MOVIE REVIEW: My Bloody Valentine 3D — Pleasantly surprised

The tag line for My Bloody Valentine: 3D proclaims: Nothing says date-movie like a 3D ride to hell. You really have to hand it to a horror/slasher film that has the guts to bill itself as a date movie! At least that’s one way to get more ladies into the theater. The other is to hire the handsome and charismatic Jensen Ackles as one of your stars. Good looks aside, ask any fan of The CW’s cult hit Supernatural and they will quickly expound this man’s acting talents as well. And we must not forget about Kerr Smith who provides a double dose of the good looks plus acting ability of his own. If the boyfriends attending this date movie can enjoy Jaime (King) and Betsy (Rue), then the girlfriends can certainly enjoy Ackles and Smith!

Let’s be very clear, I do not consider myself a great fan of horror movies, especially the ‘slashers’ whose sole purpose is to dole out as much blood, gore, nudity, and sex as possible, while the body count increases exponentially. Too often, these slashers even have the audacity to actually call what they are presenting as ‘storytelling’. I am much more intrigued by terror and fear delivered through suspense and mystery. This isn’t to say that horror films can’t be a cut above the rest, as proven early on by the likes of Halloween.

I must also be honest and say that I didn’t have high hopes for anything labeled as ‘3D.’  Just the mention of 3D immediately brings to mind those awful, cardboard, red-and-blue glasses that gave more of a headache than an experience. But with advances in technology, this was clearly an unnecessary worry. Jensen Ackles stated in a recent interview, “It’s not your grandma’s 3D. We’re talking high resolution technology that will blow your mind.” And he was not kidding!

I also debated about properly doing some homework beforehand. If My Bloody Valentine is a remake, then perhaps it would be best to watch… er, study, the 1981 original. Of course, the risk taken is knowing in advance who the killer might be and thus completely ruining the mystery. But then again, I was a devious child who peeked into all the Christmas presents weeks in advance, thus I have been preconditioned to love spoilers from a very young age. Strangely enough, the original managed to surprise me at the end with a twist of its own.

When comparing the past to the present, it turns out that this is not a “remake” at all. It is a brand-new tale using the foundation of the original upon which to build and at times even pays homage by keeping a few of the original scenes, but in an updated manner. This “revisioning” actually picks up the story years after the events of the original. Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles) returns to his hometown ten years after the Valentine’s massacre that claimed the lives of 22 people in the family-owned Hanniger mine. The modern version presents Tom as the one responsible for causing an accident that trapped and killed five men and sent the only survivor, Harry Warden, into a permanent coma (a different explanation was provided in the original). One year later, on Valentine’s Day, Harry awoke seeking revenge and brutally murdering twenty-two people with a pickaxe before being killed (or was he? dun-dun-dun!) As Tom returns to the town of Harmony, he is still haunted by those deaths. He struggles to make amends with his past while still facing unresolved feelings for his ex-girlfriend, Sarah (Jaime King), who is now married to his friend, Axel Palmer (Kerr Smith), the town sheriff. But just as Tom returns, so does the ruthless killer from the past, hiding behind a miner’s mask and armed with a pickaxe. The real question now is whether Harry Warden has somehow returned to finish what he once started, or if someone else among this new group is the deranged killer.

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As a horror film, My Bloody Valentine 3D has the prerequisite amounts of blood, mutilation, kills, and female full frontal nudity. Nudity in 3D… gotta love it! Or at least the guys will. Other than Ackles briefly in a tank top, the only body the ladies will have to ogle is a naked backside of a trucker, Frank, sharing the standard sex scene with the naked Irene (Betsy Rue). At first, Irene’s nudity fulfills the horror-movie quota of hot-chick-having-sex, but it quickly devolves into a gratuitous display bordering on the absurd. Also, Frank just happens to be portrayed by Todd Farmer, one of the movie’s writers. (I will need to ask him if he intentionally wrote it that way knowing he might be in it, and how the heck his wife agreed to go along with it in the first place!) Rumor has it that there may actually be a sequel if this film does well. If this is true, then a petition will be started early to demand that they balance out the playing field and offer some male frontal nudity — in 3D! That will be another clever ploy to get more ladies into the theater the next time around.

