For fans of '80s slasher films, it was one of several fright flick Holy Grails. Along with uncut prints of the first few Friday the 13th films, a peek at the original gore-laden version of My Bloody Valentine was many a macabre maven's long sought after goal. This low-budget Canadian knockoff, often known as the working class take on the typical slice-and-dice, had to get by on thwarting convention (no nudity, no moralizing murderer) and local color (it was shot in an actual mining town, in an actual mine) to stand out. A backlash against bloodshed saw the MPAA strip out most of the sluice, and ever since then, devotees have wondered if we'd ever see the original vision again. While we could play 'chicken and the egg' all day wondering which came first, 2009 saw both the original version of My Bloody Valentine and the 3D remake of the movie released - and just as we lovers of all things frightening thought, both are pretty terrific. The update specially is one of the best of the recent rash of F/X heavy heartstoppers.
It's been ten years since that fateful night when insane employee Harry Warden broke into Tunnel 5 at the Hanniger mine and killed 22 people. Many in the small town blamed Tom, the son of the owner, for an accident that sparked Harry's rage, and the boy has never been able to live down the shame. Now he's back, hoping to patch things up with his former gal Sarah while selling the business once and for all. Unfortunately, his girl is married to town sheriff Axel, himself an old acquaintance. And while the lawman cheats on his woman, he can't stand that her old flame is back in her life. Suddenly, without warning, people start dying. A videotape of one death suggests that Harry Warden himself is back. But the old residents know that's not true, and they have their own special secret that they are covering up. But with the bodies piling up like cordwood, someone has to be doing the killing. But who? And more importantly, why?
We horror fans sure do have to put up with a lot: endless remakes that really do little except trade on past perception; R-rated frights jerryrigged into PG-13 profit margins; clueless directors using the genre as their novice creative calling card; well intentioned fans forcing us to watch their amateur atrocities. So it makes sense that when something really good comes along - nay, when a proposed project doesn't suck the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch - we'll stand up, champion, and cheer. Such is the case with the superbly gory and devilishly brutal update of everyone's favorite eviscerated Canadian scare fest. Up until recently, the original My Bloody Valentine was shorn of several minutes of arterial spray to earn an MPAA mandated Restricted. Now, thanks to archivists and the film's many fetishists, the raw and graphic take on the material is available for squeamish horror mavens everywhere. And after you've experienced the 1980s version of the cinematic vomit comet, step up and wonder at this marvelous, malevolent redux. Loaded with the kind of carnage we crave, My Bloody Valentine 3D is indeed one of the best splatter movies of the past decade.
It all begins with the gimmick, and director Patrick Lussier's mastery of same. The added dimension does indulge in the same old stale gags from 50 years ago, but when you've got eyeballs, entrails, and jawlines flying into the audience (metaphysically speaking), you can't deny its effectiveness. This is especially true of the framing and blocking which adds layers of depth to the scenes, flawlessly amplifying the spatial sense of suspense. There are times when you actually feel lost in the landscapes Lussier is creating. With a limited track record of direct-to-DVD fare, his first major motion picture is something to celebrate. It's smart, character driven, loaded with atmosphere and brimming with blood. Yes, this is one sluice-filled slice and dice. Some purists argued over the killer's decision to only use a pick axe for his murders, but when they are as sadistic and sickening as these, who really cares? Bodies weren't made to be poked, prodded, and pummeled like this. And when you add in the dread, the entire My Bloody Valentine 3D experience becomes something all together satisfying - and entertaining as ****.
This is the reason so many of us fell in love with horror in the first place - the misdirection and shocks, the sense of foreboding, the notion that anyone can die at any time, and the naked chicks...oh did we mention that one scene, destined to become a post-modern creepshow classic, has one completely bare-ass babe going ballistic on a boyfriend, only to come face to face with our masked marauder. And indeed, nude mayhem ensues (yummy!). Sure, the ending is a little weak, a whole lot of ballsy buildup for what is basically an "am I crazy or not" conclusion, and with the possibility of a sequel spelled out rather clearly, many will take issue with the way Lussier lets his movie meander a bit. But if you want your housekeepers nicely roasted in the family clothes drier, if you want your attending nurse severed in two, her torso strewn across a gore-splashed hospital ward, if you need to see stupid teens lobotomized with a mining tool, by all means, step up to the wicked ways of My Bloody Valentine 3D. It's one stomach-turning, satisfying shocker.
Here's the good news/bad news on the recent Lionsgate DVD release. Both versions of the film - 2D and 3D are available as part of the release. On the downside, the multi-dimensional version is not the polarized single lens Real-3D title you could experience in theaters (the movie looked AMAZING on the big screen). The two color process is decent, if a little disappointing. The effect works, but the overall color scheme is severely undermined by the glasses. The 1.845:1 anamorphic widescreen image is almost monochrome when you employ the gimmick. Without 3D, the 2D version looks stunning - crystal clear and very dynamic. So if want something similar but not quite like a night at the Cineplex, go with the available option (four pair of glasses are available). But be warned, the technology has not been perfected for the home theater.
In general - very eerie and effective. The Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital EX mix is excellent, offering lots of ambience and channel-challenging atmosphere. The dialogue is easy to discern, and the locational effects are very creepy. About the only shortcoming - the score by Michael Wandmacher can't match the original's oddball sonics.
Lionsgate offers up a two disc package that actually lives up to the title - meaning the second DVD is not just some digital copy of the film. Disc one offers an insightful commentary from director Lussier and co-writer Todd Farmer, and it's a lot of fun. They discuss casting, the benefits of being naked in the stifling Pennsylvania heat, and what it was like to work inside an actual mine. With lots of detail and production anecdotes, it's well worth a listen. Disc two houses a collection of extended and deleted scenes, most of which are unnecessary to the enjoyment of the film overall. We also get a gag reel, a "Deep Inside My Bloody Valentine" featurette, a "Sex, Blood, and Screams" documentary, and an alternative ending that is very interesting indeed. In general, the added content is a little EPK-ish in the way it lavishes praise over cast and crew for what is essentially an old school slasher film. One look at the movie itself, however, and you'll realize the tributes are well deserved indeed.
Again, remember the first paragraph of the DVD section. We horror fans are just hankering to heap accolades on anything remotely reasonable when it comes to our favorite genre. That doesn't mean that My Bloody Valentine 3D deserves some kind of consumer caveat. Just realize that your movie mileage may very when it comes to this film's ultraviolent serial killer escapades. Easily earning a Highly Recommended rating from this certified fright aficionado, this - along with the Friday the 13th update by Marcus Nispel - proves that 2009 may be another 'up' cycle in terror's typically cyclical nature. The gimmick may have sold the audience experience, but it's the nastiness of the deaths - and director Patrick Lussier's proficiency at said slaughter - that seals the deal.
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