***WARNING*** HEAVY SPOILERS AHEAD***
If you’ve never seen My Bloody Valentine then you might want to skip this post. If you’ve seen My Bloody Valentine more times than you can count (like me), then this post will offer up a way to view the film in a very different light. If you decide to re-watch My Bloody Valentine after reading this post, make sure it’s the uncut, letter-boxed edition released by Lionsgate. Some of the clues mentioned here are missing from the full screen version.
My Bloody Valentine is one of my favorite slashers, but a few things about the story puzzled me. Who is the blond woman at the beginning and why doesn’t anyone notice she’s missing? Who delivered the last bloody box of candy to the Sheriff if the killer is busy boiling Dave at the party? After several more viewings and several more questions, a terrible idea took shape in my mind. The dark truth is Axel Palmer did not act alone during his blood thirsty rampage. Even worse, Axel was manipulated by a sinister puppet master, a bitter man who hated Valentine Bluffs more than Axel and Harry Warden. A man who tried to escape the mines and his tyrannical father but failed and was forced to swallow his pride along with the coal dust. The secret mastermind who committed murder to create the illusion of Harry Warden’s return and drove poor Axel insane is none other than T. J. Hanniger.
The Evidence Against T.J.
1. The Mysterious Blond: The fact that the first victim is never identified and none of the other characters seem to miss her passing suggests the blond isn’t a local girl. T.J. has just returned to Valentine Bluffs from “out west” so it’s possible he brought the girl with him. The murder occurs in the Hanniger Mines, which T.J. has the keys to as revealed during the party at the mine later in the film. As for Axel, he’s in love with Sarah so he’d have little reason or opportunity to sneak off with the blond bombshell.
2. Mabel’s Death: While dear Mabel is getting the wrong end of the pick-ax, Axel is with friends at the bar and the junkyard. T.J. is the one who storms out of the bar early and arrives at the junkyard much later.
3. From Outsider to Leader: At the beginning of My Bloody Valentine, T.J. is ostracized from his old friends. He stands off to the side at the dance hall while the others celebrate. At The Cage, the local bar, T.J. stands beside the jukebox while the others are huddled around tables. Later in the film, T.J. has a seat at the head of the table and it’s Axel who’s forced to stand against the wall. Once he has control of the group, T.J. suggests the mine is the perfect place to have the Valentine party which makes him a big hero in the eyes of his friends.
4. Using Sarah: T.J. proclaims his love for Sarah quite a few times during My Bloody Valentine. But if you listen to the dialogue closely you’ll see he doesn’t love her. He’s only using her to needle Axel. The first time T.J. states he’s ready to reclaim Sarah is at the junkyard. Axel shed light on T.J.’s true character when he mentions T.J. left town without a word so no one knew what happened to him. After T.J. kidnaps Sarah from work and drags her to the cliffs, he tells her how much he lovers her. Sarah counters with “you never wrote” and “you left me.” If T.J. really loved Sarah so much, then surely he would’ve taken her with him or at least let her know how he was doing. No, T.J. doesn’t love Sarah but Axel does. T.J. uses this against Axel to drive him crazy. When T.J. isn’t needling Axel with “you know she really wants me”, he’s picking fights with Axel at the junkyard, in the mine, and at the party. At the same time, T.J. is working on Sarah. She becomes so confused that she no longer knows who she really loves.
5. Howard’s Death: Howard is supposed to protect Patty and Sarah in the mines but runs off when the killer miner suddenly appears. The miner ducks into a side tunnel while Howard runs screaming through the mine. A short time later Axel finds the girls cowering beside Hollis’ corpse. There’s a problem with Axel killing Howard. Axel doesn’t have enough time to track down Howard, haul him up the ladder, hang him, and then get back to the girls. T.J., on the other hand, is unaccounted for during this time frame. It’s more likely T.J. killed Howard and then caught up with the others later.
6. Patty’s Death: This one is a real head scratcher. T.J. tells Patty and Sarah to just keep straight and they’ll eventually get out of the mine. For no apparent reason, T.J. suddenly takes a fork in the road and leaves the girls alone. As the two women make their way towards safety, a pick-ax suddenly swings out and kills Patty. It’s possible Axel is the one responsible for Patty’s death but T.J.’s actions before this murder are awfully suspicious. Even more amazing is the killer emerging from the end of the same tunnel T.J. entered.
In the end, I believe T.J. is responsible for the deaths of the blond, Mabel, and Howard. Happy the bartender and Patty are in the maybe category. Axel definitely kills Dave and Sylvia because T.J. is talking to people inside the rec room during those murders. Hollis, Mike, and Harriet are toss ups between the two. I still don’t know who left that final message at the Sheriff’s office. The fact that the last message is a simple sentence while the others are complex poems suggests there is more than one writer. Perhaps a third, as yet unknown party is involved. At least I can sleep easy now knowing I’ve done my best to exonerate poor Axel. Well, partially exonerate poor Axel anyway.