If there's one thing that 2009's remake of '80s Canadian slasher My Bloody Valentine isn't, it's scary.
Thank goodness for us, then, that it happens to make for cheesy, corny, gimmicky, gory fun -- if only in its 3-D theatrical presentation. Director Patrick Lussier may forsake genuine suspense and tension in his quest to create an overblown small-town soap opera with no shortage of nifty kills (though they may not be enough to save the film from itself in 2-D or on DVD), but the man knows how to use today's technology to create an amplified visceral horror experience. It's low-brow entertainment with high-tech execution, and while it's anything but scary, it's also pretty much everything but scary. The film gets off to a sharp start with a fifteen-minute prologue that's both refreshingly no-nonsense in getting the blood flowing while overdone as all get out when it comes to getting the blood flowing RIGHT AT YOU! It's a mine-set massacre set on the one-year anniversary of a town-rocking mining accident -- that indeed took place on Valentine's Day -- and as the story takes up ten years after that incident, when survivor Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles, boasting acting chops on a rough par with Lucas Black) returns home to sell his late father's mine and simultaneously become the prime suspect in a renewed string of murders, committed by a mysterious pick-axe wielding miner. Also caught up in the homecoming/slaughter are Tom's old flame, Sarah (Jaime King), and her new husband, town sheriff Axel (Kerr Smith), and yes, for a significant portion of the film, it's like this love triangle is twisting up all sorts of long dormant emotions RIGHT AT YOU!
Generally speaking, the plot follows that of the musty 1981 original, with a couple of loving nods thrown in here and there, as scribes Todd Farmer and Zane Smith keep themselves more importantly on task by crafting any number of excuses for eye-popping, jaw-dropping (well, -ripping) kill scenes that Lussier treats ever so lovingly. Sure, he relies on CGI much more than practical effects (those are best suited for the aftermath), but he uses his visual effects as well as he does his sound work, which is to say quite well for a film focused on startles above all else, and that's not to mention composer Michael Wandmacher's surprisingly robust work on the score.
There's one scene above all others that seems particularly shameless, though not entirely tasteless, in which a most unfortunate bimbo (played by Betsy Rue, who I'm sure is a perfectly nice girl in real life) finds herself running in and around a motel in nothing but her birthday suit -- a motel, it should be mentioned, which is run by a little person (Selene Luna, being a good sport). It's a film that doesn't just employ gratuitous frontal nudity and dwarf* sight gags, but makes the most of them, which is perhaps best applied to a film that is itself nothing if not gratuitous.
While the crew may give matters their all, though, it's hard to say the same of the cast. Torn between two love interests and a killer on the loose (who may or may not be one of said love interests), King does fare best as the only character not playing it up for the cheap seats, but Ackles and Smith are CW/WB alums for a reason and are part of the reason that the midsection drags on. At first, it seems like the petty melodrama is just another part of the fun, as proudly campy as anything else on display, but even that wears out its welcome just long enough to make one pine for a bit more of the red stuff, which does come in due time. So far as 2-D and DVD exhibition go, I suspect that the second act, with its repetitive exposition and would-be characterization, will make the money shots seem significantly less impressive in context, let alone in comparison to their 3-D counterparts.
That said, as far as remakes go, My Bloody Valentine earns a rightful R rating with pride, and it raises the bar for 3-D horror fare to come. Sure, someone might eventually see fit to make a project of this ilk that tries to make the most of atmosphere and whatnot, but for now, this is about as fun and creative and indeed bloody as these things get.
*God, I hope that's the right word.