My Bloody Valentine 3D
Directed by Patrick Lussier
Starring Jensen Ackles, Jaime King, Kerr Smith
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Release Date: May 19, 2009
Watching My Bloody Valentine 3-D on the big screen back in January was a watershed moment in my movie going life. Never before have I seen a movie break from its celluloid constraints and literally get in my face. Having been an admirer of the original 1981 My Bloody Valentine I was also interested in what a remake could do to top the first one’s story and gore/violence content, especially in the wake of the release of the uncut original on DVD. I’m pleased to say My Bloody Valentine 3-D takes everything that made the original a standout among the early 1980’s assault of turgid Dead Teenager flicks and amps it up to the Nth degree. Best of all, it’s in fucking 3-D! Grab your pickaxe and let’s have some fun.
The town of Harmony lives and dies based on the success of the Hanniger Mines. The owner of the mines employs his cocksure son Tom (Jensen Ackles) to the dismay of the working stiffs who don’t have it that easy. One night Tom is derelict in his duties and a methane explosion causes a cave-in sealing several men inside. A rescue crew finds only one survivor, Harry Warden (Rich Walters), in a coma. It turns out Harry managed to survive by driving a pickaxe into the heads of his fellow trapped miners in order to conserve air. After one year Harry comes out of his coma and goes on a gruesome killing spree climaxing at the mines where it all began. While the youth of Harmony are having a party in the mines, Harry returns in his miner’s uniform with mass murder on his mind. Before he can claim the life of Tom, the one he blames for his current predicament, Harry is shot by town sheriff Burke (Tom Atkins!) and flees into the tunnel where another explosion causes a cave-in and Harry Warden is assumed dead. Or is he?
Ten years later the people of Harmony have moved on. Tom has returned to the town after a lengthy sabbatical in the wake of his father’s recent passing to oversee the sale of the mine. He discovers that his sweetheart Sarah (Jamie King) has married his old friend Axel (Kerr Smith), who is now the town sheriff since Burke retired. Along with Tom another familiar face has returned to Harmony to settle old business. A mysterious figure decked out in miner duds and armed with a pickaxe descends on the town to carry out a mission of murder and mayhem and the townspeople immediately blame Tom for the killings, believing that Harry Warden has returned and is out for the young man’s blood. With multiple suspects to choose from, include the slim possibility that Warden himself may be responsible, the killer’s identity along with the many disturbing secrets long buried by the Harmony townsfolk will all be revealed.
I was not a big fan of the original My Bloody Valentine, but after catching the long-lost uncut version on DVD around the time of the remake’s release I gained a new appreciation for the movie. It’s not the best of the slasher flicks that emerged from the subgenre’s golden era in the early 1980’s, but it’s one of the more underrated due to its interesting characters, uncluttered storyline, and the should-have-been-iconic masked maniac Harry Warden a.k.a. The Miner. But there was always room for improvement and this remake, directed by longtime Wes Craven associate (and maker of many lackluster horror films, most of them released direct to video) Patrick Lussier, does very well by the original on all counts.
Of course it’s far from being a perfect film. Let’s face facts ladies and germs, it was only made to take advantage of that time-honored cinematic gimmick 3-D at the height of its resurgence — which tends to happen once every quarter century. But the movie itself, written by Todd Farmer (Jason X) and newcomer Zane Smith, is pretty damn decent entertainment that serves its purpose as a straight-up rollercoaster ride of gruesome gore and intense action. Even if you know the hills and turns on this ride, it’s still fun to jump in the cars and let it take you where it may. Yet having the 3-D effects makes the movie even more enjoyable than any ordinary human could make it. Unlike the cheeseball flicks of old that took advantage of living and breathing in the third dimension by merely having people stick things out at the screen, My Bloody Valentine 3-D lets loose with a non-stop assault of flying limbs, roaring explosions, and glorious bouncing breasts that no mere mortal of a movie screen can contain.
But you can’t judge a movie like this on its cool gimmicks alone. For the most part Lussier’s remake knows to how to throw a solid, well-executed slasher jamboree. Farmer and Smith have constructed a tight, lurid yarn that maintained the character dynamics of the original (particularly the love triangle between Tom, Sarah, and Axel) while adding in a few tweaks of their own. The violence ante is upped at least two or threefold over the original by squeezing a compact redo of My Bloody Valentine “˜81 in the first ten minutes and a body count that even the modern day slashers couldn’t beat even if they had longer running times. I’m honestly surprised that this movie got by with an R-rating because this is the kind of vicious bloodletting typically reserved for unrated DVDs. The killings are even on occasion pretty sick and provide the meat of the movie’s giddy thrills. Best of all the majority of the murders are enhanced by the glory of beautiful 3-D! Watching My Bloody Valentine 3-D with an audience was one of the single most joyous experiences I’ve ever had at the movies. It’s like we were all a bunch of deranged little kids again.
Gary Tunnicliffe, the FX maestro behind the deliriously insane effects of Feast, is the chef behind this four-course gore buffet and his work here ranks among his best. It helps that the potential for the effects being cheesy is aided by the gorgeous overcast cinematography of Brian Pearson. Michael Wandmacher‘s musical score is a sonic slasher of its own that keeps the terrifying action going full blast and even provides a nice aural undertone to the romantic interludes. Director Lussier does a damn fine job editing the film with Cynthia Ludwig, tightening the film’s structure and keeping it lean and mean and powering ahead full steam like the relentless Miner.
