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My Bloody Valentine (2009)
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Jensen Ackles, Jaime King, Kerr Smith, Betsy Rue, Tom Atkins, Kevin Tighe

Written By: Todd Farmer, Zane Smith Directed By: Patrick Lussier

The Short Version

My Bloody Valentine may seem an odd choice at first for a horror remake candidate, but it is damn good.

If you watch it in 3D, the shots are actually pretty effective.

It doesn’t matter if the killer’s pretty much a one weapon pony; these kills are awesome.

Overall, very well written and very well directed.

If you’re looking for a good, fun slasher of recent vintage, My Bloody Valentine is the way to go.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


Of course, it might not be a natural cave.  Could be an old coal mine…

Pairs Well With...


How could I resist the pairing when I found a beer that carries the same name as the movie?  Besides, red ale is a pretty good match for this.  Draw your own conclusions about the 6.66% alcohol by volume.

“Jason, is that you?  Come on, dude!  You’re scarin’ me!”

The reboot of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 2003 could have been considered a one-off, but when Rob Zombie opened the floodgates by rebooting Halloween in 2007 and turning a profit with it, too, a lot of other folks started looking at old titles and wondering which ones might have some life left in them.  I admit that on a first pass, My Bloody Valentine probably wouldn’t have crossed my mind at that point.  With that said, when I found out that it was going to be hitting theatres, I was excited at the prospect, even though I was a little skeptical about the 3D.  [Look, folks: it’s 4D.  Flat movies and even still photos already have three dimensions.  The third one is time.  So when a movie calls itself 3D for adding depth, it’s actually bringing in a fourth dimension.  But anyway.] 

You see, the neo-3D revolution hadn’t really started yet.  My Bloody Valentine was one of the early players out of the gate, and the first one with an R rating.  Old school 3D, to put it simply, pretty well always sucked.  With that said, if I was going in for a penny, I was going in for a pound, so I gave the 3D screening a shot.

I was blown away.  Someone had finally gotten the technology right, and a filmmaker had put together a movie to make fun use of it without turning the 3D shots into dumb gimmicks.  My Bloody Valentine turned out to be bloody awesome.

Flash forward to the present and picking it up on blu ray.  Even though it actually comes with four sets of 3D glasses to watch the 3D cut of the film even on a standard screen, I decided to watch the regular version to make sure that it didn’t look gimmicked out when the effects weren’t coming straight at your face anymore.  My Bloody Valentine was still bloody awesome.

Any way you slice it, folks, this one’s a winner.

Our story begins in the sleepy coal mining town of Harmony.  As the credits roll, we learn that there was a tragic accident at the mine caused by the owner’s son, Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles, TV’s “Supernatural”), making a mistake, resulting in a cave-in that left six miners trapped.  When rescuers got to them days later, only one was still alive: Harry Warden.  The others weren’t killed by the cave-in, though; Harry had murdered them with his pickaxe to conserve air for himself.  Even then, he barely made it; despite being alive, Harry Warden was in a coma, and unlikely to come out of it to stand trial.

Flash forward to Valentine’s Day, one year later: the anniversary of the cave-in.  A group of young people have gotten together at the mine for a little drinking party to mark the occasion.  Harry, meanwhile, has marked the occasion by waking up from his coma and slaughtering everyone around him in the hospital.  Nor does he stop there.  His next stop is the mine, where he has scores to settle.  Several partiers are killed, and he’s about to take out Tom Hanniger himself when the sheriff’s department shows up with guns blazing.  They chase Harry into the mine, where another cave-in happens that looks to have finally done him in for good.

Flash forward another ten years.  After being away from Harmony since the time of the massacre, Tom Hanniger has come back to town to settle some unfinished business: namely to sell the mine which he now controls thanks to his father’s passing.  But he’s not the only old ghost drifting in this Valentine’s Day.  It seems that someone with a pickaxe has also returned to have a little fun…

One can always tell when a genre film is made for fans, by fans.  These films and their filmmakers demonstrate an understanding not only of standard craft, but also of the unwritten rules and traditions of the genre being explored that true fans look for and appreciate.  It’s plain to see early on that My Bloody Valentine was indeed made for fans, by fans.  It follows the rules and picks up all but one of the preferred options by the time it drives off the lot.  (Alas, no shower scene for Sarah.  Dammit.)  On the heels of the better part of a decade that specialized in wussing out, that, my friends, is a bloody breath of fresh air.

Let’s follow the title’s lead and start with the blood, shall we?

 For the briefest of moments, audiences may fear that there’s cause for concern; after all, Harry Warden’s massacre at the hospital occurs off camera.  Then the cops show up and viewers get to see what he left behind.  Sure, the audience may have missed out on the killings as they happened, but what’s left behind is a gore fest.  How about a guy cut completely in half?  Gutted corpses, anyone?  Perhaps a real human heart left in a candy heart dish, complete with Valentine message written in blood on the wall?  Fear not, my bloodthirsty friends: no one’s wussing out on this one.

And if you want to see an actual kill as it happens, you’re rewarded in a matter of minutes by a partygoer getting a surprise pickaxe to the back of the skull, and if you’ve got your glasses on, the eyeball will be headed right for your lap as the tip of the axe pops it out of his head!  Are we having fun yet?  How about the sharp end of a spade driven into an open jaw so hard that it slices the victim’s head off, followed up by the top of that head slowly sliding off the shovel before it drops to the ground?  There are plenty more where those came from, too, and best of all, it’s not all CG.  Yeah, there’s some post op work done, but for the most part, you’ve got real make up, real squirt tubes, and real model effects for the most spectacular kills.  If you’re a gore hound, the only appropriate word to describe My Bloody Valentine is “awesome.”  No complaints here at all.

Oh, and don’t forget to check the washing machine.  Mwhahaha.

Of course, any red-blooded slasher fan knows that the rules say that there’s more to it than just the gore and the violence.  After all, the only way that sex can equal death is if there’s some sex, right?  And at that point, there’d better be some nudity involved, too, because watching a clothed sex scene is like going to a concert wearing ear muffs.  It may only happen for one sequential stretch, but when My Bloody Valentine delivers, it damn well delivers.  This comes in the form of a very loud, very enthusiastic sex scene between Betsy Rue (Halloween II) and Todd Farmer (the film’s writer; his Significant Other, Melanie, gets a “thank you” in the credits “for letting us get Todd naked” – how awesome is that?), and it’s not just a quick flash and be done with it, either.  After the festivities do end, the ladies get a full-on look at Farmer from behind, and the guys get full nudity from Betsy Rue on both sides… for a very long time.  See, she never actually gets dressed, to the point where, after realizing that her lover has videotaped their little escapade, she runs outside after him, still fully naked, intending to threaten him with a gun in order to get the video back.  Instead, Farmer gets a surprise pickaxe to the skull, and Betsy Rue does the sensible thing and runs, still fully naked, until finally being caught after a considerable length of time.  Like I said before, all that’s missing is a shower scene from the female lead, and we’d have been totally square here.  (Seriously, though, kudos especially to Betsy Rue; that could not have been an easy sequence of scenes to film, and she acts through it very well.)

All of this, by the way, is directed very well by genre vet Patrick Lussier, who knows how to set things up to give the audience the most bang for the buck.  Watch the behind the scenes material, and the effects guys say that going all out on the kills is all from Lussier’s inspiration, so hey, high five!

Getting back to the formula, it’s generally more fun to either root for or against the slasher bait (which, by the way is a nontraditional mix here, running from the standard teenager-ish crowd to thirtysomethings to elderly men) is one learns a little something about them first, and the script for My Bloody Valentine makes sure that outside of the opening massacre scene, the audience is never going to feel that the victims are no-name throwaways.  That’s right, folks; this isn’t just a “point the guy with the sharp object at the kids” exercise, but rather, someone actually decided to make a real movie here that just happens to feature a maniac with a pickaxe.  There is a difference, and fans know it.  The filmmakers here know it, too, and they deliver the real goods.  Indeed, if there’s any real complaint to be had with how My Bloody Valentine is crafted, it is that it may get slightly too deep when it comes to setting up the metaphorical pissing contest between the rivals for our leading lady’s affections.  While that conflict is recognizably important to the story, sometimes, it does get a bit thick.  Overall, though, it’s a forgivable sin.

Finally, there’s our killer to consider, and aside from doing a reasonably effective job of keeping the audience guessing as to who he is (some people pick it up early, some don’t until the end reveal; it’s good enough not to be blatant), My Bloody Valentine does an excellent job of crafting his look.  This is straight up coal mining gear, folks, and it looks scary as hell.  For one thing, the killer is completely covered up, and this dehumanization is completed by the fact that he wears a gas mask over his head.  Nothing removes the humanity from a person’s face like a gas mask; indeed, psychological studies have indicated that it’s one of the most viscerally feared real-world masks a person can wear.  Perhaps it’s the insectoid quality of it, but whatever it is, it’s scary, and when you add to that a rusty pickaxe as the “everyone knows this means business” weapon of choice, you’ve got yourself an effective killer.

Once again, My Bloody Valentine hits a home run.

As for the cast, everyone does either a decent or excellent job here.  On the second string, Tom Atkins is actually better here than he was during his prime for Halloween III: Season of the Witch, and “this guy’s been in everything” Kevin Tighe (Jade) always adds fun to the mix.  Moving up to the first, Jaime King (Sin City) does a dynamite job as Sarah, our leading lady, and ranks as one of the more enjoyable “final girls” to come out of a slasher in a while.  It’s easy to hate Kerr Smith (Final Destination) as Sheriff Palmer, but that’s because he plays his character well and you’re supposed to think he’s a weasel.  Out of the whole cast, the weakest link is Jensen Ackles, who looks vaguely like a younger David Hasselhoff but actually manages to display less range, which may seem odd to people who’ve seen him in other stuff.  He’s really got next to no variance in his performance, and while he certainly doesn’t stink up the place and still makes his character easy enough to like, his two facial expressions and two emotional states can only take him so far here.

Still, like the lack of a shower scene for Sarah, it’s a forgivable enough sin.  My Bloody Valentine is simply too awesome to let any little details like that stand in its way.

Bottom line, if you love slasher flicks, then My Bloody Valentine is for you.  One of the best movies to come out of the genre in recent years, My Bloody Valentine plays by the rules and does so in spectacular fashion, delivering the gory goods while still remembering to tell a decent story at the same time.  It’s impossible to go wrong checking out this coal mine.  Grab the beer and the snacks and have a blast.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, November, 2011

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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