The future has arrived!
And by future I mean movie going trend from the 80's. And by arrived I mean has been resurrected with some hefty new bells and whistles.
But, yes, the future has arrived! This week the horror genre jumped — or should I say was hurled like a pickaxe — into the 3D game with the release of Patrick Lussier's "My Bloody Valentine." A remake in name only for the most part, Lussier's film comes heaping with genre goodies, from salaciously dressed young ladies to crotchety geezers with dark pasts to blood geysers that spew impossibly high. Of course, in this case the geysers also shoot out at us, the audience, and the scantily clad ladies run deep into the mis en scene. If this were any other movie, this would be the part where I'd give my concise assessment of the film, which I'd then expand upon as I went. But this isn't a regular film, it's a spectacle, and as a spectacle it's quite enjoyable. "My Bloody Valentine" never really seems interested in being a terrific horror film, instead focusing on being a 3D film with horror. And in this it succeeds. The extent to which you feel it succeeds will depend largely on how you feel about the spectacle. For me, there were some chuckles, a few genuine squirms, and a even a couple jumps — but when it was all over, there wasn't a whole lot left to do but walk out and hope that the next 3D horror feature had a little more to it.
"My Bloody Valentine 3D" takes a good deal of its forebearer's background story and then runs with it in its own directions. The inciting incident is still a mine accident that takes place on Valentine's Day. But the movie really picks up on the one year anniversary, when Harry Warden, the accident's lone survivor, goes on a rampage and murders 20-some people before being taken down. This sequence gets the film off to a wild, gore-filled start, and also introduces us to our main characters: Tom, Sarah and Axel. Their personal relationships and back stories act as a backdrop for the mayhem to come.
From here we flash forward 10 years. There's been no more killing, but the world is still fascinated with the dying mining community with the history of violence. Axel has become the sheriff and married Sarah, while Tom, Sarah's true love has been MIA since Warden's attack. Just as Tom re-enters the picture, bodies begin to pile up, as Warden has seemingly returned. The events of the film take place on Valentine's day, but otherwise bear little resemblance to the party-centered mayhem of the original. Instead, the killer seems to be obsessed with settling Warden's old scores. And thus, even against Sheriff Axel's strongest protestations, everyone in town is convinced that Harry is back for revenge.
There's more here — including a video-taped extra-marital affair, a pregnant mistress, and a love not soon forgotten — but it's just window dressing to the action, which comes in uneven spurts, but tends to spurt when it comes. Lussier's long history of horror credits has not gone to waste, as he shows a deft hand at staging some of his kills. But the fact cannot be overstated that at no time does it seem that anyone was concerned about anything other than how each scene would turn out in 3D. This leads to some pretty excellent effects, like an eye ball that comes screaming out at you, or a jaw bone that gets tossed toward your lap. But the 3D also leads to some awkward and unnatural shot selections; shots that emphasize objects, or often body parts, flying at the audience. They're good fun, but they do start to wear thin, and one begins to wonder how many horror movies can be made in 3D before we all start asking what the point is.
There was a real chance for "My Bloody Valentine" to go the way of other 80's slasher remakes, that is to say down. But thankfully Lussier appears to understand that part of the attraction of those films — some of them anyway — is their goofiness, and so the proceedings here, even though they do drag at times, never get too bogged down in seriousness. There's little in the way of analyzing the killer or his motives. There's just bodies getting run through with a pickaxe, and a bunch of small town folks acting pretty silly about the whole thing.
In the quest to create a unique and enjoyable theater going experience, Lussier could have done a lot worse than "My Bloody Valentine." It's important though, that fans not walk in expecting their horror chops to be challenged or their preconceptions about film making to be rewritten. By the time things start winding down, hardcore fans of the original may feel a strong twinge of disappointment. Those who were just interested in the spectacle, however, will have been rewarded. While the 3D was fun, the "Wow!" factor is now out the window, and so it will be even more interesting to see where other directors make use of that extra dimension going forward.