Opening Friday, January 16th
Directed by Patrick Lussier
In 1981 a Canadian-produced slasher clone directed by George Mihalka hit U.S. theaters and, truth be told, it didn’t have any right to be as enjoyable as it was. But, with its warm characterizations, distinctive locale (the overcast environs of Sidney Mines, Nova Scotia) and memorable killer dressed to the nines in miner’s gear, My Bloody Valentine surpassed the expectations of those who thought it would be a massacre akin to Friday the 13th. Instead, for a copycat, it was pretty darn good and would be held by many (including this writer) as one of the best of its kind even if the film’s maniac known as Harry Warden wasn’t as readily embraced by the mass public like Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger were. My Bloody Valentine 3D may change all of that. Again, a film with plenty stacked against it just on the principal that it was a remake. Yet, its merits are myriad. Director Patrick Lussier demonstrates growth as a director (he’s come a long way since Dracula 2000 and its sequels) and earns kudos for not just bringing one helluva party favor to this bash – the 3-D aspect – but utilizing it to such an immersive degree that it will have you screaming bloody murder.
Updated in a post-Scream decade, My Bloody Valentine 3D turns back the clock with pure intentions and a reverent approach to the 1980s films Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson set out to deconstruct in the ’90s. And it does so with newcomer Zane Smith and Todd Farmer (Jason X)’s mildly flawed but durable screenplay that does right by setting up all of the red herrings, keeping the body count high, the kill set pieces evenly distributed and the mystery engaging. They kick the story off with what is, at its core, an abridged version of Mihalka’s film.
Newspaper headlines catch the viewer up on a mining accident that has occurred in the town of Harmony. Negligence on a young Tom Hanniger’s (Ackles) part causes a tunnel in his family’s mine to collapse and strand a number of workers. When rescue crews move in, they discover all but one miner, Harry Warden, is left alive. Blame for the deaths shifts from Hanniger to Warden when officials learn the latter killed his colleagues to stay alive. Under hospital treatment, Warden later slays the staff and escapes to the mines to pick off a group of teens partying there. The police, including Sheriff Burke (Atkins), intervene and, after bullets fly, Warden is presumed to be dead. And that’s just the first ten minutes or so of the film! In this time, Lussier fires on all cylinders treating us to a growling Tom Atkins (“Happy f**kin’ Valentine’s Day.”) and amazing 3-D picture depth that enhances the claustrophobia of the mines and serves as a visual steroids for Gary Tunnicliffe’s outrageous gore gags. The thing you’re asked to accept is Ackles, Kerr Smith and Jaime King all playing younger versions of themselves in “hipper” clothes – Ackles sporting a cap – to “age down.”
This is all done because the story then skips ahead ten years. Axel Palmer (Smith) is now sheriff, Sarah (King) is his wife and Hanniger has returned home after his father’s death to relinquish the family mine much to the chagrin of Harmony’s residents. His appearance in the town comes at a precarious time as the press is recognizing Harmony’s ten year anniversary of Valentine’s Day massacre. It doesn’t help matters when bodies start to drop, hearts show up in Valentine’s gift boxes and talk of Harry Warden’s return begins. Here, writers Smith and Farmer really amp up the whodunit elements of the plot. Even if you’ve seen the original, the ambiguity successfully keeps one slightly off kilter until the big reveal. And much like Mihalka’s picture, MBV3D is sprinkled with a healthy dose of friction via a budding love triangle with Axel, Sarah and Hanniger. Just keep your expectations in check, this isn’t Shakespeare and the drama can get a tad strained.
King and Smith both meet the needs of their roles; Smith especially relishes the various shades and desires of Axel Palmer, even though he still looks young for a sheriff. It’s Ackles who truly needed to step up to the plate and make Supernatural fans of four seasons forget he’s Dean Winchester for about 90 minutes. He displays restraint and a modicum of vulnerability, but the Winchester in him does come through at times. Hats off to Lussier, again, for re-introducing audiences to Tom Atkins and giving actor Kevin Tighe (who stars in one of my favorite Tales from the Crypt episodes) plenty of face time.
To be fair, without insulting the aforementioned acting talent, many movie-goers will be entering the theater to get their rocks off on the 3-D and kills. And to say both deliver is an understatement. The former does not completely succumb to the hokey gags we’re accustomed to when seeing films like Friday the 13th: Part 3, Amityville 3-D or Jaws 3-D. Instead, it concentrates on luring you into the environment…and then giving you a good jolt when Harry Warden’s pick-axe finds its destination and you find yourself dodging body parts. The only downside is the photography, a challenge on a picture like this. At times it looks too “video” and the viewer may find trouble focusing during moments of intense lighting contrast – such as a sequence set in a grocery store where the overhead fluorescents are off, but the display lights from the freezer aisle are left on. Still, as far as MBV3D‘s suspense goes, Lussier takes an anything goes approach embracing a merciless edge to Warden’s antics that works in his favor. It should be noted, however, that he owes a good deal of thanks to The Exorcist III and the original MBV for two of the most memorable bits in his film.
So, the question remains: Does My Bloody Valentine 3D work sans the 3-D? I’d say yes. Without the technology, it stands as one of the more interesting remakes to come out of the last five years. Still, the 3-D assistance enhances the experience and is the recommended viewing preference.
Welcome back, Harry Warden. I tip my Moosehead beer to you.