Like a lot of you out there, I’m sure you spent this last Valentine’s Day weekend watching the MY BLOODY VALENTINE movies. How can we possibly resist? As fans of the genre, we’re so fortunate to have at least a small handful of titles to choose from for every conceivable holiday of the year. Plus, Harry Warden, the legend of both versions of MY BLOODY VALENTINE even has his own ballad. His own freakin’ ballad!
So with that said, I opted to watch the MY BLOODY VALENTINE 2009 remake first in 3-D, followed by the now out-of-print Lionsgate Blu-Ray of the uncut version of the 1981 cult classic! Figured it might be fun and more interesting to go backwards chronologically. How’d they pair up?
First and foremost, MY BLOODY VALENTINE 2009 is one of my favorite home 3-D releases. And I’m not talking about the old school red & blue glasses version that doesn’t work properly. If you have a 3-D TV and a 3-D player, the legit 3-D release is among one of the best on the market. (You can check out several of my other 3-D recommendations here and here.) While I enjoyed the film in theaters upon its release, and again when I watched the regular version on DVD, it’s clear from the first few minutes of the 3-D version that director Patrick Lussier had conceived of every single shot with this format in mind. We get a quick summery of what happened to Harry Warden and the other miners that fateful Valentine’s Day night via some creative newspaper headlines whizzing by during the opening credit sequence. Warden’s been in a coma ever since the mine collapsed and, when they dug him up, it was obvious that he murdered all his fellow miners to conserve his own air. He abruptly wakes up, slaughters just about everyone in the hospital and makes his way back to the mines where all the town’s kids are having a huge Valentine’s Day party.
The amount of bloodshed, gore and sheer creative lunacy in the dispatching of these victims (all within in the first 5 minutes) is staggering. And in 3-D, that eyeball popping straight towards camera or that shovel sticking out of that poor girls face is top notch, darkly hilarious and cheer worthy. The group I watched it with was having a blast!
After the showdown in the mines between Warden and Burke (the great Tom Atkins!), the movie cuts 10 years later to present day. Tom Hannigan (SUPERNATURAL’s Jensen Ackles) has returned to town to complete the sale of the mines which he inherited after his father passed. No one’s really happy about his return – for starters, because if he sells the mines, they’ll all lose their jobs. But also, Warden held Tom responsible for the collapse 10 years prior, so everyone in the town pretty much thinks it’s all his fault. His girlfriend, Sarah (Jaime King), has moved on and is now married to the town Sheriff and Tom’s rival, Axel (Kerr Smith). The love triangle becomes more complicated with Tom’s return, but also because of the fact that Axel hasn’t exactly been all that faithful or nice to his wife over the years. He’s recently just knocked up his very, very young mistress.
Tom’s return also marks the sudden reappearance of Harry Warden, or at least someone dressed as Harry Warden. The group’s friend Irene (Betsy Rue) is among the first new batch of victims and the massacre will continue unless they can find the long-thought-to-be-dead Warden and stop him. If it isn’t Warden though, who has adopted his persona and name? Therein lies the fun of both versions of the movie. While structurally and plot-wise they’re both very different, they share in common both the love triangle between the principal characters, as well as the whodunnit mystery surrounding the true identity of the killer.
Going back to the original film now as our second feature, Lionsgate released a version of director George Mihalka’s 1981 MY BLOODY VALENTINE several years back which featured a beautifully restored high def presentation of the original theatrical version, but also a new “branching” uncut version. The quality of the uncovered “gore” footage isn’t great, so when it’s reinstated here, the quality dips just a tiny bit, but it’s absolutely worth it. I’ve always loved the original MY BLOODY VALENTINE, but with the gore put back in, it’s truly on par with the greatness of a FRIDAY THE 13TH movie. We’re finally seeing the punchline to these beautifully orchestrated murder set pieces and almost every one drew audible “ooohs” from the group I watched it with.
The legend of Harry Warden as told by the old-timer at the local pub is different here, and actually much creepier. Harry and several miners were trapped in the mines but it was for several weeks and when they dug Harry up, they found him eating the body parts of the other miners, completely stark raving mad!
He blamed it all on the local town Valentine’s Day party, because everyone was there when the collapse happened. So one year later, he went on a killing spree, taking his revenge on all the townsfolks involved in the planning of the party, and as the legend went, he vowed to come back if the town ever threw another Valentine’s Day bash again. Sure enough, after 20 years, the town has finally built up the nerve to orchestrate a Valentine’s Day party, and immediately the murders begin again.
Has Harry returned to make good on his promise? Or has someone else taken up the mantel of his legend?
As a double feature, MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D and MY BLOODY VALENTINE are an excellent pairing. A match made in horror heaven. They both are different enough to be reminiscent of each other, while telling different variations on the same basic folklore. Also, they’re both so well crafted, that I always forget the identity of the killer in each until late into the movie. I rather enjoy going for the fun ride of figuring it out all over again.
The remake is tremendously successful in paying enough homages and nods to the original, yet setting up some really unique, original set pieces and plot points that make it fresh and new. I rather love the clear dislike that Tom and Axel have for each other and their love triangle with Sarah only adds to the soap opera drama feel of the whole thing. Tom suggesting to Axel, “you know she only settled for you, right?” which then makes him erupt in anger gets me every time. There’s also one gag that I can’t believe more horror movies haven’t implemented since: At one point, Sarah has 2 potential killers at gun point. Normally in this scenario, both of the accused plead with the victim to shoot the other, but this is the first (and maybe last time?) where one of them says, “Fuck it. Just shoot us both.”
Whereas normally people go from the original film to a remake in a double feature, I thought it played even better going vice versa. The original is a bit more serious in tone, although the characters have funny quirks and the love triangle between TJ, Axel and Sarah is equally as entertaining. In the original, the killer is prone to leaving really clever variations on Valentine’s rhymes but with sinister punchlines. This aspect wasn’t in the remake, but was used prominently in the 2001 movie VALENTINE. (Based in name-only on the excellent Tom Savage novel.)
The biggest sin of both movies is the fact that neither got a sequel. When you watch the uncut version of the original, it’s clear that Harry Warden could’ve joined the ranks with Freddy and Jason had he gotten at least one more adventure. And the 3-D remake was a box office success, which makes the fact that the planned sequel that Lussier & writer Todd Farmer had cooked up never happened a real disappointment.
At the very least, we have two MY BLOODY VALENTINE movies to celebrate every February 14th. Here’s hoping someone will wise up and give us another one!