MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D, surely one of this still-young century’s most unlikely projects, snuck out onto Blu-Ray a few weeks back, containing an outstanding presentation of the 2D version and a reasonably passable version of the 3D experience. The original Canuck slasher came out in 1981, only to get swallowed up in the tidal wave of maniac-with-a-knife titles that littered the cultural highway in the early ’80s. Its lasting notoriety, however, came from the infamous cuts demanded of the film by an ultra strict MPAA, leaving the ’81 MY BLOODY VALENTINE as an anemic byproduct of the horror witchhunt era.* The edits had attained a legendary stature over the years, mostly through images of the offending frames that were published in Fangoria but also because its distributing studio, Paramount, was responsible for (until very recently) keeping the similarly cut footage from their FRIDAY THE 13TH films under lock and key.
Fortunately, a sale to Lionsgate, along with a far more relaxed attitude towards onscreen violence, allowed an uncut release of the original My Bloody Valentine late in January of this year. Not surprisingly, we found that the added bits of gore didn’t really change the film in any remarkable way (it really was more a matter of principal) though the “shower head” sequence was certainly spiced up considerably. The ever-so-slightly amateurish production wins a lot of points on the plucky ‘hey gang – let’s make a movie!’ drive of the actors and director George Mihalka (that last name always reminded me of a pitched battle between nouns and consonants struggling for dominance), a handful of genuinely suspenseful scenes, and the extremely frightening visage of a homicidal coal miner coming at you in full pickaxe rage. It was a little over a year ago when word of a new version filtered down through the internet, and while there was the expected moaning about yet another remake, we felt that this was exactly the sort of film that should be remade: a far from perfect picture with a decent core idea and a few nicely iconic moments. But when we heard that the remake was going to be in Digital 3-D, thinks looked very interesting indeed.
My Bloody Valentine 3D breathlessly runs through the plot of the original film before the end of the first reel. A flurry of newspaper headlines tell us that coal miner Harry Warden was the only survivor of a cave-in believed to be the result of carelessness by the owner’s son Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles, currently starring in the WB’s Supernatural). While Harry is thought to be wasting away in a coma, Detective Burke (the great Tom Atkins, getting more than just a cameo for a change) discovers that the other men killed were actually murdered by Harry with a pickaxe to conserve the air. A year later, Harry wakes from his coma and slaughters dozens of people in the hospital before heading over to the now closed mine where the town’s teens have gathered for a Valentine’s Day party, including Tom’s now estranged girlfriend, Sarah (Jamie King, better and more mature than we ever seen her.) Needless to say, the party ends abruptly, with Burke shooting and seriously wounding Warden just before he kills Hanniger and runs off bleeding into the mine shaft. Cut to 10 years later, and the return of Tom Hanniger after having mysteriously left the town after the Valentine’s Day slaughter (seriously, the death toll is like 30 people) to find his former girl now married to town sheriff Axel Palmer (Kerr Smith, another TV veteran who resembles Leo DiCaprio’s evil, alternate universe twin.) Still partially blamed for the cave-in, Tom’s popularity takes a few more hits once it’s announced that he’s selling the mill and many townsfolk will shortly lose their jobs; more disturbingly, a new wave of murders has coincided with his arrival – perpetrated by a killer wearing a very familiar outfit.
We were in our prime, pre-teen movie going years when a second wave of 3D films arrived in the early ’80s, beginning with the infectious fun of Italian-produced cheapies Comin’ at Ya and the Raiders knock off Treasure of the Four Crowns, but the wave crested with the headache inducing disappointment of the Universal produced cheapie, Jaws 3D (not to forget the minor sensation caused by our local NYC channel’s showing of Creature from the Black Lagoon, glasses for which could be procured at 7-11 stores.) The process died out quickly for much the same reason that it had three decades earlier; beyond a few undeniably fun show-off moments, wearing those cheap cardboard glasses and staring at a roughly projected anaglyph image for 90min or longer left most people with the feeling similar to that of being driven around in your Aunt’s Buick while she smoked Camels in the summer heat with the windows locked in the up position – it just wasn’t worth the discomfort for most people.
