My Bloody Valentine (2009)
Directed by: Patrick Lussier
Starring: Jensen Ackles, Jaime King, Kerr Smith, Betsy Rue, Edi Gathegi, Tom Atkins, Kevin Tighe, Megan Boone, Karen Baum, Joy de la Paz, Marc Macaulay, Todd Farmer, Jeff Hochendoner, Bingo O’Malley, Richard John Walters
1/2 (out of 4)
Patrick Lussier (Dracula 2000) directs the remake of the 1981 slasher My Bloody Valentine, this time around written by Todd Farmer (Jason X) and Zane Smith. Like the newest incarnation of The Final Destination, it was released in theaters in 3-D, which normally means bad news for a film (critically, not financially), since all of the effort is usually put into the gimmicky 3D effects instead of character and plot. Sure enough, My Bloody Valentine 2009 is filled with slasher cliches, incompetent cops, implausible situations, and cheesy effects (when viewed on my 2D television), but even with all of that, the film is much better than it has a right to be. It doesn’t offer anything new but it does understand that a slasher film needs proper pacing, gore, and nudity, which it delivers in spades. Of course, I might be a little lenient since it’s been ages since I’ve seen a decent slasher film.
The movie has not one, but two backstories, which are delivered with rapid pace. As the opening credits roll over a “3D” montage of newspaper clippings, we learn about a mine accident caused by the mine owner’s son Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles from the TV show Supernatural) where five workers are trapped. The lone survivor is Harry Warden (Richard John Walters), who has killed the other miners with a pickaxe so that they don’t use up any of “his” air (selfish bastards!). By the time he is rescued, he has fallen into a coma. The second “backstory” starts a year later, where Harry wakes up from his coma and proceeds to massacre over 20 people in the hospital. (Establishing Harry’s “supernatural” abilities – I mean, the guy hasn’t even had his coffee yet and he’s taken out an entire hospital ward). Apparently trying to make up for lost time, Harry returns to the mine and crashes a party (where else would you have a party in a mining town?) Four of the survivors include Tom, Tom’s girlfriend Sarah (Jaime King), Axel (Kerr Smith), and Irene (Betsy Rue). Tom is almost killed by Harry until Sheriff Jim Burke (the incomparable Tom Atkins) shows up and shoots him. However, Atkins’ character isn’t a particularly effective cop and Harry runs off, presumably buried alive inside the mine.
Ten years pass, and our main characters don’t look a day older (they don’t even try to address the age-discrepancy). Tom, who had left town for 10 years, whereabouts unknown, comes back to sell the mine after his father’s death. As soon as he arrives, the murders start up again. The first victims include Irene and her truck driver boyfriend (Todd Farmer), which involves Betsy Rue running around a hotel parking lot wearing nothing but high heels. The reason the scene works at all is simply because Rue is fearless enough to go up against a serial killer while completely naked (and hot). Investigating the murders is Axel, who has become sheriff and is now married to Sarah, who still cannot get over her first love Tom, while Axel himself is having an affair with the supermarket checkout girl Megan (Megan Boone), who drops the bombshell on him that she’s pregnant. After a few more murders, the movie establishes three main suspects – Axel, Tom (still affected by the incident a decade prior and taking meds), and Harry Warden himself, whose body has never been recovered. The rest of the movie features lots of gory murders by a guy in a miner’s suit wielding a pickaxe, some effects that are fake-looking (because they were made to take advantage of 3D) and others that are decent (the head-damage effects, like a jaw-removal and the top half of a victim’s head being split in half by a shovel). There are also homages to the original film (body in dryer, miner suits falling from the ceiling, human hearts in Valentine’s day candy boxes) as well as an eye-popping sequence recalling Friday the 13th Part 3 (which, if you remember, was also in 3-D).
The main problem with MBV’09 is in the reveal of its killer; technically speaking, there are clues that point to his identity but they are buried beneath many red herrings. The issue, really, is that we have already seen Psycho, Fight Club, and High Tension – why keep going to that well again? In the end, you realize that the movie is just fucking with you – this is a good film to hold up as an example of how the medium of cinema enables manipulation of the audience based on what the director decides to show you (and not show you). Case in point: if a character (and the audience) is looking at the killer, does that mean the killer is really there? In this movie, the answer depends on the scene in question. That means that the narrative is unreliable, so the movie’s revelation is pure trickery, much like the 3D gimmick. In addition to that, how come nobody in this film knows how to shoot straight? And why would the heroine, who is holding the gun, just stand around and allow the hero to be attacked by the bad guy without trying to intervene? I assume that MBV’09 plays much better in the theater with the extra dimension, and works better if taken as pure spectacle. I liked some establishing shots, and wide-angle shots of the killer are framed well (the image of a hulking killer in a miner’s mask is rather imposing – Jason would have preferred it, I think). So, is the movie better than the original film? Some of it yes, some of it no. I will say that the remake is even less concerned with Valentines Day than the 1981 version – the holiday stuff here is just incidental. All you crazy couples out there might have a lot of fun spending the 14th watching the two MBV flicks back to back; of course, you could also do dinner and roses and stuff – I hear that’s popular.
- Bill Gordon
The DVD release of MBV’09 comes in both 3D and 2D editions (I only saw the 2D). 4 pairs of 3D glasses are included. Also: audio commentary with Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer, 2 making-of supplementals, deleted scenes, alternate ending, gag reel, trailer.