Sure, the 3-D thing is a gimmick, right along with the gratuitous violence and nudity, but the real surprise is that it’s not a bad horror film, either.
Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles) returns to his hometown ten years after surviving a vengeful miner’s butchering of almost two dozen people on Valentine’s Day. It isn’t long before he runs into a former old flame (Jaime King) and her husband aka the sheriff (Kerr Smith), but the real problems start when the body count begins anew. With Tom as primary suspect, a town full of dark secrets waiting to be revealed, and a special effects budget big enough to create a horde of grisly 3-D murders, no one is safe.
Like last year’s Cloverfield, My Bloody Valentine 3-D initially feels like an extended Universal Studios ride, specifically during Halloween Horror Nights (this one is ripe to be worked into a haunted house). Expect pick axes thrust into the audience and and all matter of other gags, but what was actually impressive is that, in addition to more carnage and pointless nudity than might be expected, the story is decently crafted and acted out. In fact, this remake is superior in almost every way to the original grindhouse exploitation film that inspired it, all without making fun of the original material.
Unlike Tom Welling’s remake of The Fog, this remake fleshes out the original opening scenes before finally stepping back for a little plot setup. Once the body count starts up again, each killing is more brutal than the last and equally creative in both the setup and 3-D bit. There is almost a sense of glee that permeates the film from the filmmakers themselves; the movie doesn’t just setup the next kill so much as it wallows in the opportunity. While the villain himself is just a guy in a breathing mask with a lighted hardhat and pick axe (only slightly better than the Miner ’49er from “Scooby-Doo”), little bits of personality come out, like the way he calls his “shots” by leveling his pick at his next intended target, or how he deliberately handles the axe like a Marine rifleman. Still, the miner casts a cold silhouette when lit from his back, the light from his hard hat giving him the appearance of a demonic cyclops.
My Bloody Valentine 3-D comes out of the (Lions) gate swinging from the first frame, a much better showing already than last year’s early horror entries such as the befuddled One Missed Call. Many were likely expecting a weak showing at best, especially in light of again using actors and actresses on hiatus from cable networks like The CW (and formerly the WB). If this potential franchise (yes, it’s wide open for a sequel) is what “Supernatural” actor Jensen Ackles brings to the table, the bar has been set to see if his small-screen brother Jared Padalecki can deliver with next month’s reboot of Friday the 13th.
Oh, and just a severed-head’s up: some theaters are tacking on a $2.00+ charge for the special glasses and 3-D presentation, just so you know (yes, even for the matinee).
(a three skull recommendation out of four)