Thursday, February 12, 2015

V-Day Review: My Bloody Valentine (2009)

Horror remakes can be tricky things, especially if the original—in this case, My Bloody Valentine, the holiday-themed mad-slasher film that took heartbreak to rather literal extremes—is revered as a genre classic (which it is, by some) and especially if it is dependent on withholding the identity of the killer until the end (which it does). How do you change it enough to make it fresh enough for modern audiences to give a damn while still retaining what drew fans to the film in the first place?

Producers and directors have, in the recent past, employed several successful tactics, such as tweaking the story a bit (Michael Myers wasn’t just eeeeeevil, he had reasons and stuff!), plugging in more recognizable names into the cast (Jessica Biel and R. Lee Ermey in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Elisha Cuthbert and Paris Hilton in House of Wax, etc.), upping the gore/body count (damn near every remake lately) and, when all else fails, show it in 3D (the piranhas/machetes/blood and guts come RIGHT! OUT! AT YOU!).

The remake of My Bloody Valentine employs all these tactics. Whether they make the remake better than (or at least as good as) the original is debatable.

The story this time around: The Pennsylvania town of Harmony is anything but harmonious when six miners are trapped, apparently due to the negligence/incompetence of the mine owner’s son, Tom (Jenson Ackles). When rescuers find the miners, all of them are dead except one: Harry Warden, who went crazy and killed the others with a pickaxe.

Harry is taken to the local hospital where he remains in a coma until Valentine’s Day, when he wakes up and, like most people who wake up from months-long comas, immediately starts killing everyone he can lay his hands on. He even goes back to the mine and takes out a bunch of teenagers celebrating the holiday there. Tom, his girlfriend Sarah (Jaime King) , best friend Axel (Kerr Smith) and Axel’s girl Irene (Betsy Rue) all survive, though the latter three take off, leaving Tom to dodge Harry’s pickaxe until Sheriff Burke (Tom Atkins) and his men show up and take Harry down, though the body, we’re told, is never found.

Flash forward 10 years. Tom returns to Harmony to sell off his late father’s mine, which makes him even less popular than he already was. Sarah, who manages a grocery store, is now married to Axel, who is now the sheriff. This does not prevent Axel from fucking Megan (Megan Boone), one of Sarah’s employees.

And Irene? She gets gruesomely murdered at a motel (along with the motel manager and a trucker) by…Harry Warden? Wait, isn’t he dead? Well, maybe—turns out Harry didn’t just vanish, but was shot to death by Sheriff Burke and buried in the woods…except that the unmarked grave is now empty.

So, is Harry Warden running around Harmony ripping hearts, or is someone else wearing the miner’s mask these days? Or does it even matter?

This remake loses much of what made the original My Bloody Valentine different from its early ‘80s contemporaries. The detailed mining-town setting has become the typical generic Anywhere, USA, and there’s little to no character development of victims before they’re slaughtered. (Hell, the body count of the original is vastly exceeded in the first five minutes). Worst of all? The movie barely refers to the holiday—it’s in the title, but that’s about all.

Ackles and Smith are nearly interchangeable, each taking turns looking suspicious or innocent. Only King really makes an impression—tough, resilient, and smart enough not to believe anyone when they say they’re not the killer. (King went on to star in two more mad-slasher remakes: Silent Night and Mother’s Day.)

And the 3D effects? They’re less than effective, with bad CGI tumbling out at the viewer at regular intervals, while slightly more subtle effects (like Kevin Tighe pointing a rifle barrel out at the audience) work better.

The budget may be larger and the actors better known, but this Valentine is more generic and (excuse the pun) more heartless than the original.

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