Written by: Todd Farmer and Zane Smith
Directed by: Patrick Lussier
Starring: Jensen Ackles, Jaime King, Kerr Smith, and Tom Atkins
Reviewed by: Brett G.
"Happy fucking Valentine's Day."
It's hard to imagine that a remake of a classic slasher film could be a breath of fresh air for the horror genre; however, in the wake of the so-called "torture-porn" trend, Lions Gate is hoping that movie-goers everywhere will see My Bloody Valentine as just that. For those raised on the genre, the film represents a double dose of nostalgia, as it not only marks a revival in the slasher genre, but also presents the revival of the short-lived 3D horror craze of the early 80s, a trend that spawned Jaws 3, Friday the 13th Part 3, and Amityville 3-D. As a self-professed fan of both the original film and the slasher genre in general, I'll admit to being very enthusiastic about this project, and that enthusiasm only increased once I learned that OTH favorite Todd Farmer was on board as the film's writer. While I knew the redux would likely never replace the original Canadian classic's place in my heart, I went into the film with the hopes that it would not only be a "3-D ride to hell," but also a 3-D ride down memory lane.
The film's premise is generally the same as the original film. Set in the sleepy mining town of Harmony, Montana, the film opens with what was only hinted at in the original: the collapse of the local mine that results in only one survivor, Harry Warden, who survives the ordeal by killing the five other men trapped with him. Then, one year later, Warden emerges from his coma to go on a Valentine's Day massacre of epic proportions. Warden's bloody trail of carnage comes to an end at the hands of Sheriff Burke (Tom "Miller Time" Atkins), but not before he irrevocably scars the lives of young Axel Palmer, Tom Hanniger and the latter's girlfriend, Sarah. The film then flashes ahead ten years later, where Axel is now the town sheriff and is married to Sarah, while Tom has just returned to town for the first time in ten years to sell off the family mine. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), it seems that someone else has also returned: Harry Warden, who seems to be hell-bent on finishing what he started a decade ago.
On a surface level, the plot seems to be almost identical to the original, but it really isn't, as the film drops some aspects altogether, such as the Valentine's Day dance, which sort of renders the title a bit pointless because the holiday itself doesn't play into the film much at all. It also adds and alters some sub-plots. For example, the love triangle involving Axel, Tom, and Sarah is reminiscent of the original, but it adds even more drama with a major revelation early in the film. Without spoiling it, I'll just say that it makes Axel a much bigger creep than he was in the original film and really got the film off on the wrong foot for me, character-wise. This brings me to my first major criticism of the film: the fact that the main characters are ultimately forgettable or downright unlikeable, especially when compared to the original, which boasts one of the best slasher casts ever assembled. It's almost as if the film sets up the main characters in order to eventually deceive the viewer about their intentions, and I suppose it works on that level for some; however, it left me feeling a bit cold at the end because I just couldn't get into the characters.
This also speaks to the film's structure, which feels a bit weak once the third act kicks in, as it soon devolves into a "whodunnit" that's really only complicated if you've seen the original film. Otherwise, the film telegraphs its ending so obviously that you can't believe it's that simple once the film ends. I'll admit to being thrown off a couple of times but only because I wasn't sure just how faithful it would remain to the original. Besides this, the film also feels a bit too long and drawn out at 101 minutes, and it really reaches its high point around the middle with a particularly memorable hotel room sequence that's just downright fun. After that, the film feels like it's running out of steam, save for a few more brief moments of pure slasher mayhem.
And this, ultimately, is the film's strength: once the actual slashing gets going, it's excellent despite the fact that the killer only uses a pick axe most of the time. While it seems like this could get monotonous over time, this isn't the case, as bodies are mutilated in a variety of ways: there's plenty of eye gougings, decapitations, and otherwise maimed bodies strewn throughout the film. For the most part, the film actually takes a pretty light tone during these sequences, particularly the aforementioned motel room scene, which also manages to finally deliver what audiences have been craving: Todd Farmer in the buff, but I digress. It's obvious that the film-makers were having a blast during this sequence, as it features some other outrageous moments like Farmer being held at gun point by a completely naked Betsy Rue and the brutal massacre of a little person, which is way more fun than it should be. As I said before, there are some other sequences that are also pretty fun (most of them involve the ageless Tom Atkins), but this pretty much represents the film's peak, as it unfortunately shifts its tone and becomes a bit too serious by the end.
Of course, something must be said about the film's 3D presentation, which is much more immersive than I ever anticipated. Employing "Real 3D Technology," the film isn't just a series of sight gags where stuff flies at you (though there is plenty of that). Instead, the film is constantly has a level of added depth that seemingly puts you in the film. While it is still extremely gimmicky, it's also very effective in that it delivers a new viewing experience. Of course, it isn't extremely integral to the film, but it does add an extra dimension (pun intended) in terms of audience reaction because I must say that my audience had a blast with the film. If you have a local theater showing the film in 3D, it's certainly worth a trip just to see it in its intended format.
However, I am happy to report that the film will likely hold up once the 3D gimmick fades. While the film certainly has a few of the aforementioned problems, the slasher fan in me can easily overlook them because the film delivers in the ever important areas of gore and downright fun. I think some might lament the fact that the film feels like a lot of modern slashers in that it seems to be having a bit too much fun at times by attempting to simulate that "80s" feel; plus, it obviously doesn't look or feel as gritty and low budget as the slashers of that bygone era. Instead, it's extremely sleek and stylish, which is to be expected. I just wish that the film's final 15 minutes or so hadn't devolved into a somewhat trite and tedious climax, as the film gets a bit too caught up in becoming a mystery to keep viewers guessing. Otherwise, this is about as memorable as it gets as far as modern slashers go. It'd be a mistake to compare it too closely to the original film, which stands as one of the best slashers ever made; instead, I look at the film in the context of where the genre is now. By doing so, My Bloody Valentine is a bit of fresh air; it surely isn't revolutionary by any means (besides the 3D aspect), but it is a really fun slasher film that will sit proudly on my shelf next to its older brethren. Buy it!
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