I saw a lot of the slasher horror films back in the 80s by staying up late and watching HBO. I thought I’d seen them all until a few years ago when I discovered how wrong I was. Some that I missed were forgettable but others were hidden gems, like The Burning. However, I also discovered what has become one of my favorites only because it had a remake coming out. One of the podcasts I used to listen to covered it and I determined I had to seek it out after hearing the infectious closing theme. Of course, there’s no better day to cover the perfect date movie than Valentine’s Day. Yes, I’m talking about My Bloody Valentine (1981).
One of the things that make this movie stand out as one of my personal favorites is the unique setting and grittiness it offers the viewer. Set in the mythical small town of Valentine Bluffs (really Sydney Mines in Nova Scotia, Canada), our story deals with a community that has shunned Valentine’s Day for 20 years. A mining accident trapped five men underground in a mine with only one of them making it out alive. It turns out the survivor, Harry Warden, didn’t come out in the same mental state as when he went in. Seeking revenge on negligent supervisors, who left the mines to get to a dance, he used a pickaxe to cut out their hearts and warned the town to never hold another Valentine’s Day dance again. Flash forward 20 years and the community has decided to hold a dance again. Yes, you know what happens next. Victims begin to pile up and the town’s chief of police is receiving hearts in candy boxes. He cancels the dance, but the youngsters decide to hold a party anyway at a place that just screams out fun for all…the mine. Along the way we have the usual love triangle, iconic deaths, horny teenagers, the usual plot twists and plenty of gore. For me, what makes the movie is the image of the killer miner, the gloomy atmospheric town and the crazy little ballad at the end of the movie. Also, a mostly unrecognizable cast allows you to fully submerge yourself into the film as well as the time period.
In this modern day and age of remakes, it’s no surprise that somebody decided to attempt a new version. In 2009, My Bloody Valentine 3D hit the theaters starring Supernatural star Jensen Ackles in the lead role of Tom Hanniger (who was known as T.J. in the original). Jaime King (Sin City, The Spirit) plays love interest Sarah Palmer (played by Lori Hallier in the original). Familiar faces are seen as supporting characters including Kevin Tighe (Road House, TV’s Emergency) and legendary Tom Atkins (Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Night of the Creeps). In this version, Tom was the negligent one and Harry became a cannibal in the mine disaster. In our opening sequence, the comatose Harry Warden wakes up and goes on a bloody rampage. Harry travels back to the mine where he is eventually killed. However, Tom barely escapes death, leaving town and his girlfriend Sarah behind. Flash forward ten years and Tom is back in town after the death of his father. He’s selling the mine and many in the town are not happy with him at all. Of course, random killings begin to happen that are more graphic than what was cut out of the original. We have the iconic killer miner image that still works for me. We have another love triangle and some new death scenarios. However, we also have some scenes that are almost straight out of the original. These can be taken as a homage to the first film or as a blatant rip-off, depending on your frame of mind.
The one key thing missing here is the gloom and grit of the original. Everything seems just a little bit glossed over in the remake. I also find myself pulled out of the film by the presence of Jensen Ackles. That is probably due to being a fan of Supernatural since day one. Also, as this was originally in 3D, there are some very obvious, and now very cheesy, moments where objects fly at the screen. Some of the gore is great but some looks like the very cheap CGI it is. However, as far as remakes go, the 2009 version does work better than expected.
The original was a moderate success and developed cult status over the years for the missing 9 minutes of footage that was removed by the MPAA due to excessive gore and violence. With the 2009 special edition DVD, two and half minutes of gore were reinstated into what is believed to be the most definitive cut of the movie we’ll see. It’s also now available on Blu-ray. The 2009 remake was successful enough that you’d think Hollywood would have come up with a sequel. However, like the original, we’re left only with the main story and that is more than sufficient. I prefer the original but the remake is enjoyable. Both of these movies would make a nice double feature on date night. Happy bloody Valentine’s Day!