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Dustin Putman

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My Bloody Valentine  (2009)
2 Stars
Directed by Patrick Lussier.
Cast: Jensen Ackles, Jaime King, Kerr Smith, Megan Boone, Betsy Rue, Tom Atkins, Edi Gathegi, Kevin Tighe, Karen Baum, Selene Luna, Joy de la Paz, Marc Macaulay, Todd Farmer, Jeff Hochendoner, Bingo O'Malley, Liam Rhodes, Michael Roberts McKee, Andrew Larson, Jarrod DiGiorgi, Rich Walters.
2009 – 101 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for graphic brutal violence, some strong sexuality and nudity, and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, January 16, 2009.
In remaking 1981's cult slasher film, "My Bloody Valentine," director Patrick Lussier and screenwriters Todd Farmer (2002's "Jason X") and Zane Smith pay fond homage to the original while taking the story in different directions. This successfully sets the two pictures apart, but not so much that they are unrecognizable to one another (i.e. 1980's "Prom Night" and the in-name-only 2008 revision). It would be untruthful to suggest that Lussier does everything right—truth be told, this 2009 version doesn't quite have the same authenticity in its blue-collar small town setting, nor the holiday celebration atmosphere—but when he hits the bull's-eye, the experience can be a lot of fun.

Shot specifically to be seen in the Real-D 3-D format (some movie houses without the correct built-in technology are showing it in 2-D, but why bother?), 2009's "My Bloody Valentine" is a visual blast, so superior to the archaic red-and-blue-lensed 3-D of decades past that it deserves credit for this alone. With the images coming alive before the audience's eyes, viewers are immersed in the grisly goings-on, ducking out of the way of everything from blood, guts, ripped-off jaws, swinging pick-axes, and sharp tree branches. The regular two-dimensional version will likely do the trick when the film comes to DVD, but it will lack the added charm that the 3-D presentation provides and, in some instances, may come off looking a bit gimmicky.

The ten-minute prologue is like a climax unto itself. Shortly after a collapse that left a half-dozen workers trapped in the Hanniger mines, the sole survivor, Harry Warden, escapes without his sanity intact. Forced to slaughter the rest of his men in order to snatch their oxygen, Harry eventually slips into a coma. Upon waking, he returns to the scene of the crime on Valentine's Day and hacks up a group of partying teenagers before apparently dying himself in a mound of rubble. The young man blamed for the initial mine disaster, Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles), promptly skips town, leaving behind girlfriend Sarah (Jaime King) and best friend Axel (Kerr Smith). Ten years later, Tom returns to his industrial hometown of Harmony to sell the mining company owned by his recently deceased father. As he comes to terms with the discovery that Sarah is now married to police chief Axel and has a child with him, the namesake holiday fast approaches. With it comes a new onslaught of brutal murders. Is the thought-dead Harry Warden back in business, or is someone else the culprit behind the miner mask?

The new "My Bloody Valentine" doesn't quite match the original in terms of its overriding eeriness or even in the love triangle playing out in between kill sequences. It does, however, live up to the second word in the title. Director Patrick Lussier evocatively makes no bones nor apologies about what he has made—a formulaic slasher movie with generous 1980s inspiration—and on that level it works quite well. That the characters are all well into their twenties or older gives them more levity and realism than the standard genre fodder, but that stands simply as an aside to its main attraction: gore-drenched carnage.

The picture undeniably takes off when someone is being attacked or stalked by the killer in miner's garb. A set-piece involving the sexually voracious Irene (Betsy Rue), chased down whilst wearing not a stitch of clothing, is a bold standout, as is a sequence set at the grocery store where Sarah works. In a taut climax that gets the heart racing all the way up until its unimpressive reveal of the killer, Sarah attempts to hide in the equipment building next to the mines and is accosted as the uniforms drop down from the ceiling. This is a delicious tribute to the earlier film, as is a scene involving a corpse in a dryer.

Performances are about on par with a B-grade '80s slasher, wildly uneven and in some cases quite stiff. Jensen Ackles (TV's "Supernatural") looks uncomfortable and unsure of himself as Tom Hanniger. The result is some of the more wooden acting in a theatrically released film in memory. Kerr Smith (2001's "The Forsaken") is only marginally better as Axel, and Jaime King (2008's "The Spirit") is spotty in her turn as Sarah. King is most convincing when her life is being threatened, and less so when she has to speak. The brightest actors in the ensemble are the supporting ones, with the uninhibited Betsy Rue giving it her all as the spunky, sexy Irene, and ultra-cool veteran performer Tom Atkins (1980's "The Fog") making a welcome return to the horror genre he is most famous for as Officer Burke.

The goal of "My Bloody Valentine" is to have audiences laughing and screaming in equal measure. The film's intentions are no deeper than that, and as such it is a respectable return to a style of R-rated horror movie not frequently made anymore. Whenever the plotting threatens to bog the pace down, fear not—an eye-gouging or partial head decapitation is mere moments away. As for the ending, it's something of a throwaway—not nearly as creepy as the original's conclusion—but easily forgivable amidst the party-style thrills on display. The way to see "My Bloody Valentine" is undeniably in snazzy 3-D. Without that additional depth of field, the picture offers little that hasn't been seen before.
© 2009 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman