where he was a locations manager, what George was like (“I just assumed he was god and naturally did things in the world he created for me.”), After a bit of a different start to the interview, she does tackle some of the same questions like thoughts on the locations they shot at, but it shifts focus on her death scene before it heads right back into the familiar territory of “what if a sequel”, the remake and remembering actor Alf Humphreys.
  • Broken Hearts and Broken Bones (HD, 10:36) – Interview with special effects make-up designer Tom Burman, who also worked on Happy Birthday To Me. There was an exception for him making what he refers to as one of the “Graphic repulsion movies.” Burman finds Canadians funny as they have a “United States envy” and attempt to make films of what they think life and films from the United States are like. He goes on a bit of a tangent about the Canadian film industry which is a bit uncomfortable. Upon starting My Bloody Valentine he was asked “How many decapitations have you done?” He claims they were making up the film as they went, but he says its a just a low budget film thing and he likes that. Burman is happy with all the effects they did considering the budget and time constraints on the film. He didn’t go into the mine because he’s claustrophobic.
  • The Secret Keeper (HD, 27:25) – Interview with actor Rob Stein. Known also as “Sam Roberts” in the United States as there was already a Rob Stein. He came to the movie having worked with George Mihalka on “Pinball Summer” (Actually called Pick-Up Summer). When talking about the whodunit killer question, he actually busts out his copy of the script (“The only one in existence…I actually saved this cause I never thought I would work in a movie again.”) to show the title “The Secret”. He says “We all hoped it was us. We wanted to be the badass.” His interview differentiates a bit with it focusing on the death scene of his girlfriend a little more. But otherwise, same questions, similar answers.

Holes In The Heart  (HD, 12:29) – A comparison of the differences between the Theatrical and Extended cuts of the film to really hit home how hacked to pieces it really was.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:11)

TV Spots (HD, 1:32)

Radio Spots (HD, 1:01) 

Still Gallery (HD, 11:41)

Disc 2 – Unrated Cut

Audio Commentary

  • With Director George Mihalka

Intro (HD, :23) – Director George Mihalka tells you to enjoy the version that is almost as he fully intended it.

My Bloody Valentine 35th Anniversary Cast Reunion (HD, 46:54) – The full cast (And director) reunion panel from the Bay of Blood horror convention in Tampa. There is a warning of it being culled together from the best sources possible and the audio having some trouble in spots. Nonetheless, this is easily watchable and pretty entertaining. With everyone there and a lot of similar topics covered, you may want to bypass the interviews and check out this feature.

Thomas Kovacs Performs “The Ballad of Harry Warden” (HD, 5:03) – From the the Bay of Blood Tampa Horror Convention.

Summary

For 39 years, My Bloody Valentine has continued to entertain, thrill and grow itself an audience that wouldn’t have been thought imaginable upon release. George Mihalka’s film argues to have its killer’s mask atop the Mount Rushmore of the early 1980s slasher boom villains, and this release certainly is possible because of that. Scream Factory’s 2-disc edition gives the film a knockout image no matter which cut you watch. The uncut version definitely is worth the double dip for those that already own it as the film know carries one look to it and doesn’t switch over to a print in rougher shape (Or isn’t so obvious). Extras prove to be a bit two-fold. There are A LOT of lengthy new interviews available here as well as a commentary and an entire cast reunion convention panel. Quantity doesn’t always equate to quality as much of this winds up being repetitive with the same stories or answers to questions being repeated over and over again. Any one interview feels like they knocked it out of the park, but seeing them back to back to back proves to be a bit of tedious bore, which is unfortunate. However, all of this being available and done for the release is still to be commended and doesn’t hold this back from being one of the most MUST HAVE horror releases of this youthful year.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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