Director: Patrick Lussier
Writer: Todd Farmer, Zane Smith
Producer: Jack Murray
Stars: Jensen Ackles, Jaime King, Kerr Smith, Kevin Tighe, Edi Gathegi, Tom Atkins, Betsy Rue, Megan Boone
10 years after a bloody massacre, a masked murderer returns to a small mining town for another revenge-fueled killing spree.
The town of Valentine Bluffs was warned in 1981 that murderous miner Harry Warden would return one day. He finally did in 2009, albeit in a complete rework of ¡°My Bloody Valentine¡± and in a completely different fictional town altogether.
¡°My Bloody Valentine¡± 2009 takes the basic bits of ¡°My Bloody Valentine¡± 1981 (review here) and refashions them into a new plot that¡¯s probably about 75% its own thing. You get a few familiar character names and dynamics like a love triangle between the three leads. But after the ¡°10 Years Ago¡± prologue of newspaper headline exposition and flashbacks, ¡°My Bloody Valentine¡¯s¡± tank pretty much runs out of fuel from the first film. From there it repaves ¡°My Bloody Valentine¡¯s¡± road with a little more meat in the mystery and a lot more gruesomeness in the gore.
Harry Warden murdered five men in 1998. It wasn¡¯t entirely his fault. Tom Hanniger, who got his gig because his dad owned the mine that the town of Harmony was built on, forgot to bleed the methane lines, causing a cave-in. Trapped in rubble for a week, Harry callously killed his co-workers so he could survive on the air supply alone.
Harry wasn¡¯t done putting his pickax into people. On Valentine¡¯s Day the following year, Harry came out of his coma, came back to the mine, and went on another killing spree. Tom, his girlfriend Sarah, and his jealous rival Axel barely escaped. The sheriff gunned down Harry, who presumably became buried alive when a tunnel collapsed on his head.
A lot has changed since then. Axel went on to become the new lawman. He married Sarah too, because Tom abruptly left town without telling anyone why. Now Tom has unexpectedly returned to Harmony. Apparently so has Harry Warden.
When human hearts start turning up inside candy boxes, and mutilated corpses come with them, the sleepy little mining town realizes it has another maniacal masked murderer on its hands. The curious timing suggests the killer¡¯s identity could be any number of people with secrets they¡¯re desperate to keep hidden. So has Harry Warden really returned from the dead, or is someone else holding the handle of his deadly pickax?
If it seems like I¡¯m more favorable than most people toward the ¡°My Bloody Valentine¡± remake (and its 60% Rotten Tomatoes score with a 44% audience approval rating suggests it isn¡¯t exactly popular), that might be because I have fond memories of seeing it in a theater and laughing appreciatively at the gratuitous 3D gimmicks. I always wonder what it¡¯s like for someone seeing something like this for the first time, not knowing the film was made for 3D, and then being baffled why everyone onscreen goes out of their way to blatantly point props at the camera.
¡°My Bloody Valentine¡± hits all of the obvious 3D setups and then some. A shotgun barrel slowly passing back and forth over the audience. An ejected eyeball popping out ¡°Friday the 13th Part 3¡±-style. A tree branch piercing a windshield. A bullet flying forward in slow motion. The film rips off a bunch of tricks we¡¯ve seen before, although in fairness, there really are only so many 3D gags to be done. And let me tell you, the immersive aspect of the experience played perfectly on opening weekend. This was back when 3D was still a newish novelty worth going to the theater for, and ¡°My Bloody Valentine¡± crushed it right over the left field wall.
The good time to be had with the gimmickry speaks to what mainly makes the movie appealing. Even though actors play their parts with total sincerity, keeping the story relatively serious at the same time, you can tell writers Todd Farmer and Zane Smith and director Patrick Lussier are having a blast going hog wild with their creative carnage. Their carefree attitudes scream loud and clear to make colorfully bloody death scenes a great deal of guilty pleasure fun to watch.
¡°My Bloody Valentine¡± relies on ¡®The Miner¡¯s¡¯ trademark weapon quite a bit. Even then, virtually no two kills are exactly alike. Clearly the creators asked themselves, ¡°how many different ways can we kill someone with a pickax?¡± and let their imaginations loose from there.
Maybe we could¡¯ve used more uniquely cool kills like the one where a shovel severs a head at its jaw. Still, the filmmakers often make maximum use of a specific scene¡¯s environment to add excitement to standard deaths, like simply smashing a victim into overhead lights for a little extra pop. The wicked streak in ¡°My Bloody Valentine¡¯s¡± otherwise pat personality can be found in these highly energized effects.
The movie gets additional kicks by recreating some of the most memorable moments from the 1981 film, including a redux of the burning Laundromat corpse and fighting one¡¯s way through a mini-maze of hanging coveralls. ¡°My Bloody Valentine¡± also pays tribute to The Miner smashing a cable of light bulbs while stalking down a tunnel, yet adds a clever visual touchup to accompany each little explosion.
Lulls don¡¯t usually last long. They tend to be filler scenes of someone creeping around with a flashlight or whatever. Soap opera stuff then makes up midsections between slices of slaughter and fast-running action. ¡°My Bloody Valentine¡± has a cast so likeable that dialogue-heavy drama doesn¡¯t really drag. Big credit goes to Jensen Ackles, Jaime King, Kerr Smith, and especially Tom Atkins for keeping conversations captivating.
Also, hats off (no pun intended) to Betsy Rue for doing her sex scene (with screenwriter Todd Farmer), talking head exchanges, chasing, hiding, and death entirely in the nude. That¡¯s commitment to a particular kind of horror movie characterization right there.
The main reason I don¡¯t regard ¡°My Bloody Valentine¡± even higher has to do with its bungled whodunit. Unlike the original, this remake has more than two possible suspects, making for a much more intriguing mystery. The problem becomes that the truth doesn¡¯t play fair, meaning the audience has no chance to solve the case before the final few minutes reveal everything. On top of that, some of the red herrings flop on the floor without ever taking in any air at all. More than once the movie takes time out to throw unfounded suspicion at one of the deputies only for absolutely nothing to come of it. What¡¯s that all about?
Now that I mention it, why does Axel have two deputies anyway? And why don¡¯t we find out what happens to either of them?
¡°My Bloody Valentine¡± feels like a spiritual successor to the teen-targeted mainstream slashers that were hot up through the early aughts, minus the CW/WB soundtrack. It was just a touch too late for its time.
The film focuses on moving spryly and keeping things tight, production value stays high, and it contains a cast of pleasingly pretty faces. Don¡¯t forget the intensity of its inventive splatter either. People weren¡¯t properly primed for a ¡®90s-style horror renaissance in 2009. ¡°My Bloody Valentine¡± plays much better now that we have even more distance to look back at that type of thriller with lenient affection.
Review Score: 75