Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #23
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: January 16, 2009
Country of Origin: Canada/United States
Box Office: $100,734,718
Running Time: 101 minutes
Director: Patrick Lussier
Producers: Jonathan McCoy, Jack L Murray
Screenplay: Zane Smith, Todd Farmer, John Beaird (1981 Screenplay)
Special Effects: Andy Weder
Visual Effects: Brian Conlon
Cinematography: Brian Pearson
Score: Michael Wandmacher
Editing: Cynthia Ludwig, Patrick Lussier
Stars: Jensen Ackles, Jaime King, Kerr Smith, Betsy Rue, Tom Atkins, Edi Gathegi, Kevin Tighe, Megan Bonne, Karen Baum, Joy de la Paz, Todd Farmer, Marc Macaulay, Jeff Hochendoner, Bingo O’Malley, Liam Rhodes and Richard John Walters as Harry Warden/The Miner
Suggested Audio Candy
Michael Wandmacher “Prodigal Son/First Responder”
Repetition isn’t always such a bad thing. Things traditionally move in cycles and horror is absolutely no different. It was always inevitable that, as the slasher boom approached its thirty-year milestone, a slew of remakes would surface in an attempt at milking the fiscal teats of a fresh generation of horror thrill seekers. Alas, on the whole, the results have been far less than encouraging. When A Stranger Calls, Black Xmas, April Fools Day and Prom Night have all faltered fairly spectacularly, while Halloween, Friday The 13th and Sorority Row fared marginally better, although none can exactly claim to have reinvented the wheel.
One notable exception to the luckless rule is Patrick Lussier’s reboot of George Mihalka’s 1981 slasher My Bloody Valentine. The original had performed reasonably well at the box office and, with the well-timed emergence of recently restored kill footage original cut from its theatrical release, the time was nigh for Harry Warden to once more introduce himself, only this time, with an even more ferocious appetite for bloodletting and in three whole dimensions no less.
Gone are the days of Jaws bursting through our screens like he’s on a carnival float with a puncture and we have moved on significantly since the eighties. Regrettably, 3D has become a shamefully over-used gimmick, but remains an effective tool nonetheless when experienced on the big screen and if implemented well. My Bloody Valentine 3D was the first R-rated feature to employ Real D technology and box-office receipts in excess of $100m suggest it was an informed choice. It certainly doesn’t harm the overall experience and uses the technique to its distinct advantage, throwing all manner of body parts our way with gay abandon.
Lussier’s film delivers like a midwife when it comes to serving up a delectable banquet of giblets and entrails. The primary objective here is to fill the screen with as much of the red stuff as there is capacity for and, from its barbaric opening sequence, it cascades from the screen like a relentless crimson tsunami, rarely letting up for the entirety of its 101 minute duration. Make no mistake, this is one bloody movie and how the MPAA saw fit to pass it without the kind of cuts which plagued the original is anybody’s guess but I sure as shit wasn’t complaining.
While the remake sticks closely to Mihalka’s original template, Lussier wisely decides not to follow it to the letter. However, the concept remains similar. Set in a quiet mining town, ironically named Harmony, Harry Warden awakens from a coma after a tragic accident claims a number of his associates and embarks on a vicious rampage which ends at the nearby mine courtesy of some vigilante justice. Four partying teens survive the bloodbath and we shift to Valentine’s Day ten years later, where a spate of similarly brutal murders have the close community once again gripped by fear.
As before, prime suspects are the mine owner’s son, Tom (Jensen Ackles), and his love rival, Axel (Kerr Smith), who has since become town sheriff. For that extra dash of complexity, Axel is now married to Tom’s former love interest Sarah (Jaime King) and the pair have a young son. Meanwhile, Tom is looking to sell the mine on his return to the town after a decade long absence and none of the locals are particularly thrilled about his decision. The love triangle provides plenty of motive for murder and My Bloody Valentine 3D sets out its stall like an old-fashioned whodunnit, albeit not quite the type of mystery to have Hercule Poirot sweating bullets.
Lussier has evidently been brushing up on his slasher 101 as his next move is to tack on some shameless full frontal nudity and we’re not talking of some fleeting flash of flesh but, instead, a remarkably bold extended ration. As the gutsy Irene, Betsy Rue spends a full five minutes clad only in a pair of wedge heels as she attempts to evade the pickax and deserves massive kudos for giving such a ballsy account of herself without a single stitch of clothing to hide her blushes. Interestingly, the original script allowed her to cover up midway through her chase but she repeatedly failed to complete the scene without dropping her bed sheet, so eventually requested to just do it naked. For this, she has my eternal admiration.
The way in which Lussier decides to shock and appall as many people as he possibly can is beyond commendable and also shows his true horror fanboy heritage but, while excess is clearly the order of the day, he reassures us of its honorable intentions by negating to take himself too seriously. There’s even time to dust off the irrepressible Tom Atkins for a welcome run-out as Sheriff Burke before swiftly consigning him back to the bench in spectacular style.
Outrageous nudity: check, superabundant grue: check, Tom Atkins: check; all is going swimmingly until it becomes just a smidgen too predisposed with explaining itself. The mystery element to Mihalka’s original was handled more effectively and here it threatens to take the cart off the rails. Lussier presumes that we actually care who is doing the killing when in fact he has fashioned such an appealing spread that we never need concern ourselves with insignificant distractions such as who is behind that gas mask or why they see fit to slaughter so many innocents.
It is with a somewhat heavy heart that I arrive at my final judgement for this ballsy bloodbath as it is blissfully aware of its limitations and also of the roots it owes its very existence to. Sounds like an 8/10 right? In my heart, maybe. My head however, must stay focused on its place historically and, whilst Lussier’s simulation serves as a frequently rousing slice of slasher throwback hokum, ultimately its own plot prevents it from reaching a loftier podium. Regardless, this is one reboot you really should be watching and a helluva lot better than most of the turgid dross being regurgitated of late. I would say that more than deserves some candies.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Rating: 5/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Lussier has an absolute ball with the 3D splatter, allowing his gratuitous violence to play out before us without cut-away, giving our retinas every chance of ingesting the sickness which litters its running time. Collectively, there’s an active volcano of pulp on offer and the emblematic pick-axe is used in all manner of eye-poppingly inventive ways and there is also a mouth-watering dispatch with a shovel just to prove that our killer is no one trick pony.
Read My Bloody Valentine (1981) Appraisal
Read Friday The 13th (2009) Appraisal
Read The House on Sorority Row Appraisal
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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