Ah, February. Where love is in the air, or in many cases, a desperate need to find love by Valentine’s Day. Maybe we let up on the horror gas for a spell, and let the heart run free.
Or, maybe love and death are meant to go hand in hand. Look at the phrase, la petite mort, aka, the little death, that blissful moment after you’ve achieved the BIG-O and everything goes numb and still. To love is to die a little, bit by bit, orgasm by orgasm, heartbreak by heartbreak. It’s a wonder we don’t have a treasure trove of V-day themed horror movies. Maybe we’re looking at this special day all wrong.
I think I need to start with a love story and how it’s bound to a very popular movie this time of year. That story would be mine. Now, if Cupid would aim that arrow somewhere else, I can get rolling.
Believe it or not, this hardcore horrorhound was not married on Halloween or the birthday of John Carpenter (January 16th) or on a random Friday the 13th. On the nose choices, all of them. But the fates of love and marriage, which go together like a horse and carriage, had other plans. No, the missus and I, who are celebrating thirty-one years, were betrothed on Valentine’s Day. It was a Friday (so close to the 13th!) because Saturday wedding receptions were almost double in price.
Now, this marriage was to the same woman who would blow off work when we were dating so we could watch five or six rented horror movies at a time. We bonded in blood and screams, the horrid whine of chainsaws and slicing of machetes. Why on Earth would we choose such a sappy, Hallmark-made holiday?
I’ll tell you why…and then get to the video horror. First, she was plucked out of a crowd in the mall and given a job by my manager at a vitamin store (the now defunct Vitamin Quota) because she looked like the dream girl I had drunkenly described to him when we stayed at the store late one night to keep an eye on the floor buffing crew. This raven haired dime was hired solely so I could date her. HR would not approve today (I weep for all of the loves that will never be today because of lawyers and HR managers and hashtag loving pinheads). My manager didn’t know or care if she could do anything right or well. She was the embodiment of my dreams, therefore she was now an employee. So, day one I walk in, am told what happened while I was off, and I’m pushed in her direction. She was stocking a low shelf with bottles of vitamin B. I nervously introduced myself and dared her to eat a vitamin B pill without puking (it was an actual game the VQ crew played when we were bored). She looked at me as if I had baby goat legs growing out of my ears.
That didn’t stop me from going full court press. Sure, she was out of my league. Hell, we weren’t even in the same sport. But I was determined. After a week of careful wooing, using all of my so-called charms, I asked her out. She smiled and said, “That’s so sweet. Sorry, I have a boyfriend.” Crestfallen, I resigned myself to being alone. You see, I had broken up with a girl who was downright scary. She would put cigarettes out on her arms during movies and filed her eye teeth down to vampire points. After her, I thought I was done. And now this rejection confirmed it.
Not long after, I found myself sipping into the friend zone. I couldn’t let it happen! Naturally, I kept asking how things were with the boyfriend, hoping for a chance. When she did break up with him, I hesitated to take my shot. Another dude slipped right in. How the hell was I supposed to get to the front of the line? (Pro tip: I ingratiated myself with her mother, which went a long way!)
To make a long story short, after practically begging to take her out over the course of six months, she finally agreed! And our first date was going to coincide on Valentine’s Day! Could it be any more perfect? My plan was to woo her with roses, chocolate and a huge teddy bear, and then take her to dinner and a movie. All spiffed up, my POS car loaded with presents, I rang her bell. Her sister told me she had gone to the movies with another guy. Whaaaat? Her sister looked as upset as I did. I spent the night driving in anger, tossing flowers and chocolate out of my window.
The next day she called, apologizing over and over. Because I had been friend zoned, she hadn’t been aware that I was serious about the date. Or so she still tells me. Still angry at her, we did go out that night. Instead of a super special first date, we had burgers at Fuddruckers and my car got a ticket for being parked in a tow zone. Despite all of that, we agreed to a second date. That was a trip to the movies to see A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. And so, our fates were sealed.
