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My Bloody Valentine (2008)
Director: Patrick Lussier

review by Paul Higson

Entering the cinema on this occasion was something of a compulsion. Let's face it; another remake of another average slasher film from the turn of the 1980s is hardly a reason to venture out and exchange money on a seat. But I and My Bloody Valentine have history, having seen the George Mihalka original twice on the large screen on its original double-billing with Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse and then later on once again supporting Joseph Zito's Friday The 13th - The Final Chapter. Neither was that the last time I saw the film. A fondness has therefore been engendered in the original. The Mihalka outing is an efficient horror that trots at a steady pace and is one of a batch of stalker films that include Terror Train, Prom Night, Visiting Hours, and Curtains that it is forgotten were not American but Canadian. We tend to recall the Canadian horror of the period in general as conceptualist but more routinely formatted shockers supplemented the scene. It also added crucially to the CVs of a number of young Canadian actors like Neil Affleck, Alf Humphries, Sondra Currie, the Udy sisters (Claudia and Helen) and the Knight brothers (Keith and Victor).

Producers John Dunning and Andre Link were never counting on any cult status, though the title of the film would later be adopted by a band that would become cult, and for the second stab the returning producers have turned to the additional gimmick of 3D. The AMC are screening Patrick Lussier's re-imagining without the 3D but as the process is rarely satisfactory that was of little concern as process can sometimes enrich the flat version and reduces the frustration of erratic and skewed photographic effects.

In common with the original the story is that of a mining accident which deranges a survivor who then commits a slaughter (23 victims including women and children), is thought dead, but then apparently returns ten years on to resume his killing spree. It may sound like a lot to remain intact but they really are only the skeletal remains of the original film. For example, the original film begins in the present but in the remake the original films 'present day' massacre of partying youths is transported back to that original murder spree and to this end much of the original film is nutshelled into the first ten minutes. Elements of the 1981 storyline are still reserved for the remainder of the movie; for example, the girl fought over, and the flip of a coin identification of the killer, between the two male leads. The fresh human heart in the chocolate box is again delivered to the sheriff and it remains a small-town community dependent on its mine. There is an overall sense of the modesty of the original but in its details it speaks of an exercise more provocative.

Mihalka's film though dank and atmospheric and carrying a distinct air of dread was clipped of its gruesomeness for the CIC video release. It was never as graphic as Friday The 13th and it didn't need to be. The gore was minimal and enough for the time. A tumble-dried victim was a grim highpoint in the original and is recycled in 2008 as a bit-part horror. Ten minutes into the film it has already bloodily exceeded the 1981 film, revelling in the carnage... in the same way remakes of House Of Wax, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and The Hills Have Eyes have also done, seeing gore as the easy alternative to the suggestive power of any originals. The joker in the pack takes a pick-axe through the back of his head and his exiting eyeball says hello to the front row. My Bloody Valentine 3D earns its 18 certificate with its gleeful mix of sex and violence. All hail Betsy Rue (as Irene) who is naked in full frame for several minutes during the motel attack sequence.

The film is not short on imagination and wit. Much of the invention is of an ugly flesh piercing and body destroying kind. It sports some character and when the naked victim tries to hide in the hotel manager's rooms the fact that the owner is a buxom middle-aged dwarf does not allow much in the way of hiding space for the full-sized evader. Never more so a fact when she looks to hide in the closet and finds the clothing rail a full two feet shorter than she is... and to the film's credit, it feels it has enough going on that it can race immediately on without waiting for the laugh. My Bloody Valentine can at least be said to be a film that is genuinely giving you something you have not seen before. When the scene runs on to include the murder of the manageress, again, you barely have time to register how wrong it is for someone to despatch a height-restricted Eartha Kitt with a pickaxe through her head that carries her little body into the ceiling.

The writing considers those familiar with the original film and the expectation that the killer is one of two chiselled jawlines that front the film, Jensen Ackles as Tom the young inheritor of the mine, and Kerr Smith, as Sheriff Axel, both survivors of the 1998 bloodbath. To this end the series of new murders at various different locations make sequential sense given the identity of the victims and the timings, despite the provision of an alibi for one at one point. The continuing coin flip of the mystery should therefore lose all logical effectiveness but this is curiously forgotten and doubts renewed on both suspects. It is as the film reaches its conclusion that it blows it.

Betrothed as modern film is to a conceptual twist that is rarely that gratifyingly original, My Bloody Valentine disappoints with a duff reveal that cannot be comfortably factored in alongside the evidence preceding it. Having roundly entertained for most of its running time it fumbles the last ten minutes. There is no longer space for thrilling gore and all of a sudden nothing adds up. Having done so much it bails out clumsily. There is no end set-piece to match that of the original. What a pity! The rotten final ten minutes aside, the fresh memory of the Grand Guignol cavalcade that led up to that lapse is enough that it be given its due in review. The severity of that disappointment could hamper and aggravate on successive viewings. The unassuming original, unhinged yet viewer-friendly in its balance, should therefore continue to dominate its remake.
My Bloody Valentine 3D

My Bloody Valentine poster

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