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From the heart comes a warning with bloody good cheer. Remember what happened… as the 14th draws near.

In a deserted mine, two masked figures pick their way through the wreckage. One of the miners removes her mask and pulls down her overalls. The other caresses her, but refuses to take off his mask. Seeing the girl’s heart tattoo, he grabs her roughly and pushes her back against the wall, onto the blade of his pickaxe…

It is Thursday, February 12th, and the town of Valentine Bluffs is preparing for its first Valentine’s Day dance in 20 years. Finishing their shift, the boys from the Hanniger mine head into town to meet up with their girls. Among them are TJ, the mayor’s son who left town some time ago and has recently returned, Sarah, TJ’s former girlfriend, and Axel, Sarah’s new boyfriend. The mayor visits the hall and finds that someone has left him a box of chocolates. However, when he opens the heart-shaped box, he finds an actual human heart. Meanwhile, in a local bar, Hap the barman tells the story of why the town has waited so long to hold a Valentine’s party…

“It was the night of the Valentine’s Day dance at the Union Hall. The biggest event of the year. It had been a tradition for over 100 years. Everybody was there except for seven miners who were out at the Hanniger mine. Five of them still down below. Two supervisors were waiting for the men to come up. Anxious to get to the party, they left before the men were safely out, failing to check the methane gas levels in the tunnels down below. Five men were buried alive, as the town continued its party. For six weeks, we dug round the clock to try to save them. After we broke through, one man was found alive. I was the one who found him. Harry Warden spent the next year in the State mental hospital. Exactly one year later, on Valentine’s Day, he came back to town. He killed the two supervisors who had left their posts the year before, then he cut out their hearts and stuffed them into heart-shaped candy boxes. That night at the dance, we found the boxes, blood dripping out the sides. Inside was a note. A warning from Harry never to hold a Valentine’s dance ever again. Every February 14th, Harry comes back to town, his pickaxe stained with blood, waiting in the shadows of the Hanniger mine just for someone to kill should they not heed his warning.”

Of course, the kids don’t believe him, and carry on planning the party. They head out to the local junkyard to carry on drinking, and TJ and Axel get into an argument over Sarah. Meanwhile, Mabel is stalked and killed in her launderette by a man in overalls and a mask; the Chief later finds her body stuffed in one of the washing machines. It seems like Harry Warden, locked up many years ago, is back in town, so the mayor orders the party cancelled. Undeterred, the kids plan another party, which TJ suggests they hold at the mine. Hap goes out to the mine, intending to set a trap to scare the kids into believing him, but is himself killed by Harry.

Saturday, and the party gets started in the mine’s recreation room. Unfortunately, there’s an uninvited guest… One guy gets his head rammed into a pot of boiling water, and his heart left behind for the girls to find later. TJ and Axel, meanwhile, are far too tied up in their own problems to notice what is happening, and finally come to blows over Sarah. Failing to notice a corpse in the fridge, John grabs some beers and heads back to his girl, Sylvia, only to find her impaled on a shower pipe, while across town, the Chief has a bad feeling. He heads over to the mine, but is called away on an emergency before he can reach the party.

A group of six kids, Sarah, Howard, Hollis, Patty, Mike and Harriet, decide to take a trip down into the mine itself. After they leave, the remaining kids finally figure out what’s going on, and flee the party. Axel and TJ (who is gradually looking more and more like a cowboy hairdresser) stay behind to follow the others into the mine. Down below, Mike and Harriet wander off from the others for some alone time, but end up both being impaled on an industrial drill. Hollis finds their bodies, and takes a nailgun to the head for his trouble, and Howard runs off, leaving the two girls to be found by TJ and Axel. The four of them try to leave, but the lift has been sabotaged, so they start climbing a ladder to the surface; part way up, they find Howard’s hanging body, and head back down. Meanwhile, the Chief has arrived back at the mine, found the broken lift equipment and called for back-up. Down below, the quartet of victims-in-the-making are making their way back to the train carts in another attempt to escape the mine. During their journey, Axel slips and is drowned in the 60 foot deep sump, and TJ is seemingly trapped by a cave in. The two girls carry on alone, only for Patty to be killed by Harry’s pickaxe. TJ returns, not trapped at all it seems, and he and Sarah board the carts, closely followed by Harry. He and TJ fight, fall off the cart and enter the boarded-up ventilation shaft. Finally the killer’s mask is removed, revealing not Harry but Axel, who faked his drowning. It seems Axel’s father was one of the supervisors that Harry killed twenty years earlier; Axel saw it happen and has never got over it. As he and TJ struggle, the roof caves in – Sarah and TJ escape, but Axel is trapped. As the Chief arrives with a group of townspeople, Axel runs off deeper into the mine, swearing to return…

My Bloody Valentine was the subject of much controversy prior to its 1981 release. Both the MPAA in the US and the BBFC in the UK demanded heavy cuts before classification, many of which were not restored to the film until 2009. That being said, the film deserves to be remembered for more than just this. One of the early slashers, My Bloody Valentine capitalised on the early 80s trend for films set on particular days (Halloween, Friday the 13th, etc.), but hit cinemas before the genre’s inevitable decline into sequels, spoofs and farcical imitators – more on which to come soon. As a stand-alone slasher, it still holds up well today and deserves a re-visit, and would make the ideal gift for your loved one at this time of year.

My Bloody Valentine stars Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, Neil Affleck, Don Francks, Keith Knight, Alf Humphreys, Cynthia Dale, Terry Waterland and Jack Van Evera. It was written by John Beaird and directed by George Mihalka.
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