Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Bloody Valentine: 3D (2009)

Remakes are always a tricky proposition. On one hand, the original is usually hailed as a classic and deemed "perfect" with no need to be touched. On the other, there is always room to explore a particular angle left out of or not even thought of in the source material. Happily, My Bloody Valentine 3D (MBV3D) succeeds where few have.

The general plot remains the same as the 1981 slasher classic; after a terrible accident in the Hanniger Mine, Harry Warden snapped and took his bloody revenge. Years later, he returns and the killings begin once again.

MBV3D picks up where the original left off with, what it is pretty much a condensed version of the original's finale; workers at the mine are throwing a party and boozing it up . . . with Harry Warden on the loose, after a terrible accident there which left him in a coma for the last year.

The love triangle of Tom (aka T.J.), Sarah, and Axel is still prevalent. Here Supernatural's Jensen Ackles stars as Tom. Right from the start, there is tension between Tom and Kerr Smith's Axel -- and it's obviously over Sarah (played by Jamie King). After Harry Warden shows up and starts slaughtering people, Tom is left for dead in a mass confusion with Axel, his girlfriend Irene (played by Betsy Rue) and Sarah feeling for safety. Ten years later, Tom returns to town and finds things aren't exactly as they were when he left . . .

Axel is now the Sheriff (taking over from Tom Atkins' Burke) and is married to Sarah. Like the original, that love triangle still exists and it serves as a springboard for some intense moments between Tom and Axel. But, the one that remains the same is that a similar string of murders by someone in a miner's outfit (complete with the eerie combination of the gas mask and miner's headlamp). Is it Harry Warden?

The script by Todd Farmer and Zane Smith is fun and intelligent for what it is. Let's face it, MBV3D is not out to win any Oscars. If you go to see to be enlightened, you're at the wrong movie. If you go into it expect a fun time and a roller coaster ride into Hell (as the posters are saying), you will have a grand old time! Farmer's writing has happily improved since he wrote Jason X and with Smith at his side, he creates a world familiar to longtime fans of Harry Warden, while at the same time bringing them something new.

The acting is pretty solid all around, with Tom Atkins pretty much stealing the show everytime he's on-screen. He plays Burke as if he's in a B-movie and does his dialogue with the perfect delivery; seriously, some of his early scenes recall 70s drive-in double features. The major letdown though is Jamie King as Sarah. King plays the role by the Slasher genre rulebooks and, well, Sarah was never your standard throwaway Slasher character. Although that problem begins with the writing, King's performance dumbs down the character so much to the point that she falls into the standard Slasher cliches of moving too slow or just standing there when something bad is happening. Kerr Smith is also pretty intense, as well, playing nicely off of Jensen Ackles; the suspense of the Miner's true identity, coupled with the tension over Sarah gives these two actors a lot to work with.

Where the original MBV was heavily cut by MPAA censors, special Effects supervisor, Gary Tunnicliffe pours on the gore for Harry Warden's 3D debut! Victims are dispatched in a manner of colorful and grizzly ways enhanced by the amazing 3D effects! Like the Friday the 13th series, this is absolutely a bodycount movie and the kills are so cartoonish that you're bound to have a good time. Again, people come to see movies like this to see the effects and the gore; and in that regard, MBV3D delivers across the board.
Since this is, afterall, a remake of a classic movie loved by many -- including director Patrick Lussier -- you may be wondering if there are nods or homages to the original Canadian classic. Of course there are! Lussier updates a couple classic kills that are even more spectacular given the recent DVD release of the original in its uncut form. In fact, there are plot elements in MBV3D that make watching the original even more interesting considering what some of the newer versions of favorite characters do this time around....

And, speaking of familiar territory, Lussier has stocked his cast with some genre favorites to appease the hardcore Horror hounds in the audience. As I said before, Tom Atkins (The Fog, Escape From New York, Creepshow, Halloween III, Night of the Creeps, Lethal Weapon, Maniac Cop, etc.) is on-hand, chewing up scenery and stealing the show right out from under the younger actors. Then, there's John Harrison (composer for Creepshow, Day of the Dead, director of one of the Dune TV movies, and of course, the "Screwdriver Zombie" in Dawn of the Dead) as the foreman at Hanniger Mine. Harrison has a bit role, but any George Romero fan will recognize him and smile. And, speaking of Romero, there's one more alum creeping about . . . Bingo O'Malley ("Jordy's Father" in Creepshow and "Valdemar" in Two Evil Eyes) appears as Sherrif Burke's right hand man, Hinch. Sure, to the average moviegoer, these cameos are insificant, but to those "in the know" it's a nice way for Lussier to show he cares and respects the fanbase.

The 3D technology has drastically improved from what many from my generation remember in, say, Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare or Friday the 13th Part 3D and Jaws 3D. Gone are the red and blue lenses in the cardboard glasses (at my screening, there was a metal detector outside the theater to ensure none of the state of the art 3D glasses walked). Also gone is the almost instant headache that feels like an icepick is being driven into one or both of your eyes! The 3D here really kicks off with the depth of field on-screen in terms of the actual mine itself. Of course, some of the effects are throw-backs to 3D fun of yesterday with objects either popping or, um, flying directly at you....yes, there were a few parts where I actually blinked and flinched. Some of the scenery looks breath-taking in three dimensions as well -- especially the wooded areas surrounding the mine.

However, MBV3D is not a perfect movie. As I said earlier, Jamie King's portrayal of Sarah was a letdown. Perhaps if she'd studied the original movie a little more and identified with the character, she could have made Sarah more believable. Granted, no one is asking for the opposite end of the stereotype -- ie: Lt. Ripley or Sarah Connor, but it just would've been nice for her to have some depth. Also, some of the guys out there my hoot and holler and drool over Betsy Rue in all her naked glory . . . but really, I think the nudity was a bit overdone (the same way Danielle Harris' was in Rob Zombie's Halloween). Another point of centention surrounds the believablity of the actors' ages; time shifts ten years and hardly any of the actors look different from the way they are in the beginning. Only Kerr Smith grows some facial hair and, from what I've read, Tom Atkins actually looked younger in the beginning.

Lastly, the movie could have been a minute or two shorter. The ending they went with is a bit redundant and it would have been more effective for that "one last scare" moment had things been trimmed just a bit.

Overall, MBV3D is a fun little movie that ushers in the next trend for Horror: the 3D movie. Yes, there is a plethora of 3D-based Horror movies coming out later this year or early next year (I'm looking forward to Final Destination 4 and Alexandre Aja's remake of Piranha). While it was also released in the standard 2D version (which I plan on seeing), I cannot recommend seeing the 3D version if it's playing near you! See it!