Anyone who reads this site regularly knows from the jabs I make here and there that I am not a big fan of horror remakes. It’s not so much that I object to the idea of remaking a movie in general, more that it is such a pervasive trend right now that it seems there’s not an original idea left in Hollywood. And worse still the remakes tend to add nothing new, or actually drain the life out of what was once an interesting premise. The other night my Team Fantasmo partner in crime Rob Floyd and I headed out to the local multiplex to catch the newest entry in the remake sweepstakes, My Bloody Valentine 3D. Generally I wait until DVD for this sort of thing, but I’d read raves about the 3D and convinced Rob that we needed to see this in the theater (and being of like mind he didn’t need much convincing : ) I should state off the bat that I am a fan of the original. Not a diehard by any means, but certainly a fan. The original had a creepy setting (a mine), an iconic villain (killer in a mining outfit), decent production values, and a down-to-earth cast. While it may not have matched the brilliance of Halloween, it certainly could hold its own with Friday the 13th. So as someone who respected the original, and felt it would be a concept difficult to mess up (especially in 3D), I had some good will going into this. Unfortunately while all the comments regarding the 3D were pretty much on the money, the film was wildly hit-or-miss . . .
MBV3D (sorry, I hate clever abbreviations but that title is just plain cumbersome) starts out with an intro that recalls the original. Teens are having a party in the local mine, which goes awry when a deranged miner named Harry Warden commences killing everyone. While the reasons behind Warden’s rampage may vary a bit from the original, this opening was a nice homage and actually pretty effective in terms of pacing and execution. It also serves to introduce a love triangle between the film’s primary characters Tom, Sarah, and Axel, and includes some great 3D shots. Essentially Tom and Sarah are high school sweethearts and Axel is the third wheel who pines for Sarah. When the craziness in the mine goes down Axel and Sarah abandon Tom, leaving him to have a close encounter with Harry Warden. Now this situation is all the more terrible in that Tom was only going to the party to appease Sarah. So the guy is being gracious and sensitive by attending this soiree, only to be stabbed in the back (figuratively) by his girlfriend and rival in being left as bait for a crazy miner. Pretty cold-blooded. Luckily the local sheriff (played by Tom Atkins!!!) shows up and saves Tom Not Atkins, killing Harry Warden in the process.
Now before proceeding any further with this synopsis, I have to say a word here about the great Tom Atkins. If you don’t know who he is, this is one of the great horror icons of the 80’s. Most will recognize him from his star turn in Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, but he had standout roles in the likes of The Fog, Escape From New York, Night of the Creeps, Maniac Cop, etc. He’s one of those people who can bring a bright light to even the worst B-movie. Someday very soon I will do a series on Atkins, but suffice it to say his appearance in this film makes it worth the price of admission alone in my opinion. And despite being up in years now, his performance did not disappoint. He has great lines, cool action moments, and hey . . . he’s Atkins what else do you want?!? So if you’re an Atkins fan already you definitely want to see this, and if you’re not you soon will be!
Okay, so the movie flashes forward 10 years at this point. Tom Not Atkins left town after the incident not wanting to face his fears, and Axel and Sarah got married and had children. Tom has come back though because it turns out his father (who happened to own the mines) has passed on leaving Tom with the deed. Needless to say he isn’t fond of the place and plans to sell it to a developer, leaving the majority of the townsfolk pretty upset (including Road House’s Kevin Tighe, or Steven Seagal’s Today You Die’s Kevin Tighe depending on your inclination). Add to this that Axel is having an affair with a grocery store clerk who is carrying his child, reopening the love triangle full force. At the same time all this is happening, a deranged miner shows up and starts killing more people all around town. The murders cast suspicion on everyone from Tom (our troubled hero) to Tom Atkins, resulting in a mystery that would give any random episode of Murder She Wrote a run for the money.
You see, it’s the murder mystery element of this film that really causes it to run off the rails. While the original had a mystery element as well, it focused its efforts on the slasher component. There were some creative set pieces around town early on, but it wisely spent the vast majority of its running time in the atmospheric mine tunnels (whereas MBV3D spends about five minutes in the beginning and end of the film). In the remake there are exciting moments now and then, but the movie is consistently brought to a screeching halt by the police procedural aspect and sleuthing. Honestly I cannot fathom why in the world you would waste a premise that allows you to have a deranged miner chasing teens through a creepy mine . . . in 3D!!! Instead we have a film that likes to give you a lot of shots of people walking around the back woods of Pennsylvania. I could understand if the scenery was particularly breathtaking or eerie, but that’s just not the case. MBV3D will give you a great visual sequence that lasts a minute or two, and then give you 20 minutes of Tom Not Atkins, Sarah, and Axel misinterpreting clues and conversations. Pretty riveting let me tell you.
Rob and I had a conversation after the end of the movie, which I think sums up the frustration we were feeling. What it comes down to is that these remakes of 80’s films seem to be able to pull elements from the originals which are recognizable, but are unable to capture any of the spirit that made them great. In the case of MBV3D there are several examples of moments in the film that I thought were pretty great. There’s the nice mine sequence in the beginning, a wild chase at a motel, and plenty of cool 3D effects. Furthermore there’s Tom Atkins! And this last point can’t be stressed enough. The casting of Atkins makes it clear that the director has a love of this type of film and the era from which it sprung. Atkins was not cast accidentally, he was sought out because the director loved his work. He could have gone for a bigger name, but he chose an obscure cult hero that would be appreciated by the faithful. So I’m betting that he didn’t set out to make a lifeless remake, or that he didn’t have respect for the material. It’s just that for some reason the qualities that made the original work proved elusive. In this case some of the fault lies in the script, but even some of the suspense scenes fall a little flat. Either way this one is a missed opportunity.
The release of MBV3D is not a total loss despite its lackluster qualities. We do get to see Atkins on the big screen again and there are some great 3D sequences. Perhaps best of all though is that it prompted a re-release on DVD of the uncut version of the original film. A bit of a legend has developed around My Bloody Valentine’s lost footage, as it was heavily cut for its initial theatrical run. The bare bones DVD released by Paramount a few years back did nothing to fix that in any way, but to promote this new film they have released a pretty decent special edition disc with the cut footage reinserted and a few documentaries. This alone gives the remake meaning. Honestly though, it’s worth going to see on the big screen for the 3D. Watching this at home would be a bit of a chore for all but the most fervent Atkins devotees (which of course includes yours truly : ) Oh, and be sure to stay until the last of the end credits have rolled for a final surprise (and it’s not finding out that the gaffer was Jeff Gatesman)!