Friday, January 30, 2009
My Cheesy Valentine
A favorite word of my dad and I is “psychotronic,” a term that comes from Michael J. Weldon’s Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film. Psychotronic, according to that bastion of scholarly integrity known as Wikipedia, means: “a genre made up of horror films, spaghetti westerns, low-budget independent features, exploitation films.” It’s all those rude and crude flicks that played in grindhouses or were discovered by thrill junkie viewers on video cassette (and now DVD). When I saw the trailer for My Bloody Valentine 3D I knew: this is psychotronic. Besides the fact that it’s *a 3D slasher film*, the trailer features the unforgettable tag line “Nothing says ‘date movie’… like a 3D ride to Hell!” So I was game for seeing it, knowing full well that it would be lame-brained and derivative—but hopefully fun. I wasn’t disappointed. My Bloody Valentine is a remake of an 80s slasher film (back when one was released virtually every week) that took its name from yet another holiday It’s hardly considered a classic, but given how many horror remakes (or “reimaginings,” as is now the term de jour), have been big hits lately, it was only a matter of time before this one got its own face lift. Indeed, the only reason it wasn’t released Valentine’s Day weekend is because Michael Bay’s Friday the 13th update comes out that week! The plot, what there is of one, centers on Harmony, “a small town slice of Norman Rockwell” (the screenwriter must’ve stayed up all night coming up with that one) still shaken by a series of brutal murders ten years earlier. See, Harmony’s a mining town, and one Valentine’s Day local Harry Warden, having been in a coma after surviving a deadly mine collapse years earlier (which he did only by slaughtering his fellow miners to preserve oxygen) reawakens. He wipes out the entire hospital staff, then heads back to the mine where a group of teens—including lovers Tom (Jensen Ackles) and Sarah (Jaime King)—are foolishly having a party. He murders most of them in mining gear, pick ax in hand, but Sarah escapes with some friends, while Tom comes within an inch of his life before Warden is shot down by the cops—or is he? A decade later, as we’re reminded on a near constant basis (“ten years ago” is uttered more in this movie than “Valentine’s Day” is), Tom returns to close down the mine left to him by his dead father, while also trying to reconnect with Sarah, now married to Axel (yes, Axel: it’s that kind of a movie). Axel is played, with “ten years later” mustache and hair reminiscent of Jake Gyllenhaal in the later scenes of Brokeback Mountain, by Dawson’s Creek alum Kerr Smith-- clearly not the winner of the post WB Network career sweepstackes. (Michelle Williams is an Oscar nominee. Smith is the irritating star of a 3D slasher remake. Even James Van Der Beek fared better than this.) He and Tom fight over Sarah with such an ardor that you start to wonder if something else is really going on here. (Sexual tension you could cut with a pick ax, perhaps?) Meanwhile, a killer in mining garb is at it again, but is it really Warden—or has someone else picked up his deadly mantle? The resolution came as a mild surprise, in a that-was-a-cheat kind of a way, but then I didn’t really come to this movie expecting startling originality. I wanted 3D blood and gore, and I got them often enough, along with bonuses like at-times howlingly awful dialogue and uniformly bad acting. Ackles’ tank top does more acting here than he does; ditto the rest of the cast, including John Carpenter vet Tom Atkins, who phones in his generic Grizzled Former Cop role like he’s signing DVDs at yet another convention (which I happen to know he does regularly). My favorite scenes were the opening hospital massacre, which is more gruesomely fun than anything that follows (loved the dripping hand hovering in the foreground), a wince-inducing spike-through-the-eye bit (we’re made to share the victim’s here-it-comes POV) and the horrible fate met by a cleaning lady in a dryer mysteriously large enough to house her entire body. (She’s Latina, and a midget also gets rammed into the ceiling, so clearly this movie is an Equal Opportunity Killer.) There’s also an inspired scene with a totally nude woman trying to fight off the killer, ensuring that the audience gets three-dimensional T&A to go with their stalk-‘n-slash. But by the time the 101 minute My Bloody Valentine 3D ends, it feels much too long; the admittedly well done “Real D Technology” has lost its novelty, and we’re reminded that when it comes to great horror, strong writing, direction, and acting are more powerful than a flying pick ax any day of the year.