It seemed only natural to get hitched the same date that was a mix of pleasure and pain, young love and early death. I mean, that’s what life is all about, right? Plus, there was no way I could forget our anniversary. On a side note, I intentionally proposed to her four years later on Pearl Harbor Day, again because I would never forget the date. And as my dad said, “You’re going down with the ship now, boy.”
One of the things we loved at our local video store was the endcap display that would pop up for special occasions. They were big on horror, so our favorite flicks had their own featured recommendations from the staff. Our dating and wedding anniversaries always involved watching movies at some point. Sure, some of them were in that area behind the squeaky saloon doors, but we always went to the horror recommendation shelf with the bloody heart decorations. Let me tell you, there was never much to recommend. For the first few years, there was only Hospital Massacre (aka X-Ray with Barbi Benton, a totally demented flick), anything slightly erotic like The Hunger, and the original My Bloody Valentine. Later on, the dreadful Valentine was added, but we didn’t dare rent it. We saw it on opening day in the theater and let’s just say it was the anti-Viagra of horror.
My Bloody Valentine, that love letter from Canada, became, and still is, our go-to. We talk often about how amazing it would be to renew our vows in the old, abandoned Haninger Mines over in Valentine Bluffs. With my luck, it would cave in. It was shot in Nova Scotia, just in case you’re a Canuck wedding planner and want to talk some logistics.
The movie was released on February 11th, 1981, a bit of a standout in the slasher wave that year. The killer, dressed in all black mining gear complete with pickaxe and gas mask, is pretty intimidating. It has a creepy setting that’s all about dirt and claustrophobia, ala Alien and later, The Descent. Some pretty wicked kills. From Mabel getting steam cleaned in the dryer, to death by hot dog water, and a shower head through the mouth, there’s some clever thought behind devising ways to shorten the cast. There’s even a Crazy Ralph homage when the bartender cries out to the full bar, and to the viewer, “This town is accursed!”
One thing I like to do with older movies is see what kind of beer people are drinking. Because MBV was shot in Canada, there are a lot of green bottles of Moosehead, and hefty cans of Schlitz. The bar the miners call their second home is my kind of place. Full of happy drunks who break into song, a jukebox and a couple of games. Ah, heaven is a place in a rundown mining town.
Here’s the breakdown: Valentine Bluffs hasn’t had a V-day party for twenty years thanks to Harry Warden, a miner who survived a cave in by eating his fellow coal diggers. I hear they had a minerally taste. Old Harry was never quite the same after that, slaughtering those he deemed responsible for the poor mine conditions a year later and stuffing their severed hearts in boxes. He’s now a consultant for the Food Network. Try the meatloaf with a nice chianti.
Well, thanks to Mabel’s decorating committee and the mayor who is kind of sweet on her, it’s time to bring back the season of love and annual dance. It’s been twenty years. The coast should be clear, right?
Mabel is killed and hearts start showing up in candy boxes. And somewhere, a young Kurt Cobain is dreaming up “Heart Shaped Box.” Valentine’s Day is cancelled, but that doesn’t stop the rowdy miners and their lady friends from sneaking into the mine’s HQ and partying down. And by that, I mean drinking, eating hot dogs, playing pool, and sucking beer through a straw into their nose. Oh you crazy cut-ups! Of course, there’s some screwing in the mine. It takes a special girl to allow that to happen in such a chilling place. Where was she when I was single and needing to mingle?
Unlike so many other movies, this one sticks the landing. That slow battle on the coal cars is priceless. So is the now one-armed killer’s cackle as he heads deeper into the mine and further out of his mind. It just begs for a sequel, but alas, one never came. There’s still time. In fact, I’m available if you need someone to write the screenplay.
If you’re looking for fun with the 3-D remake, have at it. Maybe I’m a purist. Or maybe I just have discerning taste. I’ll take the OG any day.
So, whether you’ve been stood up this year, or you’re with the one you love, give My Bloody Valentine a watch. When it’s over, have your own la petite mort. You’ll be glad you came.
Hunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal—he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. You can follow his madness at huntershea.com.