Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My Bloody Valentine (USA, 2009)

My Bloody Valentine wastes absolutely no time getting started, using the opening credits to establish the basic background story of a mineshaft cave-in at the mining town of Harmony caused by the young Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles). The only survivor, Harry Worden, who seemingly killed his fellow trapped miners to ensure his own survival, is alive but in a coma. A year later he snaps out of it and promptly massacres the whole hospital before disappearing.
Back in Harmony, the local kids, including Axel (Kerr Smith) and Irene (Betsy Rue) are throwing a party in the mine, and Tom shows up with his gal Sarah Palmer (Jaime King). But unknown to all Worden in the mine, and he promptly decimates everyone but the Gang of Four, although three of them do leave Tom to his fate when the going gets rough. Luckily Sheriff Burke (Tom Atkins) shows up, saves Tom and shoots Worden who then runs deeper into the mine and (supposedly) disappears.
Jump forward in time again, and Tom is now returning to Harmony after roughly ten years to sell the mine that he has inherited. Sarah is now married to Axel, who is now the local Sheriff and bonking her co-worker Megan (Megan Boone). No sooner does Tom show up than do the bodies start piling, most being killed by pickax. Has Worden returned to Harmony? After all, he was never officially caught. But the truth comes out: Worden fell to vigilante justice and is buried in the woods — unluckily, his grave is now empty. Of course suspicion falls upon Tom, but the circumstances surrounding the murder of a miner named Red (Jeff Hochendoner) clear his name. Could it be Axel? Suspicion is cast left and right as one good citizen after the other dies a blood-spattered death...
Fans of the Golden Age of Splatter or those of the right age might remember this flick's title from the early 80s, when Fangoria splashed its pages with a spread about the Canadian-lensed bodycount movie that rode on the wave of teenage slashers that followed the original Halloween (1978/trailer) and Friday the 13th (1980/trailer) and, in turn, the horror films that played upon national holidays and days of note for their snazzy titles (To name but a select few: April Fool's Day (1986/trailer), New Year’s Evil (1980/trailer), Mother’s Day (1980/trailer), Black Christmas (1974/trailer) and Prom Night (1980/trailer).) Like many a film, the 1981 version of My Bloody Valentine (trailer) came and went so quickly that it hardly made a blip, thus saving the world from yet another never-ending franchise, but — again, like many other former flop — it nonetheless also gained a rather vocal cult reputation over the years, despite the fact that most of the prints in circulation (and definitely those shown on late-night television) were radically trimmed of violence. Thus it is hardly surprising that Hollywood, when searching for yet another "classic" with a catchy title to revamp for the modern teenager (after Prom Night (2008/trailer) and Halloween (2007/trailer), among others), got the idea of remaking My Bloody Valentine as well. (What was surprising, perhaps, was the decision to do it in the current rage, 3-D, but since in this case here the film was seen on DVD in 2-D, the decision is relatively immaterial to this review.)
Actually, much like the relatively recent and unjustly maligned Dark Castle releases House of Wax (2005/trailer) or Ghost Ship (2002/trailer), the 2009 version of My Bloody Valentine is far less a remake than a full re-imaging of the original. As such, it uses bits and pieces and an occasional scene framework of the original film, but on the whole it a completely different film. The planned Valentine’s Day party in the original film that drives the killer to his actions is, in the new version, only part of the long (2nd) introductory scene in which 8 or 9 characters of varying importance and the original Harry Warden (Richard John Walters) get introduced, dozens of teenagers get offed with a pickax and, lastly, Warden supposedly meets his end. A few other nods are tossed in the film, like the scene in the changing room full of miner suits or the clothes drier scene, but on the whole, the 2009 version of My Bloody Valentine is less a remake than it is simply a film sharing the same title.
Who knows the vagaries that resulted in the job falling into the lap of director Patrick Lussier, the man behind such easily forgotten horror movies as The Prophecy 3: The Ascent (2000 /trailer), Dracula 2000 (2000/trailer), Dracula II: Ascension (2003/trailer), Dracula III: Legacy (2005/trailer) and White Noise 2: The Light (2007/trailer), but the decision seems to have been the right one, for particularly when comparing My Bloody Valentine to the dead-teenager genre of the Golden Age, the film can only be seen as a really a fine slice of modern-day, socially unredeemable bodycount. Quicker paced than most, the film plays so faithfully to the classic rules that were it not so obviously contemporary in look the flick could almost be mistaken as original product from the 80s. In this sense, it also has the typical lapses in logic, lack of characterization and variable acting, but it also features blood and violence and a long gratuitous nude scene of the likes that have been missing from this type of film for decades. (OK, in the old days they would've used a gal with a bit more up top, but in no way would they have had her run around like that for such a long time.) Hell, back in the Golden Age of Slashers this flick would have surely been given an X-rating or (as the original was) been substantially trimmed of everything that makes it fun long before it hit the screens.
So who cares about logic and acting? This is a splatter film, and as such it delivers in spades, with good dollops of both intentional and unintentional humor (like a truly CGI-looking flying jawbone), just like it should be. If cheesy blood and guts films are your thing, you can’t go wrong with My Bloody Valentine. Needless to say, Hollywood’s hope for a new franchise is more than obvious in the My Bloody Valentine’s final scene…

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