My Bloody Valentine 3-D

Movie Information

The Story: Ten years after a presumably dead homicidal maniac went on a killing spree in a mining town, the murders start again. The Lowdown: A pretty dumb, down-and-dirty slasher picture -- complete with wholesale violence, a dose of skin and lots of gore -- that offers unintentional laughs, along with some pretty remarkable 3-D.
Score:

Genre: 3-D Ride to Hell
Director: Patrick Lussier (Dracula 2000)
Starring: Jensen Ackles, Jaime King, Kerr Smith, Betsy Rue, Edi Gathegi, Tom Atkins, Kevin Tighe
Rated: R

The basic stalk-and-stab slasher movie gets no respect—and probably doesn’t deserve much, come to that, even if it looks positively creative and relatively harmless when put up against today’s torture porn. In reality, the slasher movie—which dates back to John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978)—isn’t a lot more than a variant on the “creative death” school of horror that originated, more or less, with Richard Donner’s The Omen (1976). The raison d’être of the school was ultimately figuring out ever-more grisly and convoluted manners in which victims could come to their various sticky ends. Combine that approach with the basic local-legend concept of the escaped lunatic murdering teens trysting on lovers lane (a primitive abstinence-only scare tactic) and you have the formula for the slasher film, which reached its essence with the no-frills body-count method of Sean S. Cunnigham’s Friday the 13th in 1980.

In its wake, we were treated to knockoffs of all sorts, including George Mihalka’s My Bloody Valentine (1981), a somewhat above-average slasher opus that—like Friday the 13th—followed a tepid whodunit approach. (Critics of the time always seemed to miss this aspect in their rush to make a case for the moral turpitude evidenced by the use of point-of-view shots where the viewer was supposedly meant to identify with the killer—neatly disregarding the fact that such shots were utilitarian in nature because they kept you from identifying the killer.) Mihalka’s Valentine came and went. It was reviled and censored. It spawned no franchise. But now it’s back in remake form with a brand new coat of 3-D (in select theaters) to make it shimmer and gleam anew.

And that brand-new coat of 3-D is about all you get that’s of any actual merit—except in that special realm of “so bad it’s good” moviegoing. As a movie in its own right, My Bloody Valentine 3-D is nothing more than a fairly efficient reworking of its parent, though it’s probably a little dumber and its revelation of the killer considerably less persuasive. What you have are a bunch of “TV pretty” 30-somethings (who are neither distinctive, nor talented enough to hold the big screen) giving wooden performances and delivering some of the worst dialogue in living memory. The images may boast an extra dimension, but the characters do not. This doesn’t keep it from being fun, but let’s face it, a lot of the fun stems from the mind-boggling awfulness of people saying lines like, “She’s my wife—we have sex!”

The story is functional at best. A highly motivated homicidal miner awakes from a year-long coma in the hospital and goes on a spectacularly gory killing spree, before suiting up in mining togs and offing a bunch of partying teens at the mine, during which he ostensibly perishes. Flash forward 10 years. Time has clearly passed since survivor Axel Palmer (TV actor Kerr Smith) is now the sheriff and sports a scraggly beard. Axel is married to fellow survivor Sarah (Jaime King, The Spirit)—on whom he cheats outrageously with Sarah’s grocery-store employee Megan (Megan Boone), who has inconveniently become pregnant. (Yeah, this is pretty soapy.) Another survivor Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles, TV’s Supernatural)—Sarah’s former swain who has been missing for years—returns to town to sell the old family mine, whereupon the murders start up anew. Only Sarah believes Tom’s not responsible. Is her faith misplaced? Is the original killer still alive? Mayhem—the actual point of the movie—follows.

The mayhem is OK without being especially distinctive. Pickax murders leave little room for variation—though I’m not sure I’ve ever witnessed midget-cide by pickax before. We get a 3-D sex scene, some extended 3-D nudity, 3-D cardiectomies and the sure-to-be-famous 3-D flying jaw. The old movie’s corpse-in-a-clothes-dryer scene gets a gorier update, which will please fans. And there’s lots of blood—all of it leading to a lame revelation of an ending that would be better suited to a Fritz Lang movie from his German expressionist period. It does work in its simple “3-D ride to hell” way, which is about all you should expect anyway.

However—and this is a big however—director Patrick Lussier and cinematographer Brian Pearson, with some serious help from production designer Zack Grobler, have managed to make the most effective 3-D movie I’ve ever seen. The film makes good—and even intelligent—use of 3-D from the onset with only a few missteps along the way. The usual eye-crossing murkiness (see Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D) is nowhere to be found, which is especially noteworthy in a film this dark. The key is in the lighting design, choice of camera angles and production design. The mine tunnels themselves are perfect for the format, but the film makes them that much better by shooting wide and including the ceilings in many shots, greatly enhancing the perspective. Regardless, objects that move too fast still don’t really register. (I know it’s a flying jaw because I know that’s what it is, not because I could identify it in the shot itself.) Overall, this is no great shakes of a movie (I’m being kind here), but it’s a pretty substantial improvement in the use of 3-D. Be sure to see it in that form, not the 2-D version. Rated R for graphic brutal violence and grisly images throughout, some strong sexuality, graphic nudity and language.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

19 thoughts on “My Bloody Valentine 3-D

  1. I heard it’s the rare American horror film that delivers the goods. I’ll definitely check it out in 3D.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I heard it’s the rare American horror film that delivers the goods.

