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The Test of Time: My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)

We all have certain movies we love. Movies we respect without question because of either tradition, childhood love, or because they’ve always been classics. However, as time keeps ticking, do those classics still hold up? Do they remain must see? So…the point of this column is to determine how a film holds up for a modern horror audience, to see if it stands the Test of Time.

DIRECTED BY PATRICK LUSSIER

STARRING JAIME KING, JANSEN ACKLES, TOM ATKINS, KERR SMITH, BETSY RUE

In the immortal words of the great Tom Atkins, let’s get it out of the way…Happy F*cking Valentine’s Day!

Ah yeah, no doubt about it, February 14th is the perfect time for cutting out hearts and stuffing dead animals! Okay, that’s a bit extreme, but you get the goddamn point. And to reiterate it with a rhetorical…what would say is the all time best Valentine’s Day horror flick? Pretty easy one right, there’s really only one possible answer: George Mihalka’s 1981 slasher whodunit MY BLOODY VALENTINE! Of course, Patrick Lussier’s surprisingly adept 2009 redo, MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D (GET IT ON DISK HERE), is damn near on par with Mihalka’s gory original, and in some ways, actually surpass what the indie Canadian horror flick was able to achieve in 1981. And since we’ve already put Mihalka’s original up against the test of time in the past, it only seems perfectly timely to do similar with its impressive 21st century rehash. Granted, we don’t often run Test of Time pieces on movies only a decade old, but since there are so few high-quality Valentine’s Day horror joints out there, we shall make an exception this time out. You down to crawl back in the murderous mineshaft once more? Good! Happy 10th anniversary MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D, let’s see how much love you still have following The Test of Time!

THE STORY: Conceived from a story by Stephen A. Miller and adapted from the 1981 screenplay by John Beaird, the new version of MBV3D comes courtesy of well established genre scribe Todd Farmer (JASON X, THE MESSENGERS) and pal Zane Smith. What I love about the script it is how it alters the identity of the killer, thereby maintaining the suspenseful mystery of the whodunit aspect of the script. Had the killer been the same from film to film, the carryover would all but sap the tension and ruin what accounts for a gigantic portion of the fun of the film: solving who the killer is. To this end, Lussier wisely begins the film with a clear pictorial reminder of what transpired 28 years prior, in that a madman named Harry Warden savagely slaughtered 22 men and women in the small mining town of Harmony, Pennsylvania (changed from Nova Scotia in the original as a means of enjoying tax benefits for filming in PA). The main massacre took place in Tunnel 5 of Hanniger Mines, which is now owned by Tom Hanniger (Janson Ackles), whose father was one of the murder victims. Tom has since inherited the mines, but suffers severe PTSD from what has happened to his father. At a party one night with his girlfriend Sarah (Jaime King), a psychopathic slasher decked in a miner’s mask, coveralls and equipped with a deadly pickaxe begins a whole new death spree. Sheriff Burke (Tom Atkins) shows up in the nick of time and pumps a few rounds into the killer’s body. Harry Warden is thought dead at long last!

Of course, 10 years later, Tom returns home after a stint in away from town. Sarah is now married to Axel (Kerr Smith), who has become the town sheriff. Axel is in quite the precarious pickle, as he’s recently impregnated his mistress Megan (Megan Boone) while keeping his affair a secret from Sarah. As Tom returns home for the 22nd anniversary of the Harmony massacre, he’s immediately implicated in a skein of exorbitantly grisly murders coinciding with his arrival in town. But is it really Tom committing the murders? Is it Harry Warden back from the assumed grave? Is it an unrelated Warden copycat killer? Is it Sheriff Axel? Perhaps it’s Ben Foley (Kevin Tighe), an old timer who deeply despises Tom’s decision to sell the mines and put him and the town out of work. Who the f*ck could it be?!?

WHAT HOLDS-UP: For a movie only ten year old, it comes as little surprise that much of the movie still holds up pretty strongly today. And yet, if we had to distill the reasons down to just a few, having just seen the film again this week, I can confidently say the potent longevity of MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D has to do with how deftly handled the mystery whodunit angle remains, the acting involved to achieve such, and of course, the highlights being the vast array of death modes and their excessively concomitant gore. Roses are red, violets are blue…noses are bled, violence of grue!

Straight up, I have seen MBV 3D three of four times before, and yet, revisiting it almost ten years later, I can say without shame that I could not tell for certain who the killer was. I had an inkling as to the culprit, one felt strongly about it, just as I surely did the first time I saw the film. But all credit goes out to Farmer, Smith and Lussier for balancing such a tiptoed high-wire act and keeping us guessing who the killer is all the way until the very end. I hate to spoil the end for the few of you who may’ve yet to see the film, but damn is the decision to continue to implicate Tom, only to dial the accusations back and absolve him through certain alibis, is downright brilliant. That is, Tom is way too obviously the killer at the onset, but because his very inculpation is expressed many times throughout the film, addressing it head on, we tend to put our guard down and just assume, time and time again, that he cannot be the one.

And yet, pay attention to the way certain death scenes are filmed, with Tom present simultaneously with the killer. It’s almost as if Tom witnesses himself from a distance, akin to an out of body experience, doing unspeakable acts of evil as if he has no control over his actions. Notice Tom popping pills throughout the film, suggesting a fracture in his psyche that must be pharmaceutically medicated. The hints are there, but become so obvious that we overlook Tom’s implication, and that Lussier is able to maintain such a level of doubt all the way until the final frames is really a testament to not just how well thought out the screenplay is, but to Lussier’s filmmaking acumen as well.

