A remake by Patrick Lussier of 1981’s My Bloody Valentine, My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009) tries to experiment with what was then a new cinematographic technology and its use in the slasher genre. We take a look at the film for our Steps in The Dark collection and try to see what it brought to the story it was inspired by.
My Bloody Valentine 3D – Premise
Ten years before the events of the movie, a young and inexperienced miner called Tom Hanniger causes an accident that kills five men and leaves a sixth, Harry Warden, in a coma. The next year, on Valentine’s Day, Harry wakes up and murders 22 people with a pickaxe before dying. In the present, Tom returns home after a long absence, still haunted by the past. But something else comes back to the town of Harmony, too: a killer in the mask of a miner who brandishes a pickaxe and might be Harry’s ghost come back to claim Tom’s life along with those of his friends.
The original story
As we mentioned in the introduction, My Bloody Valentine 3D is a 2009 remake of a 1981 Canadian movie with which it shares its title: My Bloody Valentine.
With the latter, which we talked about in another review, My Bloody Valentine 3D also seems to have in common its passion for violence. Both, in fact, are only very marginally related to the horror genre, planting themselves squarely in the slasher category, with all the consequences on pacing and narrative quality that entails for the movie.
Even though My Bloody Valentine 3D vastly repaid its initial production budget of 14 million dollars, the more recent slasher gained a range of very conflicting reviews from the critics and did not manage, as opposed to its predecessor, to cement its presence as a cult classic of the genre.
Fear or lack thereof
If you’re approaching this movie in the search of a horror that can grant an hour-something of suspense and some good scares, rethink your plans. My Bloody Valentine 3D is a plain and simple slasher movie, its violent and bloody graphics are the height of its qualities, and there aren’t any hidden depts or a particular cinematographic proficiency to be looked for in it.
One of the criticisms that was put forward when the movie was released, not unreasonably, was exactly that. My Bloody Valentine 3D is especially committed to its displays and attention to detail for all the ways in which a pickaxe can be used to kill an innocent victim, and it doesn’t seem to be particularly worried about having left the plot to become a mere, and very unnecessary, frame for the story.
VFX and 3D technology
The story, all in all, doesn’t seem to be the objective of the movie at all.
What is immediately eye-catching, on the other hand, are the visual effects. If it wasn’t already clear from the title – and I’d like to take this moment to breathe a resigned sigh for how many more times in this review I will have to write the word 3D -, the aim of the film is to apply a technology that was still relatively new in 2009 in mainstream cinema such as 3D to the slasher genre.
No complaints there, the movie definitely does it well.
The VFX is especially detailed and, when viewed on the big screen – something I haven’t been able to do either of the two times I watched this movie -, I’m sure that My Bloody Valentine 3D would have very easily engaged and even shaken the viewers who would have found themselves the targets of the killer’s pickaxe more times than I care to count, together with an array of other mortal instruments, very dangerous tree branches, and general demonstrations of bodily and otherwise violence.
Moreover, when seen in 2021, the visual effects have a peculiar quality to them that is reminiscent of videogame graphics and that gives the final result an unexpected originality that is far from unpleasant.
There’s just one problem – well, no actually, only counting one would be generous, there’s quite a few but let’s focus on this specific one for now – it being the fact that without a consistent plot to tie all the displays of amazing effects together, there’s very little else left in the movie to engage the attention of the viewers. Sure, in a film where the violence is the point it is obligatory to showcase it in as many manners as humanly possible, but when you only have one trick up your sleeve for the entirety of the screening, the unpredictability is gone after half an hour and all that’s left is the time for the viewer to check if there are any new texts on their phone.
It must also be said that, aside from the VFX, the other shots of the movie are of extraordinarily bad quality. The other scenes are shaky and low-grade, even for 2009, and, when combined with visually interesting effects, the difference between the two is even more glaring and less bearable.
The rest of the movie
As already said, if you take out the VFX, the movie isn’t exactly a huge demonstration of cinematographic ability.
The plot is dull, the script is cheap, and the “emotional” moments are few and not very believable. The movie makes an effort to conflate the consequences that trauma has on mental health with the inclination to commit violence, a horror custom that I’m more than glad to have left in 2009 and that does nothing to redeem the mess that My Bloody Valentine 3D ends up being.
However, I will allow it one virtue. Cheap plot or not, the victims in My Bloody Valentine 3D refuse to succumb to their circumstances. Whether they be wise miners long past their prime, or young and attractive supermarket employees, all the victims that Harry’s ghost chases actively try, one way or another, to escape their destiny. One of the reasons is probably that the movie needs that type of action sequences to fully promote its 3D slasher special effects, but at least it gives something to characters that would otherwise have very little else going on for them.
The real reason I watched this movie twice (and believe me, that would have never happened if my first viewing hadn’t immediately sunk into the deepest corners of my memory) are two – but actually just one in particular – well-known faces to TV show fans of cult series of the early 2000s.
If you were among the fans of the now legendary Dawson’s Creek or, like me, you’re still haunted by all the years you spent following and watching Supernatural (in my defence, it’s an open wound that only just started healing last November), you’ll be pleasantly surprised to recognise the actors who play Sheriff Axel Palmer and the protagonist, also responsible for the accident in the mines, Tom Hanniger. They are Kerr Smith in the role of the former, who you will recognise for playing Jack in Dawson’s Creek, and Jensen Ackles, none other than Dean Winchester himself, as the latter.
In particular, I’d like to say a few words on Jensen Ackles, something that will surprise literally no one.
Jensen Ackles is a peculiar actor. His 15-year run on Supernatural made it more than obvious that he has and always has had huge and unrecognised acting talents, which makes it even weirder that even his scenes in My Bloody Valentine 3D suck. You can definitely tell that Ackles tries to do his mostest for the entirety of the movie but, unfortunately, not even he can save such a forgettable slasher movie despite the finishing plot twist that sees him as even more of a protagonist than previously anticipated.
My Bloody Valentine 3D has nothing. To be precise, it has notable special effects that only impress for very little and absolutely nothing else interesting or even remotely reminiscent of horror. It is, at the end of the day, relatively boring and of little substance. It excels when it comes to cheap violence and dumb and backward objectification, but I’m not sure that was its intended purpose.
The ending to My Bloody Valentine 3D strongly alludes to the Studio’s wish to make a sequel. I have to say that I’m far from sorry that said sequel didn’t come to pass even though I’m always up for more of Jensen Ackles on my screen in any way, shape, and form. However, considering cinema’s recent propensity for making sequels and remakes, I wouldn’t be that surprised if we were to have to talk about this movie again in the near future.
Let’s breathe another long, deep sigh and cross our fingers in hope for the best.