Finally there’s the terrific cast Lussier has assembled. Jensen Ackles, an actor best known for his work on the CW’s Supernatural, gives a fine performance as the heroic Tom, haunted by his past and wanting to make things right for the future. Another veteran television actor Kerr Smith of Dawson’s Creek is probably best known for his gloriously dickish Carter in the original Final Destination, but thankfully he tones down his more assholish impulses to play the stubborn yet sympathetic Axel. Jamie King of Sin City and Blow has been better when given better material but here she’s very good as the conflicted Sarah. But beating her in the best actress stakes is Betsy Rue in her brief but highly memorable role as Irene. Rue spends every second of her screen time in the nude, and I mean FULLY NUDE! We’re talking extended periods of time seeing full frontal and rear. You don’t usually see this kind of nudity in a major motion picture (once again, unrated DVD) and what makes Rue’s turn in My Bloody Valentine 3-D stand out (other than those perky bouncing boobies) is her soon-to-be-legendary badass scene where she hunts down her piece of shit fuck-and-flee lover (writer Farmer, not going fully nude but close) in the parking lot of a cheap motel — watch the movie and you’ll see why — without nothing but a gun in her hand. Betsy Rue has a lot of guts to take this part and she soldiers through like the classic scream queen she may be one of these days. Next to her the best part of the cast is the long-awaited return of that god among insects Tom Atkins of many John Carpenter and George Romero flicks and the 80’s classic Night of the Creeps as the tough retired sheriff Burke. When Atkins first shows up on screen magnified by the glories of 3-D the man looks like fucking Zeus! I swear the dude was towering over everyone in the audience like the mere mortals we are. His performance was a great reminder that the man still has the manly acting chops. Atkins’ role is essential to the story so it isn’t a cameo as I initially feared going into this movie. The man is a legend and it was a real treat seeing him back on the big screen. It was also great to see his fellow character acting great Kevin Tighe (Road House) in a small but crucial role as one of the town fathers. Whenever Atkins and him are on screen together the movie gets a little bit better.
Now that we have dissected the movie, let’s take a bloody pickaxe to the DVD.
Lionsgate Home Entertainment has released My Bloody Valentine 3-D in a two-disc special edition DVD with a fair amount of bonus features spread across the set. The first disc presents both the 2-D and 3-D versions of the film on a dual-sided DVD in the original theatrical widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Both versions boast strong picture quality but the real surprise is how good the 3-D picture translates to the small screen. Coming off the massive disappointment of the Friday the 13th Part 3 3-D DVD back in February I was fully prepared for the worst. Other than the occasional ghosting and mild blurring effects as a result of using a regular two color process instead of the magnificent Real 3-D single lens process that made the movie come alive on the big screen, the three-dimensional picture looks as good as it can be on a 16×9 television screen. I still jumped and flinched once in a while, which makes me satisfied. Audio-wise both versions of the film are bolstered by a lively Dolby Digital EX 5.1 soundtrack and a frank and funny feature-length audio commentary with director Lussier and writer Farmer. Previews for other Lionsgate theatrical and DVD titles play upfront when you load the DVD. I would list the titles previewed but if you have watched any Lionsgate DVD in the past few months then you already know what they are, and quite frankly I have done so many reviews of Lionsgate titles lately that I am tired of listing them. I mean, what’s the bloody point? They whore the same five movies on every one of their damn DVDs for a full year!
The majority of the bonus features are ported over to disc two, thankfully not including a digital copy for a change as has become a bad habit with Lionsgate titles lately. The extras are not plentiful but it is understandable that the DVD producers would want to save as much space on the first disc as possible for preserving the excellent video and audio presentation.
First up is a pretty basic making-of featurette entitled “Deep Inside My Bloody Valentine“ (7 minutes). Yes I know, it sounds like a horror-themed porno. Anyhoo, the bulk of the running time is devoted to discussing the production’s use of a real working mine for the principal filming location. Painfully brief and mostly electronic press kit material worthy of a single watch, that is if you do not get bored midway through.
Much more substantial is the misleadingly titled “Sex, Blood, and Screams” (6 minutes) which follows FX wizard Gary Tunnicliffe as he breaks down how five of the best kills in the movie were accomplished. The real meat of the extras so to speak. I enjoyed finding out that a gruesome jaw rip gag in the movie could not have happened without the help of magnets. This makes for a fun watch but despite the title there is nary a mention of sex in this featurette. What a letdown considering the ample boobage on display in the movie.
Fourteen deleted scenes running about 18 minutes combined do not consist of anything that could have been of substantial value to the movie with the exception of a scene involving Tom and how his relationship with his father was altered by the mine explosion. There is also a minute-long alternate ending that is not much different than what ended up in the final release version other than an additional 3-D kill.
Closing out the extras is a gag reel that runs barely two minutes and does not contain but a few odd funny moments. The best one comes toward the end and features a surprise appearance by our favorite psycho in a miner’s mask.
My Bloody Valentine 3-D may not be the best horror movie around, or even the best remake. But in a era of sanitized scare flicks that would rather play it safe to make some money off gullible teenagers this movie works as a great mindless entertainment and a reminder of a more innocent time when gullible teenagers had better movies to waste their money on. If you’re looking for a good old-fashioned gory thrill ride look no further. LONG LIVE HARRY WARDEN!
BAADASSSSS will return.
I had a lot of fun with this film. Excellent review.
Comment by Jerry — June 7, 2009 @ 3:47 pm
I agree with Jerry..good review. I had actually made similar comments in a write up of my own about how well the 3-D translates to DVD on this disc. Unfortunately, whenever the dual colored glasses are utilized, that murkiness will be present to some degree, but I was surprised at how sharp most of the film looked. Best of all- little to no ghosting! After the F13 3 fiasco I had doubts, but this disc proves that a 3-D film can be brought home successfully.
Comment by D.S. — June 22, 2009 @ 11:15 pm