The script is nothing though without credible actors to make it sing. I’d argue one of the main reasons MBV 3D has held up so sturdily over the past decade is a direct result of the casting and caliber of acting in the film. It starts for me with the ever-lovely Jaime King, who is damn near impossible NOT to love in every damn movie she shows up in. Here she plays the vulnerable and heartbroken Sarah caught between her past love and recent unfaithful marriage, always bringing the requisite pathos and sympathy to make us root wholeheartedly for her survival. Then comes Jansen Ackles (badass as Dean in Supernatural) as Tom, who so deftly weighs the aforesaid mystery on his shoulders, never once tipping one way or the other his presumed guilt or innocence. For a TV actor without much feature film experience, Ackles nails the role of a PTSD—riddled psychopath, one that’s unconscious of his sinister schizoid self en route to abject slaughter. Carry it over to Kerr Smith (FINAL DESTINATION), who’s Axel remember was the killer culprit from the original. Therefore, fans of the first flick keep an extra close eye on Axel throughout, and Smith does a credible job of a portraying both a man with a murderous motive (his mistress is pregnant) and a loving husband and town Sheriff who must serve and protect. Throw in Betsey Rue’s fine behind, Todd Farmer’s memorable trucker Frank, and he most seasoned vets Atkins and Tighe and we have a case better than most to help sell the grand mystery of the murderer’s identity.

Really though, where MBV 3D proved itself to be a cut above the rest of its ilk in 2009 – the profligate death scenes and unrelenting gore – still reign supreme in 2019. Be warned, if you’re fixing to watch the flick soon, make sure you get the uncut 101 minute version rather than the neutered 97 minute cut (currently on Netflix). After all, the graphic carnage of the longer version was deemed so gnarly by the Australian Classification Board, that the film ranked among the most complained about non-porno film of the year. How’s that for a Valentine! Now let’s slice and dice em’ the f*ck up, shall we?!

Not to bore y’all with every single fatality, we’ll instead highlight the three unanimous medal winners. Among the many standout mortalities in the film, the first worthy of mention must be that of Irene (Betsy Rue) in the prolonged motel murder. Remember, Irene used to be Axel’s gal ten years ago. Now, she seems to be a truck stop prostitute, rolling around in bed with semi wheeler Frank (Farmer). Tom is spotted passing the motel room, in which Irene and Frank trade post-coital barbs, and soon the masked miner is out with his pickaxe ready to roll. Frank ditches Irene and heads to the parking lot, where Irene follows in the total nude (props to Rue for such a protracted and demanding sequence). The killer first brutally bashes an orderly dwarf by swinging the pickaxe under her body, piercing it, lifting up, and forcefully slamming it into the ceiling for her limp corpse to swing like a Christmas ornament. Undone, dude yanks the pickaxe from the dwarf’s corpse, brains Frank in the parking lot before chasing Irene down and slicing her naval apart and leaving her to bleed out in the blood-red heart-shaped bathtub. Shite’s glorious!

Okay, one more for good measure. While Ben Foley catches one hell of a blade, the death of Tom Atkins’ Burke is a major deathblow in the film, as it comes as a giant “oh-no!” from collective fans of the man who’s laconic turns in HALLLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH, THE FOG, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, etc. have become so iconic. His death transcends the death of his character, making it the most sentimental death of all. Of course, the way he viciously catches a sharp pickaxe blade under his jowl and up trough his brain cavity is as graphically disturbing as any other in the entire film.

WHAT BLOWS NOW: Honestly, blows may be a tad too harsh a descriptor, but the 3D projection in MY BLOODY VALENTINE feels outdated at best, unneeded at worst when seen in 2019. First off, 3D tech was in vogue in 2009-2010, and unceremoniously extinguished following public outcry over the poor 3D-conversion that was happening in post. Now, MBV is the first R-rated film to be shot in Real D technology, but the way the 3D is used – jutting out at the screen towards the audience – feels like a held over gimmick from the 1980s, a la FRIDAY THE 13TH 3D. There are too many lame instances of physical items crashing into the foreground (tree branches through the windshield, flying pickaxes, the slow motion projectile bullet, etc.), ones that feel shoehorned in after the fact in order to accommodate the 3D tech rather than playing out organically to the scene. Moreover, look how far 3D itself has come in the past decade. Even in 2009, the same year MBV was released, Cameron changed the game with AVATAR, developing a far more immersive and enveloping 3D tech. Now flash ahead to the visual dazzle of ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL, and compare MBV 3D. The 3D is far inferior to that today, making it almost a needless afterthought than an integral part of the movies success.

THE VERDICT: Granted, ten years isn’t all that long, but even so, MY BLOODY VALENTINE ’09 has proved itself extremely durable over the past decade. The reasons it’s remained ageless so far is due to how well thought out the murder mystery is and how deftly balanced the screenplay is in giving us motivated hints to all the various characters. The casting of Ackles, King, Smith, Atkins and Tighe and their credible acting goes a long way in preserving this very mystery. But none of it would hold serve if not for the unremitting amounts of sheer onscreen carnage that uncut version boldly boasts. Indeed, they say love is forever, and so far 10 years ain’t got nothing on MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D!

STREAM MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D HERE

GET MY BLOODY VALENTINE ON DVD HERE

GET MY BLOODY VALENTINE ON BLU-RAY HERE

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