Although it boasts state-of-the-art 3-D camera trickery, which helmer Patrick Lussier shamelessly exploits to goose the aud with cheap thrills and full-bore gore, “My Bloody Valentine” is at heart an unabashedly retro work, reveling in the cliches and conventions of the slasher horror pics that proliferated in the early 1980s. A remake of a 1981 low-budgeter of the same title that only diehard fans (and eager press-kit copywriters) would deem a “classic,” this Lionsgate production should scare up more than enough coin in theatrical and homevid venues to justify the sequel so clearly signaled at final fade-out.
The blood flows freely and frequently in Harmony, a quaint little town with a grisly history. An opening-credits montage briskly details tragic events at the local mine, where an accident in the tunnels leaves five men dead and one in a coma. But the real carnage doesn’t begin until Harry Warden (Rich Walters), the sole survivor, awakens — on Valentine’s Day, of course — after a year-long slumber to cut a bloody swath through the community.
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Dressed in a miner’s work clothes and disguised with a gas mask, Harry manages to kill 22 people with his pickaxe before he’s repeatedly shot by local cops and presumed dead.
Ten years later, Tom (Jensen Ackles of TV’s “Supernatural”), a mining-company heir who inadvertently caused the long-ago accident, returns to Harmony to sell the family business — and, maybe, rekindle his romance with former sweetie Sarah (Jaime King), who’s now inconveniently married to the local sheriff, Axel (Kerr Smith).
Even under the best of circumstances, Axel wouldn’t be overjoyed to see Tom back in town. But since Tom’s return coincides with the start of another killing spree by an axe-wielding dude in a gas-mask and miner’s coveralls, Axel suspects the worst.
Freely adapting the 1981 scenario by John Beaird (from a story by Stephen Miller), Todd Farmer and Zane Smith have cobbled together a serviceable script that is no more or less contrived and logic-defying than similar exploitation fare of a generation ago. To their credit, they’re not slavishly faithful to ’80s genre conventions — the victims here are slightly older, if no wiser, than the unfortunate folks in what Roger Ebert memorably defined as “dead teenager movies” — and some of their in-jokey, tongue-in-cheek touches are genuinely funny. (They slyly tip their hat to another “classic” ’80s shocker when a frightened character cries out: “Jason, is that you?”)
Director and co-editor Lussier (a frequent Wes Craven collaborator) plays the 3-D gimmick for all It’s worth: Everything from tree branches and gun barrels to bloody pickaxes and bloodier body parts appears to jump off the screen. He also makes effective use of the depth-of-field illusion, allowing auds long views of various chest cavities from which hearts have been rudely ripped. At the very least, the overall tech package is a great deal more impactful than that of the 3-D-lensed “Friday the 13th Part III” (1982).
Thesping is generally solid, with well-cast leads coming off as sincere rather than ironically aware. Casting of genre stalwart Tom Atkins (“The Fog,” “Creepshow”) in a supporting role should amuse genre aficionados. Betsy Rue deserves some sort of Good Sport prize for remaining feisty and formidable during what may be the longest sustained sequence of gratuitous nudity in the history of slasher cinema. Surely, such a revealing performance should not go unrecognized.