Jensen Ackles - Tom Hanniger
Jaime King - Sarah Palmer
Kerr Smith - Axel Palmer
Edi Gathegi - Deputy Martin
Tom Atkins - Burke
Betsy Rue - Irene
Genre - Horror/Slasher
Running Time - 101 Minutes
Score - 3.5 Dimensional Howls Outta 4
Although I watch them, and although I review them, I'm personally am not a big fan of the whole remake trend Hollywood seems to be coasting on in recent years - especially when it comes to the horror genre. It's not that I hate the idea of a remake. In fact, there are a lot of crappy films out there with "great ideas but poor execution" that deserve either an update or a re-interpretation of the original concept. The issue the public has with remakes is that Hollywood is picking films that DON'T NEED a remake, using the brand name as a way to milk more money on a franchise that's all dried up. We didn't need remakes for THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, HALLOWEEN, THE HITCHER, or any foreign language film that we could read subtitles from that would reprsent the film's ideas better than any Hollywood screenwriter could muster up for an Americanization. Those films were fine the way they were, and personally, I would have accepted a sequel to the major franchises over a "reimagining" anyway. Even before watching the film I'm about to review, I saw trailers for both remakes of FRIDAY THE 13TH and THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. When is it time to say "enough is enough"?
However, there are remakes that are actually warranted because the original film wasn't all that spectacular to begin with. The 1981 slasher flick MY BLOODY VALENTINE was definitely one of these films that needed an update. The original film was boring, horribly acted, and missed the three components that make a slasher flick to begin with: tits, ass, and gore. What's the point if you don't have that? Damn MPAA! So when I heard Lionsgate was updating this "classic", I didn't mind because the original needed it badly anyway. I wasn't even going to watch this in the theater until I read the film was in three dimensions. If you know me, I'm a sucker for gimmicks like that. I was pretty much sold at that point, even though the previews helped since they were pretty good. So I marked January 16, 2008 on my calendar and made sure I was gonna be available to watch this.
So in a packed house [the film was pretty much sold out - well, the 3D version anyway], I finally got to watch the first major R Rated horror film of 2009. And what I got was not only one of the better remakes in the history of horror remakes, but a really fuckin' awesome film in the process. Put on those 3D glasses and watch body parts, weapons, and T, A, and V [!] pop out towards you while you throw a boner for the revival of the slasher film. Screw chocolate and flowers! This is my kind of Valentine!
The remake is pretty much faithful to the original. Tom (Jensen Ackles) and his girlfriend Sarah (Jaime King) hang out with their friends Axel (Kerr Smith) and his girl Irene (Betsy Rue) at some party at the local mines. However, some worker/wackjob Harry Warden begins killing the partiers one by one with his pick-axe. Sarah, Axel, and Irene get away, but Tom is stuck dealing with Harry. Harry is stopped by Sheriff Burke (Tom Atkins!), but Tom is left alone to deal with his brush with death.
Ten years pass since that Valentine's Day. The town is still haunted by the events that took place and Harry has become some sort of legend. Tom, after leaving right after the incident, returns to the town to sell the mine [his late father left it to him]. Tom also catches up with Axel and with Sarah, learning the two are now married and have a kid together. Can anyone say "love triangle"? Anyway, everything's fine until people end up getting killed by some dude dressed like a coal miner. Strangely enough, all the victims seem to be close to the core group of survivors of Harry's rampage ten years before. Is Harry back to finish what he started? Is it Tom, who's trauma has caused him to kill? Is it Axel, who's now a Sheriff and wants to make sure Tom is seen as the killer? Is it Tom Atkins, who went nuts after hearing that "Silver Shamrock" song more than one should? Who is it, dammit??
MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D isn't a perfect horror film [what is these days], but it's the most fun I've had in a movie theater in a really long time. It does what a remake should: improve on the story and direction, get better actors, and make it gory as hell to push that R rating as hard as possible. Add a 3D gimmick to the proceedings and you have a winner at your hands. Or a human heart in your heart-shaped box. Whichever floats your boat, I guess.
The story for MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D is pretty similar to the original and I appreciated that alot. I really had no major issue with the story of Harry Warden killing people and scaring a town for years with his infamous legend. But screenwriter Todd Farmer [who also wrote JASON X, which I'm probably the only one who actually likes that sequel] really makes the whole thing tighter and stronger. The love triangle aspect, for example, never really interested me in the original version. It just seemed so hokey to me. But in this version, I got a real sense of the whole love ordeal and it worked very well. It helps when you have good actors to tell it visually, but that wouldn't be possible if the material wasn't strong in itself. We get the human hearts inside the chocolate heart-shaped boxes of course. We also have the mine setting and the killer in the coal miner outfit with his trusty pick-axe. Farmer took the good things about the original and just completed them in his vision, which the screenwriter of the original wasn't able to do, I felt.
I also liked that Farmer made this more of an adult horror film instead of the usual teen films that Hollywood seems to love shoving down people's throats. It starts out like a teen horror flick but the film matures a bit with the romance sub-plot and how straight up it becomes. It never plays out like a satire, or a really tongue-in-cheek sort of horror flick like the modern wave of horror has been on since SCREAM in 1996. Nah, MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D plays like an actual slasher flick and uses what makes them great to begin with very well. Hell, I thought the middle portion of the flick played like a psychological thriller more than it did a slasher film, with the mystery of the killer and all the red herrings that were planted to throw people off. For a remake, it was actually quite smart and there was an attempt to actually make a great horror film that wasn't totally about the money.
