"It happened once, it happened twice. Cancel the dance, or it'll happen thrice’’      
          The Tradition of Tragedy in My Bloody Valentine (1981)
The 1981 Canadian horror film My Bloody Valentine is on the surface a formulaic early slasher, following a crazed masked killer, stalking and gruesomely killing anyone celebrating Valentines in the town. My Bloody Valentine gives the viewer an interesting look into how a small mining community reacts to a tragedy and how the guilt and fear surrounding it can change its residents. My Bloody Valentine cashed in on the success of other holiday-based horrors, such as Black Christmas (1974) And Halloween (1978). When February rolls around in Valentine’s Bluff, Nova Scotia, it doesn’t just bring cards and flowers, but a miner with a blood stained pickaxe.

A Canadian mining town celebrates valentines day in the early 60s, 2 supervisors who were on duty leave their post early to go get ready for the Valentine’s dance, an event which has happened in the community for over 100 years. Methane levels in the mine rose to dangerous levels, causing an explosion leaving 5 miners trapped deep underground. After 6 weeks they are finally dug up, only one survived; Harry Warden was driven now mad and resorted to cannibalism to stay alive. Harry is institutionalised, but breaks out to kill the two supervisors and stuffs their hearts into valentine chocolate boxes. He vows to do so again if anyone celebrates on the anniversary of the tragedy. 20 years later the town is now excited to put on its first valentine’s day dance, but people keep turning up dead, has Harry Warden returned as promised?
Harry Warden firmly takes his place alongside similar killers that return on the anniversary of a tragic event.In Halloween by John Carpenter, Mike Myers returns each year on October 31st, the date he killed his sister, punishing teenage girls for their sexuality. Friday the 13th (1980) by Sean S. Cunningham, the killer returns to Camp Crystal Lake, the location of the drowning of a young Jason. The killer returns to get revenge on any teenager that takes the role of the camp councillors who are responsible for Jason’s fate. In the Slasher genre, dates and locations become symbolic and hold the memories of these tragic events, destined for death and tragedy to happen over and over each year.

In the 20 years following the explosion Harry becomes an urban legend to the town, a personification of guilt and blame the older generation feels, and a bogeyman to the younger ones. A ghost left to remind them to not forget the past of their community, This is shrugged off by the young miners, when they are told the story by Happy the bartender, and they respond saying that they do not believe that old legend.  Harry acts as a symbol of the friction between the present and the past in a community that’s way of life is coming to an end.

The past returning to the present is a major theme in My Bloody Valentine, The mine owner is given a heart-shaped box filled with guts with a note written in blood saying that he must not forget about what happened that day on 14th February. The way he kills reflects the past and acts as a repetition of the mine explosion and collapse. One of the most gruesome deaths in the film is Is the body of Mabel being put into a tumble dryer, leaving her corpse burnt and trapped in a cage of smoke and metal. Dave is killed in a boiling pot of sausages, again leaving him with physical scars reminiscent of the dead miners. Another way the past is provoked is through the camerawork, when a death occurs on screen the frame becomes grainy and saturated, evoking filmmaking of the 60s. This is actually because the film was heavily censored because of the gore, and these scenes were cut and the film wasn’t preserved as well leading to differences when it was included in the rerelease. However this still creates a dissonance between the past and the present, camera work often done to evoke nostalgia is done to show the horror of the past.

My bloody Valentine captures industry in 80s Canada at a crossroads of the past and modernity, many Canadian mines were shut down in this period because of environment issues, not only does this cause a loss in jobs but a loss in the mining way of life. T.J the protagonist is punished throughout the whole narrative for leaving this lifestyle behind, and trying and failing to start a new life on the West coast. Harry Warden is representative of the guilt and anger of a community after a tragedy, but also of their way of life slipping away, Harry acts as a yearly reminder to never forget the past, or you may not live to see daylight of February 15th.
Back to Top