How John Lennon’s Murder Changed the Horror Film ‘My Bloody Valentine’

John Lennon had an impact on music, popular culture, and … horror movies? His tragic death led the creators of the 1980s horror film My Bloody Valentine to change the film significantly. Here’s how the public reacted to this new version of the film.

John Lennon wearing a patch that says "People for Peace"
John Lennon | Ron Howard/Redferns

The effect of John Lennon’s murder on movies

First, a little background. In the late 1970s, audiences made John Carpenter’s Halloween a huge hit. Subsequently, cinemas were filmed with horror films based around holidays and special events, like Friday the 13th, New Year’s Evil, Happy Birthday to Me, and Prom Night.

These films often included lots of violence. In 1980, John Lennon’s senseless murder shocked the world and the cultural attitude towards movie violence changed — at least temporarily. In an interview with Bloody Disgusting, My Bloody Valentine director George Mihalka discussed how John’s murder changed the culture.

Photos, flowers, and candles at a John Lennon memorial
A John Lennon tribute | Jemal Countess/WireImage

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Mihalka “remember[s] driving up to the editing room to look at the final cut the day the news came on about John Lennon,” Mihalka said. “I just went back home that day. I could understand the collective cultural despair of the time. Unfortunately, as is always the case, there was backlash and this one was against senseless violence.” Mihalka discussed why he felt the need to change the film.

What the horror movie was like after the director changed it

“We were the first up in front of the MPAA,” Mihalka recalled. “The response was, ‘Forget it. This is an X.’ Especially in those days, that would have meant going from a 1,200 theater release to about 60 porno theaters.”

A trailer for My Bloody Valentine

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The creators of My Bloody Valentine acquiesced and toned down the film considerably. “When we cut the whole damn thing up, the sound was still so impressive they asked us to cut more and I said, ‘There is no more. It’s just the sound now that you’re reacting to’….So by the time we finished, I was jokingly calling it My Not So Bloody Valentine.” So how did the public react well to this not-so-bloody cut of the film?

The legacy of ‘My Bloody Valentine’

According to Box Office Mojo, the 1980s version of My Bloody Valentine earned over $5 million at the box office. Even by early 1980s standards, that wasn’t a huge box office take. However, My Bloody Valentine is still one of the most well-remembered slasher films of its era. Mihalka told Bloody Disgusting two things raised the film’s profile: the Irish rock band My Bloody Valentine and Quentin Tarantino’s praise of the film.

The trailer for the remake

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In addition, My Bloody Valentine was remade in 2009. The remake went for the jugular and lived up to its title. According to Box Office Mojo, the remake earned over $100 million at the box office. Apparently, the film’s mix of Valentine’s Day festivities, mining, and murder aged pretty well considering how much the remake resonated. The story of My Bloody Valentine had broad appeal — just not around the time John died.