In terms of the 3D aspect, director Patrick Lussier does a masterful job of using the technology to his advantage while including some of the standard and expected jump scares and horror movie cliches. And of course there WILL be things flying towards you off the screen — isn’t that the whole point of filming in 3D? But when it happens, the realism is simply astounding. The 3D aspect works quite well for the most part, except for a few minor things. It appears that anything in white still has an odd aura reminiscent of those red/blue cardboard glasses. But the darker colors, wide-angles, outdoor and night scenes, are truly fantastic from a visual standpoint, giving you the feel that you have actually stepped into the scene. And there are moments that the effect is simply mind-blowing. Since the entire movie is in 3D, the technology is there to enhance rather than be used as a crutch or simply as a device.

Writers Todd Farmer and Zane Smith deliver a solid script quite fitting to what this movie is. It doesn’t pretend to be Shakespeare, and at times is formulaic, but it works. It uses the dialogue to outline the characters and move the story forward instead of using it simply as filler between kills, with the exception of a few minor lines, which seemed contrived or cliched. And the acting is certainly at a level high above what one would expect from a slasher/horror film. Ackles delivers a solid performance, adding nuances to his body language and facial expressions that add layers and enhance his character. In the short time we get to know him, he really makes us care for Tom even though we are given adequate reason to question his sanity. The mystery is always present as we waffle between the is-he-or-isn’t-he-the-killer question, which really comes to the forefront as the climax draws near. Kerr Smith, as the sheriff and Tom’s rival, also delivers a pleasing performance. We get the feel that we need to like this man because of his position of authority, but we don’t really like him because of his character’s traits. And even Jaime King is much more than just a damsel in distress. As is required in a horror film where a madman is chasing you with a pickaxe, everyone is able to convey the utter wide-eyed fear and accompanying screams necessary to make it all believable. And the musical score was actually an enhancement, working in subtle complement to the visuals to elicit the right level of tension, suspense, and fear. There is no horror movie standard of chi-chi-chi-ha-ha-ha that is signature to another franchise. And just hearing the Darth Vader-like breathing through the killer’s mask is enough to bring out the chills.

In the end, I was pleasantly surprised at how fun this film was despite the stalk-and-kill, bloody/gory chaos. Yes, there were moments I cringed and almost had to look away, but these are the elements that true fans of horror will no doubt savor and which the 3D enhances to creepy realism. The difference being that the movie actually pays homage to those old-school slasher flicks of the eighties by using the kills to shock, scare, and disgust, without making them the sole focus in a torture-porn manner so prevalent today. The movie definitely lives up to the ‘Bloody’ in its title, but it stays focused on the story. A handful of possible endings were filmed to keep everyone guessing, which will no doubt make it to the DVD later. And no, I will not spoil the ending, other than to say it WILL keep you guessing throughout, regardless of whether you have seen the original or not. Just be sure to stay in your seat until the end credits have completely run through… there is one last little visual surprise at the end.

So go ahead, make a date movie outing. As another tag line says, “Kinda romantic in a sick sort of way.”  Just skip the dinner date right before the movie — it’s not a good idea to go in on a full stomach.

And by all means, do yourself a favor… to get the full effect one MUST seek out a theater that offers it in 3D because that is definitely half the fun. And do not worry about the glasses… they are more like an odd pair of RayBans. Digital 3D is a truly remarkable achievement and there are currently about thirty films coming out this year in this format, although at the current time they are mostly children’s or animated tales. George Lucas has been quoted as saying, “The time has come for 3D to become more than some theme park attraction.” I could not agree more.

3D Effects: A-

Acting: B+
Story: C+
FINAL GRADE: B (on the horror-movie scale)

3 thoughts on “MOVIE REVIEW: My Bloody Valentine 3D — Pleasantly surprised”

  1. Excellent review. I like the points you touch on. But I have to add that seeing the movie in 2-D is also worth the price of admission because it gives you a different perspective on it.

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