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Interview: The Legend Of Harry Warden Lives On In Armando Muñoz’s New “MY BLOODY VALENTINE” Novelization

Friday, February 10, 2023 | Books, Cryptic Collectibles, Interviews


Hitting theater and drive-in screens in February of 1981, the Canadian-made slasher classic MY BLOODY VALENTINE holds a special place in the hearts of many horror fans. The film, which introduced cinemagoers to murderous miner Harry Warden is a favourite among slasher fanatics due to its well-written script, strong performances, unique setting (much of it shot inside a real coal mine), ominous score (by prolific composer Paul Zaza: Prom Night, Curtains), creative death scenes, and genuinely terrifying villain – who uses a pickaxe to savagely rip out the hearts of several of his victims.

Despite its popularity, official merchandise for the film has only recently begun to be produced, among these a board game and a newly released hardcover novelization. Penned by author Armando Muñoz, with a foreword by MY BLOODY VALENTINE’s director George Mihalka, MY BLOODY VALENTINE: THE NOVEL is the tie-in novelization that fans of the Canuck cult classic have long been waiting for. The debut book release from Stop the Killer (the company behind the also recently released tabletop game) is officially licensed by the film’s original production company, Cinépix, and features striking cover and dust jacket artwork by former RUE MORGUE art director Gary Pullin, with lyrics from Zaza’s iconic “The Ballad of Harry Warden,” also appearing on the back of the dust jacket. The first edition printing of the novel also comes with a bookmark featuring Pullin’s art, and a bookplate signed by Mihalka and Muñoz. Envisioned as a companion piece to Mihalka’s film, the novel not only fleshes out characters and plot points, but also restores scenes of gore and mayhem that had been cut from the film at the behest of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

Muñoz takes us back inside the blood-soaked Hanniger Mines to talk about MY BLOODY VALENTINE: THE NOVEL. 

When it comes to movie novelizations, it’s customary for the book’s release to coincide with the film’s debut in theaters and/or on streaming platforms. But MY BLOODY VALENTINE hit cinemas and drive-ins in 1981, during the height of the original slasher boom. So why are we seeing a novelization for the film now, 42 years after its original theatrical release?

Had a novelization of MY BLOODY VALENTINE been released in the 1980s, it’d have long been sitting on my shelf, likely dog-eared from countless seasonal readings. That’s the charm of a holiday or theme-day slasher book;  You want to take them off the shelf as the title day approaches to get in the seasonal spirit. Holidays have specific sights and smells and tastes that these dusty old books can trigger.

Paramount Pictures may not have been pleased enough with the modest success of MY BLOODY VALENTINE upon its release to see the worth of giving it a movie tie-in, but who then could have predicted the ever-growing appreciation this film would receive? But that’s the thing about a good legend – it endures and takes on a life of its own. The legend of Harry Warden has only gotten stronger as the years pass.

I’ve heard horror fans wish for a MY BLOODY VALENTINE novelization over the years, and I’ve seen a few fan art designs of what a tie-in paperback might look like. The interest was there, that I could see. And we love our movie collectibles. 

How did the project first come together? How did you land the job to write the novel?

Author Armando Muñoz

This project started with Anthony Masi of Stop the Killer, the game company that produced MY BLOODY VALENTINE: THE GAME. He believed this title was still of great interest to fans, and he had faith that people still want to read books. Anthony enjoyed my debut novel, Hoarder, and was familiar with my original slasher series set on Thanksgiving, Turkey Day and Turkey Kitchen. I have experience with seasonal slaughter.

Next, I had to pitch my approach and vision for the book to the film’s director, George Mihalka. Thankfully, we were fully on the same page, so to speak, on what this book should be. My eternal gratitude to Anthony, George, and Cinépix for allowing me this opportunity to return to Valentine Bluffs, live for many months with these wonderful characters, relive the terror and report back on what I saw. 

Can you tell us a bit about the process of writing the novel? Did you work from the film’s original script?

I did have John Beaird’s shooting script as a road map, and on top of that, I had George Mihalka.  We spoke many times at length, dissecting every element of MY BLOODY VALENTINE– the setting, the legend, the intricate murders, and most of all, those characters we love so much. George also provided numerous stories about the film’s production, which helped me color in additional details on the realities of a Canadian mining town, and the sensory details and grim conditions within the mine itself.

While I had the script and finished film as guides, we did not restrict ourselves to a strictly verbatim retelling. The novel is a much more expansive work that allowed us to flesh out the story and characters considerably and bring more history to the town of Valentine Bluffs. MY BLOODY VALENTINE was filmed in the Canadian coal-mining town of Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia. In writing the town of Valentine Bluffs, I utilized a good deal of Sydney Mines’ history, going back for centuries, so there was some research required on the region’s history. 

MY BLOODY VALENTINE: THE NOVEL contains content not featured in the original theatrical cut of the film. Is this material comprised of scenes cut from the movie, such as sequences of violence and gore that were cut at the insistence of the MPAA? Or are these scenes that were written but never filmed?

George Mihalka has claimed that the recent uncut releases of MY BLOODY VALENTINE contained only about 70 percent of the gore footage excised by the MPAA, but thankfully, the script had those scenes spelled out. In the case of the infamous missing double murder of a copulating couple, George was rather proud of that sequence and was able to describe how he filmed it, shot for shot, every nasty little detail, so I could match his original vision.

The film had a couple of scenes that the MPAA would not allow to be shown, even in a censored form, possibly because they were the most explicit in mixing sex and violence. Those were the scenes that were never recovered. There was a shocking gore scene late in the script I’d never heard about, and I had to ask George if that scene had actually been filmed. He assured me it had but remains lost. That scene is back in the novel, too.

There are also many new scenes of violence throughout. For instance, in the film when Happy is recounting the legend at the bar, he mentions that Harry Warden killed the two supervisors responsible for the mine cave-in the year before. We only saw one of those murders on-screen. We’ll get to experience both extended bloody murders in the book. We’ve also worked in many new big, bloody scares we think will surprise the audience. There is no MPAA looming over our shoulders with scissors this time. We’re delivering the bloodiest version of MY BLOODY VALENTINE yet.

We’re bringing back more than just missing gore, as well. At first, I was counting the number of expanded or missing scenes in the script, but I gave that up when I reached over two dozen. There was so much material on the page that did not make it to the screen due to the constraints of a studio-mandated 90-minute running time. We get to spend so much more time now with all of our favorite characters and fill out the story in satisfying ways. Who was the first victim? What was T.J. doing when he disappeared out west for a year? What exactly was going on inside the killer’s head? We’re filling in many of those ambiguities. 

In addition to discussing various aspects of the film with you and providing information about the censored footage, George Mihalka also wrote the foreword to the novel.

George Mihalka provided a great foreword, tracing the history of MY BLOODY VALENTINE, from the green light for the film all the way through the creation of the novel. It’s a fascinating history of not only of the film’s legacy but the director’s legacy as well.

George availed himself anytime I needed to ask anything, whether discussing a major plot point or character arc or any small detail, like what bands would the Canadian youth in 1981 play on cassettes at a party where they were all trying to score.

It was a pleasure to collaborate with George throughout the entire process. I aimed to fulfill his ultimate vision of what MY BLOODY VALENTINE could be. At the same time, he allowed me an incredible amount of freedom to bring my voice and ideas throughout, to carry the flame. This was an immensely satisfying collaboration. 

The book has just been released and is sold out on the Stop the Killer website. How has the reaction been to your novel so far from fans of MY BLOODY VALENTINE?

The first edition hardcover just shipped out over the past two weeks, and readers are just starting to experience it now. We had a very successful book signing this past weekend [February 4th] at the horror bookstore Dark Delicacies in Burbank, California, which included Anthony Masi of Stop the Killer signing MY BLOODY VALENTINE: THE GAME, and we were joined by MY BLOODY VALENTINE stars Rob Klein and Helene Udy, the doomed shower couple John and Sylvia. The entire run of the first edition hardcover has now sold out. Hopefully, news will be announced soon on future printings and editions.

This book was a labor of love, and our team of George and I, Stop the Killer, our double cover artist Gary Pullin and Cinépix with Susan Curran and Greg Dunning are excited to bring this book out to everyone. So far, the fans are welcoming it with great enthusiasm. The time is right to throw another Valentine’s Dance! 

The first edition of MY BLOODY VALENTINE: THE NOVEL is currently sold out but check out Stop The Killer for news on upcoming printings. For more information on Armando Muñoz’s other projects, go to

This book was a labor of love … The time is right to throw another Valentine’s Dance!” 

James Burrell has been fascinated with monsters and all things scary since the age of three. Growing up in Toronto during the 1970s and ‘80s, he fed his insatiable appetite for horror with a steady diet of Hilarious House of Frightenstein and Saturday afternoon TV matinees of Universal, Hammer and Amicus flicks - all while eating too many bowls of Count Chocula, Boo Berry and Franken Berry. An avid collector of monster figures, model kits, vintage board games, tie-in novels, records, comics and movie posters, James continues to search for that next item to add to his eclectic and ever-growing collection of horror ephemera. He is the recipient of the 2010 Rondo Classic Horror Award for Best Interview, for his feature on Sir Christopher Lee that appeared in Rue Morgue’s 100th issue and penned two volumes in The Rue Morgue Library.