I thought the film had more character development than I was actually expecting. Farmer actually keeps stereotypes in check but fleshes them out a bit to give us people we can relate to. Wouldn't we traumatized like Tom if we were almost killed? I understood why he needed to get away and sell the one thing he associates with that horrible event. What about Sarah, who is torn between the love of her life and the man who saved her from almost getting killed? Her husband cheats on her and she still stays with him. Would any of you ladies reading this do the same if you loved your man? And Axel is a jerk and a cheater, but I'd be a prick too if I felt insecure not only about my wife and marriage, but the level of respect I hold within a small community. These issues of depth aren't needed in a slasher film, but I appreciate it when they're there because I see these characters as people rather than cannon fodder. Who knew horror still cared about having protagonists being just as interesting as the antagonist? Thanks to whoever remembered!
I think the one thing that ruined the story a bit was the way the mystery unraveled. Now I didn't hate the whole whodunit thing or even its reveal. I actually liked seeing the twists and turns, as well as the characters pointing fingers at each other when they had credible points. But maybe it's just me, but I found it all a bit too predictable. As a matter of fact, I guessed the mystery pretty early. So I wasn't surprised when the truth was revealed at the end of the film. But even with that, I still thought it was the best way to go and it totally made sense. I just wish it was a bit tighter as to how it all went down.
I think the gore in MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D was absolutely sick in the bestest of ways I can think of. We get a girl who gets a shovel impaled through her face to the point where her jaw and everything below it slides down and away from the top half of her face. We get the FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3D "eye towards the audience" trick, but it's done a lot cooler here. We get some jaws getting ripped off. A ton of people get impaled by the pick-axe. We get shots of victims who were gutted in order to see that their hearts have been taken out. There's a whole bunch of stuff here really and I loved every bit of it. And plus - it's in THREE DIMENSIONS! Do you have any idea how cool it was to watch these deaths pop out at you as if you were right there when they were happening? It was like being on a rollercoaster ride that you did not want to get off of. The SFX team really did a bang up job here and I'm surprised the MPAA actually let the filmmakers get away with the deaths scenes here. I can't imagine what an Unrated version of this film would look like. I thought I was actually watching that version. I'm very excited about the DVD for this film.
The direction by Patrick Lussier was awesome. The cinematography was excellent. The editing was perfect. Tons of suspense and tension. I actually jumped a few times during this film. Lussier never turned the visuals away from the terror employed by the killer. Lussier wanted us to see it all and by God did he ever? Plus the handling of the 3D aspect was perfect and a slice of genius. Lussier takes full advantage of the Real D 3D technology, filming MY BLOODY VALENTINE from the Lionsgate logo [which was very cool seeing in 3D] to the very end of the end credits in 3D. It honestly never really felt like a gimmick after the first ten minutes. Once you got used to the visuals and how certain things popped out and how others didn't, it felt natural. My eyes never hurt. I never felt dizzy. It was visually impressive. I really loved Lussier's work on this.
The acting in MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D was a lot better than it probably should have been. Jensen Ackles from Supernatural was good as Tom. With his good looks and acting abilities, he definitely has what it takes to be a leading man. Plus with him being on horror sets all the time for his television show, he was right at home here. I bought his fear and trauma and felt bad for him. He broods with the best of them. No complaints. Jaime King, who's probably best known for SIN CITY, was also good as Sarah. I think the part was a bit underwritten but King made the most of it. I bought the whole "torn between two lovers" act with her. And she looked pretty hot as a brunette. Kerr Smith, of Dawson's Creek and FINAL DESTINATION fame, rocked it as Axel Palmer. He was the stereotypical jealous prick character who treated people like shit because of his insecurities. Normally in these slasher flicks, you'd have a reason to hate his guts and wish for the killer to kill him. But Smith brings depth to the role, as he shows that Axel is just as badly messed up as Tom is over the whole Harry thing except he handled it differently by becoming a cop and trying to stop something like that from happening again. Plus he knew his wife was in love with someone else and he dealt with that by cheating, like she was "cheating" on him. I always been a fan of Kerr Smith and he did not disappoint here. We also have Tom FUCKIN' Atkins back in a major horror flick and playing an important character in Burke. Atkins is fantastic in anything he does and it's no different here. For me, I think he brought the whole "old school" and "class" to this film as he's a veteran of the genre. Whoever casted him deserves a raise. And last but not least, Betsy Rue shows us everything she was born with - for five minutes straight - in 3D. I was in love. Call me!
THE FINAL HOWL
MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D exceeded my expectations and I had a blast watching this one with other horror fans who cringed and cheered as gore and sharp weapons flew at us from a movie screen. This film wasn't made to change the genre in any way. It was done and made for horror fans who were tired of watching these PG-13 remakes that left bad tastes in our mouths and were hungry for the old days where gore and nudity put a smile on our sick and demented faces. And by God, I left that theater wearing a smile. I'm not looking for perfection. I'm looking to be entertained. And MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D did that. I couldn't imagine how this would be in 2D. If you haven't seen this and you want to, see it in 3D. That's really the whole point of the film. Hopefully the DVD will keep that in mind. Finally...a great modern horror remake that I can highly recommend. And I mean that from the bottom of my carved out heart.