My Bloody Valentine (1981)

My Bloody Valentine is one of those films that is talked about with reverence in horror circles, but until I got back into horror in 2017, I’d never heard of. In Valentine Bluffs, Canada, twenty years previously, the mining town’s annual Valentine’s Day dance is marred by an accident that leaves several miners trapped underground for weeks. Only one survives, Harry Warden, but he is driven insane. In the present day, the mayor decides to restart the cancelled tradition of the Valentine’s Day dance. At the same time, T.J. returns from California unexpectedly and tries to rekindle his relationship with Sarah, who is now with T.J.’s best friend, Axel. After a string of brutal killings, the sheriff cancels the dance, but the youngsters decide to have a party anyway in the mine’s canteen. T.J. and Axel’s jealous rivalry is overshadowed by the return of Harry Warden, who starts to kill everyone at the party.

It’s a unique film. The young male characters are miners, and it was exciting to see working class characters and locations in a film like this, partially because it reminded me of my steelwork town roots. It’s unashamedly chasing slasher audience money, following previous date-based titles like Black Christmas (1974), Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980) and Prom Night (1980), but it has a delicious charm, because the characters have a raucous authenticity that transcends the occasional acting lapse.

The deaths are incredibly well staged, and the atmosphere once we get down into the mine is perfect, probably because it was filmed underground in a real mine. The killer wears a terrifying miner’s suit and mask that gave me goosebumps. They don’t make them like this anymore.