Macabre mayhem in the third dimension (film review: My Bloody Valentine 3D)

The effects in 3D movies have always been designed to induce simple visceral reactions - the jolts, swerves, gawks and gapes one expects from a trip to Timezone, an amusement park, a Teppanyaki restaurant or somewhere every-dimensionally horrific, like Parliament House. This tradition is faithfully and fetishistically maintained in director Patrick Lussier’s My Bloody Valentine 3D, because human responses don’t get a great deal more visceral than swerving to avoid a rusty pickaxe that’s being flung repeatedly towards your face.

Lussier’s film is a stodgy but grimly satisfying genre outing that follows a miner-gear-clad serial killer who hunts for victims in a town comprised of hot young bods and a couple of stiff Seen It All Before geezers, who swear, promise, cross their hearts, that the real killer was buried years ago and couldn’t possibly return, irrespective of the dead bodies and dismembered limbs piling up around them. My Bloody Valentine isn’t so much about finding your true love as it is finding the best way to introduce him or her to the pickaxe’s penetrative powers.

The story kicks off in a bout of intense grotesquery as Harry Warden, the sole survivor of a terrible mining accident, awakens from a coma on Valentine’s Day and starts carving up the residents of a town ironically named Harmony. A bunch of fresh looking youngsters and, basically, anything that moves are his targets but the mine collapses, the rubble burying Warden. In the great tradition of silly stalker films, his body is never recovered. Fast forward ten years and Alex (Kerr Smith), who is married to Sarah (Jaime King) is the sheriff of this ‘ere town, though his morality is questioned early on via his adultery with a young supermarket check-out chick. This is pittance, however, in comparison to the macabre mayhem unfolding around him as one by one new victims get stalked and slashed…

The revised digital-friendly 3D glasses are new to many audiences and new to the slasher genre (this is the first horror film to utilize them). They are, as one would expect, streets ahead of their red and blue ancestors, notwithstanding their fare share of kinks. Sadly these black plastic glasses are nowhere near as kitsch as the old ones, and, more importantly, they lack clarity: people are fuzzy, the backgrounds are blurry and images lack definition.

But there is no denying the extra kick the 3D elements give, even they look, and are closer technically, to 2D pictures layered on top of each other. Lussier undoubtedly achieves what he set out to do, assuming he set out more or less to make audiences squirm. On these terms My Bloody Valentine is a modest success, perfect for cheap thrills on a weekend night, for hooting crowds to relish the film’s occasionally striking effects - like a rifle that scans the audience and a bullet fired right at us (cheap thrills, for sure, but thrills nonetheless). 3D’s pop-out effect ensures that Harry’s pickaxe will jump ominously close to our popcorn and cokes, even if most people will argue that the real horror lies in how much they forked out for them at the candy bar.

Marrying horror movies with 3D glasses is a good fit. Both are geared at least partly towards gut reactions, and combining them is nothing new: I saw House of Wax and Dial M for Murder in red-and-blue 3D years ago. Neither film, however, had the visual properties to capitalise on the 3D effects: Hitchcock’s film in particular had way too much yakking, with too many concurrent dialogue-based scenes and too many layers of carefully manoeuvred suspense - in other words the film was much too good.

This is not the case with My Bloody Valentine. The plot is marred by the dramatic impotence and logic circuit breakers that are par for the course in the bumpy slasher genre, with scary movie clich├ęs abound, and slightly tweaked, mildly rehashed conventions packaged with a gnarly knowledge of what the target audience craves. The obligatory twist and ‘it was me all along’ speech at the end is a cheeky, really cheeky, story sleight, bound to upset the few people who actually thought this movie had the decency to follow its own logic, but what the hey. Mozart it aint.

Lussier has the good sense to throw in a sex scene in 3D but bizarrely, sadly, seemed to go out of his way to ensure no body parts were amplified by the technology, which feels a little like dangling candy in front of baby. This scene, easily the funniest in the film, may leave portions of the audience hungry for a little more from the adult section of their video libraries, but buyer beware: I can’t help but think that a Johnny Holmes movie, in 3D, could cause unprecedented, irreparable damage to the mental health of heterosexual male audiences. Some porn director is out there right now, mind dancing, mouth salivating, at the thought of all the wonderful possibilities...

1 comment:

  1. Yep, I agree bucky, the fuzziness of the images that weren't popping out of the screen bugged me. when they did, it totally had the desired effect on me - as you would well know - as i squirmed and hid on your shoulder! i think i missed some of the really gory bits - thank goodness!