    As long as the goods you’re talking about are of the bathful-of-blood-bucket-of-giblets variety, all dolled up in 3-D, you heard right. If there was anything about clever plotting, good acting or believable dialogue…well, no.

  3. “As long as the goods you’re talking about are of the bathful-of-blood-bucket-of-giblets variety, all dolled up in 3-D, you heard right. If there was anything about clever plotting, good acting or believable dialogue…well, no.”

    Well, you know me. I’ve got the highest and lowest standard around.

  4. Ken Hanke

    Well, you know me. I’ve got the highest and lowest standard around.

    It baffles science!

  5. Justin Souther

    Well, you know me. I’ve got the highest and lowest standard around.

    Speaking of which, John Cena, star of the transcendent The Marine, has a new film coming out directed by Renny Harlin.

    Also, I just found http://www.rennyharlin.com/ and am trying to wrap my head around why it exists.

  6. “Speaking of which, John Cena, star of the transcendent The Marine, has a new film coming out directed by Renny Harlin.

    Also, I just found http://www.rennyharlin.com/ and am trying to wrap my head around why it exists.”

    Ah, this makes my day. I’m surprised that Harlin is still around.

  7. Ken Hanke

    I’m surprised that Harlin is still around.

    Yeah, you’d have thought the combination of The Covenant and the disappearing act of Cleaner in the twinkling of a barely released eye would have taken care of that.

  8. Sean Williams

    Critics of the time always seemed to miss this aspect in their rush to make a case for the moral turpitude evidenced by the use of point-of-view shots where the viewer was supposedly meant to identify with the killer

    Oh, yes, I remember that debate. To be honest, I wish you hadn’t reminded me.

    Combine that approach with the basic local-legend concept of the escaped lunatic murdering teens trysting on lovers lane

    My father and his buddies used to drive around lover’s lanes, pull up alongside other cars, and slip the nozzles of fire extinguishers through their open windows. Apparently, you can fill an entire car with just a quarter of the foam in an extinguisher.

    Anyways, there’s a stalker film I’d like to see in 3-D.

  9. Ken Hanke

    Oh, yes, I remember that debate. To be honest, I wish you hadn’t reminded me.

    Oh, come on, was there ever anything more amusing than the spectacle of the uber-tight-assed John Simon finding himself in the position of defending Friday the 13th (likening the boy in the lake to Grimm’s Fairy Tales) against some hot gospel minister who was trying to have a theater in Texas shut down for showing the film? Okay, granted that was just a bizarre offshoot of the original Siskel and Ebert debate, but it was choice!

  10. Sean Williams

    Okay, so it was funny in retrospect.

    Actually, during the Congressional hearings about the comic book industry and its putative psychotic effects on developing minds, one of the witnesses for the defense was crashing on amphetamines, which is also funny in retrospect but indirectly led to several decades of censorship.

  11. Ken Hanke

    And there was some censorship in the wake of those horror movie debates, too, though to my mind an excess of gore is as nothing compared to the tone of sadism prevalent in so much modern horror. (It was there back then, too, in some areas. Certainly, Last House on the Left was full of sadism and humiliation — and some truly horrible filmmaking, too.) Censorship in one form or other has always been with us and always will be and will always fluctuate. All those lovely pre-code movies from the dawn of sound through 1933 had to be cut when the studios went to re-issue them in 1938. (In some cases, those cuts have never been restored.) We ran Ken Russell’s The Music Lovers (1970) the other night and it occurred to me that there are two sequences in that film that would require trimming to get an R today.

  12. Sean Williams

    Of course, the irony is that those critics who oppose censorship act as self-censors within the viewing public: they find objectionable for artistic reasons the material that censors would suppress for ethical reasons. Your negative reviews of Epic Movie have probably turned away more theater-goers than would a nationwide ban on its release.

    We ran Ken Russell’s The Music Lovers (1970) the other night and it occurred to me that there are two sequences in that film that would require trimming to get an R today.

    …To say nothing of My Kitten for Hitler!

  13. Ken Hanke

    Your negative reviews of Epic Movie have probably turned away more theater-goers than would a nationwide ban on its release.

    Oh, I doubt it. I doubt it only because I have great difficulty imagining a viewer who would consider Epic Movie actually reading a review.

  14. Sean Williams

    Okay, maybe that was a bad example, but my point was that critics and censors often have similar goals for opposite reasons.

  15. Ken Hanke

    By the way, Justin pointed out to me that he reviewed Epic Movie, not me. I am impressed he can keep these things straight.

  16. Sean Williams

    I would remember being forced to review Epic Movie, too.

  17. Ken Hanke

    I would remember being forced to review Epic Movie, too.

    I’ve had 8+ years of this sort of thing. After a while the crap all kind of runs together.

  18. Justin Souther

    After a while the crap all kind of runs together.

    It’s been seared into my brain.

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