Fortunately, the last few years have seen massive developments in the technology; My Bloody Valentine 3D was the first ‘R’ rated film to use the RealD process (the same that James Cameron is using for his long-awaited Avatar) which augments the stereoscopic process with a much higher frame rate, digital cameras, the revolutionary use of a single projector, and modern, polarized glasses. Much of the distortion associated with older 3D processes is now gone, and the experience is mostly pain-free for people with normal eyesight (those requiring corrective lenses, however, are sadly out of luck.) My Bloody Valentine 3D is, without a doubt, the best 3D experience that we’ve had outside of IMAX, and certainly the most fun. Director (and former editor) Patrick Lussier sets a grand tone right from the opening credits – a deceptively simple collage of newspaper headlines that is rendered hypnotic in 3D. While the film is filled with the expected shock effects – even we underestimated the number of pickaxes that leapt off the screen – My Bloody Valentine 3D has also been designed with a keen eye towards framing objects in the foreground to give the entire show a sense of total immersion – it is the first 3D film that didn’t feel like a vehicle for a cheap gimmick.
The younger cast is also much better than expected. Jamie King seems to be moving from a jokey, party-girl presence into being an actress of some depth. She has an extended scene in a deserted market where her character is menaced along with a younger girl that we know is having an affair with her husband; we don’t find out until later that she knew it as well, and damn if there isn’t a subtle glimpse of that in her performance – it’s good stuff. WB heartthrob Ackles nicely plays the “is he/isn’t he’” crazy angle nicely, and Smith proves he can be good so long as he eschews casting that plays off his appearance (he looks like DiCaprio the same way that Shark Attack 3’s John Barrowman looks like Tom Cruise.)
However, My Bloody Valentine 3D ’s aces in the mine shaft are horror vet Tom Atkins (Escape from New York is currently on in the background by pure coincidence) and character actor extraordinaire Kevin Tighe (Emergency roots go deep, but check out his work for John Sayles in Eight Men Out and City of Hope). They play a pair of town elders who share a secret that refuses to stay buried, and it’s a very pleasant surprise to see so much of the film given over to actors with the muscle to carry it.
Lionsgate’s My Bloody Valentine Blu-Ray comes equipped with separate 1080p versions of the film – flat 2D and 3D – plus a generous set of 4 glasses. Unfortunately, the technology that made the theatrical experience so special doesn’t yet translate to home video, so it’s back to the old fashioned red/blue cardboard glasses and the accompanying loss of image fidelity. With the clarity of the Blu-Ray, a dark room, and with a large enough display, there are some very effective sequences.
Oddly, the opening credits were one of the better-translating bits, but generally it’s the darker scenes that work best, as too much color makes the image distortion worse. The 2D version is a perfectly lovely HD transfer, with an excellent, detailed image that we would recommend viewing first if you haven’t yet seen the film. Keep a mental checklist of standout moments and then go back and watch a condensed 3D version.
The disc comes with the usual making-of EPK material, a selection of deleted and extended scenes (mostly the latter), an alternate ending that isn’t all that alternate, a brief gag reel, and the goofy-fun theatrical trailer. The best extra is the commentary track with Lussier and writer Todd Farmer (who can be glimpsed in the film as the trucker with a penchant for homemade sex tapes) – they strike a nice balance between the fun and informative. A second disc is included that contains a 2D digital copy of the film.
- What must the original film’s director, George Mihalka have thought when he saw the unholy bloodbath that the remake managed to get away with?!? Not that we mind in the slightest, but there’s more gore in the first 10 minutes of My Bloody Valentine 3D than in the 10 tandem viewings of the original. This poor guy gets crucified by the MPAA for the sins of others, and now he witnesses this? Lionsgate didn’t even need to issue the remake in an “Unrated Version” because there wasn’t any more gore to put in!