Not many people got up in arms about the remake of My Bloody Valentine because the original simply isn’t one of those beloved films. The 1981 Canadian movie has a very iconic looking killer – a guy in a gas mask and miner’s outfit, wielding a pick-axe – and an iconic kill – a woman stuffed into a dryer – but is otherwise sort of dingy and ugly and not a lot of fun. It also suffers from apparently massive butchering by the MPAA; I’ve read about up to nine minutes being cut from the film. Even in the era of rampant slasher sequalization, My Bloody Valentine‘s miner only got one go round.
The 2009 version promises to have a very different fate. Embracing gimmicky 3D effects and heavily splattering gore everywhere, the remake is bloody blast of fun that surprisingly harkens back to a very different era of horror movies. The original slasher films were American-ized, pumped up versions of giallos, Italian murder mysteries that played like Murder She Wrote with a big blood budget. While the modern concept of slasher films is an iconic, known-quantity killer cutting a swath through sexualized teens, early slasher films – like the giallos – often had a mystery component at the center. We’d be left guessing as to who it was that wielded that axe (and some films would give us wildly unsatisfying answers. Friday the 13th doesn’t introduce its killer until the third act, which is frustrating). The remake of My Bloody Valentine keeps the original’s mystery angle, and I think it’s surprisingly effective; while I was never all that worried about who was actually behind the mask, I was engaged enough to enjoy the final reveal. The movie throws in just enough red herrings and misdirections to actually be a little bit of fun.
The plot of the movie is essentially an extrapolation of the original, with some changes and twists thrown in. The action takes place in a small rural town that revolves around the local mine. When Tom, the son of the mine’s owner, fucks up his job, five men get trapped in a collapsed tunnel. Three days after the collapse rescuers find four of them dead, with pick-axe wounds to their heads. The survivor, Harry Warden, killed them all so he could conserve air. Warden is found in a coma, from which he awakens on Valentine’s Day. He goes on a massive killing spree, first slicing and dicing his way through the hospital (some really excellent corpses here), ripping out the hearts of his victims. Then he heads to the closed down mine shaft where his accident happened, which is now the site of teenage partying. Tom has reluctantly returned to the mine with his girlfriend, and he comes face to face with Harry as he murders all the kids partying. Tom is about to get killed when he’s saved by Sherrif Tom Atkins (yay!), who shoots Harry Warden. Warden runs deeper into the mine, which collapses on him. Final death toll: 22.
And that’s the prologue! Director Patrick Lussier delivers a number of quality kills in just these opening minutes, including a delightful head bisection via shovel (the only non-pick-axe kill in the movie, I believe). The blood, viscera and pointy objects shoved into the audience’s face has everybody laughing and screaming, and it creates an awful lot of good will for the slower scenes to come as the mystery is set up. The movie picks up ten years later; Tom has been away but returns to town to sell the mine now that his father is dead. His girlfriend Sarah has married his old rival, Axel, who is now the world’s youngest-looking sheriff. And the killings are about to begin all over again. Tom is the immediate suspect, and he has to turn to his Sarah to help clear his name.
But what you’re really interested in is are the money shots. It’s been a long time since the golden age of 3D horror films, and you’re probably wondering if this one stands up to what came before. I’m going out on a limb here (admittedly a very safe, thick one) by saying that I think the 2009 My Bloody Valentine is the best 3D horror film ever made. And that’ll rile up some purists who will say that House of Wax or The Mask take the cake (and that’s not even getting into the 80s 3D revival), but I’m a gorehound at heart and the MBV3D delivers the red stuff in copious, squirting-in-your-face amounts. So much so that, at the Q&A after the screening, late CHUD writer Mr. Beaks asked director Patrick Lussier if the cut we saw had received a rating yet. Somehow it’s R-rated, and it’s among the hardest Rs I’ve seen in a while. I don’t want to ruin the kills, but jaws fly at the audience, eyeballs pop out of skulls, pick-axes are hurled, bodies are ripped asunder, and a good time is had by all. The film also features a sex scene in 3D, and an extended, profoundly gratuitous nude scene. Actress Betsy Rue never wears any clothing in any of her five or more minutes of screentime – she even runs into a parking lot with a gun while fully nude, every part of her completely exposed. I don’t know what the MPAA was thinking when they approved this film with an R, but I’m glad for it. I know I sound like a Neanderthal, but gore and nudity are the cornerstones of the slasher genre, and nudity has been an element missing for far too long.
The cast performs ably. MBV3D is refreshing in that the characters are all adults as opposed to kids (something it shares with the original), even if the adults all look like they’re 19. Jensen Ackles, star of Supernatural, plays Tom with a good veneer of craziness; you never know whether or not he’s actually got some sanity. Jaime King is Sarah, and she’s given the thankless damsel in distress role here, but I think she brings something a little deeper than your average scream queen. The movie doesn’t glam her up, which is nice, and she comes across more like a girl next door than a beauty queen. That honor goes to newbie Megan Boone, who is gorgeous and sexy and obviously doomed from the start. Kerr Smith is actually my favorite of the younger leads; while his patchy beard makes him look like a kid trying to sneak into a bar, he actually invests the former lunkhead, current cheater and unlikely sheriff Axel with a sense of humanity. I liked the dude.
Special notice must be made of the fact that genre giant Tom Atkins makes his first 21st century horror movie appearance. And boy, even after 20 years away from the genre does he thrill me. Atkins brings the perfect mixture of gravitas and humor to the role; he always feels like the guy who most ‘gets it.’ Also delightful to see: Kevin Tighe, one of our great modern character actors. Both old-timers bring a nice weight to the movie, keeping it from floating away into the CW stratosphere.
While I really enjoyed MBV3D, there are two things that must be noted: this film is likely worthless in 2D, and not every theater will be showing it in three dimensions. Unlike other modern 3D movies that emplot the technology for ‘depth’ or ‘atmosphere’ or some such shit, MBV3D bear hugs the gimmick aspect, which means that like Friday the 13th Part 3 3D or Jaws 3D, what’s fun when you’re wearing the glasses will come across as cheesy without them. Also, the entire movie looks like a cheap made for cable production; MBV3D is shot on digital video and it seems like cinematographer Brian Pearson (DP on Karate Dog) just didn’t know what to do with the Red camera. This film is a cautionary tale in the use of digital video – in the right hands it can be gorgeous, but when not lit properly everything looks like a public access show.
Many people proclaimed the slasher film dead after Scream deconstructed it, but I knew that like the killers themselves, the slasher movie was just waiting for the right moment to sit back up and come back for a sequel. 2009 sees My Bloody Valentine, Friday the 13th and Halloween in theaters again. A Nightmare on Elm Street is coming back. The genre is returning, and it’s returning to its roots, eschewing the jokey, tongue in cheek bullshit and remembering that when done right, a solid, simple stalk and slash picture can be a lot of fun on a Friday night. This film won’t win any converts over to the genre – My Bloody Valentine 3D doesn’t reinvent the rules, subvert expectations are offer anything new. It simply takes what’s worked before, mixes them together well, applies some 3D and brings the results to you in a well-made, well-paced, well-done way. My Bloody Valentine is an in-your-face bit of bloody fun that’s guaranteed to thrill those looking for a gory good time.