The theatrical release of Patrick Lussier’s remake of the beloved 1981 Canadian slasher benefitted from a stellar ad campaign that beautifully evoked the fifties in-your-lap 3D effects and promises of unbridled, gory mayhem, but right from the opening scene in a Pennsylvania mine shaft, it was clear the focus in the 2009 re-imagining of My Bloody Valentine was going to be on kill scenes, with little character or story development.
George Mihalka’s 1981 film isn’t high art by any means, but there was a deliberate effort to immerse audiences into the world of a small mining town; that sense of geography, which mapped out the limits and lifestyles of the characters, is oddly absent in Lussier’s film, particularly the mine, which was established as a character of equal grimness and danger in the 1981 film. In small town Pennsylvania, the mine is a generic set of tunnels running under a riverside mountain, but in small town Nova Scotia, the mine is a leaking, rusting thing whose used and unused innards not only go far beneath the surface, but under the ocean floor – aspects that made the climb to the surface in the original film far more terrifying.
Equally integral to the myth of the killer miner is his punishment of those who have chosen to break his decree never to celebrate Valentine’s Day. That curse, and the fairly linear story in Mihalka’s film, are barely acknowledged in the feeble script by actor/writer Todd Farmer (who also appears as a trucker before meeting the miner's axe head-on) and newbie Zane Smith, and some of the remake’s characters are compressed versions of the originals: the prodigal son still returns from a decade-long absence, but his old best buddy is now the town sheriff, a role that in 1981 was held by a much older actor who had eyes for a mature shiksa until she was baked in a laundry mat’s industrial dryer. The new thirtysomething leads still bicker over a girl (now a wife and mother), but that conflict is more perfunctory, because as with most of the remake’s small town characters, they’re just cardboard clichés sputtering utterly familiar dialogue.
THINLY VEILED SPOILER
The film feels like a variation of Halloween 4 and 5 only because the serial killer has moved from the mine locale – the tunnels, the equipment room, the workers’ mess hall – to the town suburbs, although the reasoning for so much mobility is ultimately tied to the twist revelation that has a character suffering from a hackneyed/nonsensical identity crisis. The logic in bringing kills to the suburbs was probably to further the fear among townspeople (and audiences) of the miner being able to go beyond the industrial locale, but his reasons for the initial kills are meaningless – instead of punishment, he just wants to hack up and remove human hearts because it’s his thing.
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The kills are evocative of the original (including getting baked in a dryer, and getting a pick ax through the jaw), and the marriage of practical and digital effects work relatively well, except whatever is hurtled towards the camera is plainly digital and gimmicky; the only moments that feel real occur in a department store chase, where merchandise is knocked over and sprays towards the camera.
Lussier’s direction favours mayhem over storytelling, but his undistinguished editing also shows an impatience with the dialogue material: verbal exchanges have been whittled down to bare essentials, and most cuts show little regard for pacing performances or dialogue delivery. When characters are talking, the film’s visual design is oddly banal; night scenes feel over-lit; and the much-vaunted 3D HD cameras end up producing footage that resembles video footage reprocessed with a filter to resemble 24 fps rather than the more elegant HD cameras.
Lionsgate’s DVD feature both flat and 3D versions, but the 3D only works when the focus is on a centrally positioned actor(s) or object(s); as things drift closer to or away from the camera, the 3D effects become hazy and ghostly. Unlike Bugs! (2003) or Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D (2008), the 3D version of My Bloody Valentine emphasizes spatial relationships instead of objects drifting outside of the TV and towards the viewer.
The 2-disc DVD comes with a flipper disc with flat and 3D versions, and each version is striped with the same filmmaker commentary track. The remaining extras – featurettes and deleted/extended scenes – appear on Disc 2. The deleted and alternate material is largely scored and layered with effects, so there may have been an early concept to house the theatrical and a longer director’s cut on DVD before the material was re-housed in a separate gallery. Among the deleted scenes are some extra snippets of the deputy behaving suspiciously, as well as an alternate ending that basically lacks the tail end where a certain somebody walks into frame, setting up a possible sequel.
The special effects featurette is the most fun among the extras simply because it showcases the grotesque practical heads, torsos, and rippable jaws, whereas the making-of featurette is the usual interview and on-set footage where everybody believes they’re making a laudable reboot of a genre classic when the final results reveal otherwise.
Kudos to Lionsgate for offering the film in 3D on disc, but with the exception of Michael Wandmacher’s punchy score, it’s a pity the remake misses the spirit, atmosphere, tension, and horror of Mihalka’s nasty original - a movie offering far better value for your time and money.
Note: to read an interview with composer Michael Wandmacher, click HERE.
© 2009 Mark R. Hasan