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By Scott Mendelson | January 19, 2009

For all the hub-bub about how 3D will save the theatrical experience, it can only do so much to enhance the package that it amplifies. Movies like “Meet The Robinsons” or “Beowulf” used the 3D gimmick to immerse audiences in a world that is already well worth visiting. Lesser films such as “Superman Returns” attempted to disguise the hollowness of its action set-pieces but only ended up magnifying their flaws and dramatic irrelevance. Point being, if a movie like “My Bloody Valentine” plays like a dime-store slasher picture, then adding 3D to the proceedings will only make it look like a 3D dime-store slasher picture.

Some plot – A loose remake of the 1981 George Mihalka cult film, this update still concerns the sleepy town of Harmony that is shadowed by terrible events from long ago. In the Hanniger Mine, an accident claimed five lives and turned the lone survivor into a perfect example of the classic hypothetical Speluncean Explorers legal debate (think ‘Custom Of The Seas’). Having no desire to become Supreme Court precedent, survivor Harry Warden immediately escapes from the hospital to conduct a legally unambiguous killing spree that claims 22 lives. Ten years later, the town is still recovering when the return of Tom Hanniger, the young man who caused said accident years before, stirs up bad memories and bitter feelings . Right on cue the gruesome carnage begins anew, casting suspicion on an allegedly deceased Harry Warden, as well as the many other local citizens with motive and opportunity to paint the town blood-red.

When playing in the genre of ‘closed room mystery’, there are two ironclad rules. First of all, the eventual killer or killers must be someone that the audience is familiar with and someone that an audience member could theoretically suspect at some point in the film. Second of all, we must be able to trust our eyes. Everything that happens onscreen must be accepted as the truth as we saw it occur. “My Bloody Valentine 3D” is a film that doesn’t play fair and in terms of character development and story structure, it out and out cheats. Key character beats occur off screen, major developments are mentioned merely in passing, and there are at least a few moments where director Patrick Lussier out and out lies to his audience concerning explicitly onscreen events. That these occurrences are doled out evenly enough to not favor one suspect over another is irrelevant. The only way to solve this mystery is to flip a coin and hope it comes up heads.

To be fair, the film is surprisingly well-cast and well-acted. Veterans such as Tom Atkins and Kevin Tighe prop up the younger whipper-snappers (Jamie King, Jensen Ackles*, Kerr Smith), and their presence lends a certain prestige to the proceedings. But only the young leads really get anything to do, and fan-favorite Tom Atkins is especially wasted.

What you say? No one cares about the story, characters, or acting? They just came to see 3D slasher killings and R-rated blood and gore? Well, fair enough, except after an incredibly violent and gruesome initial ten to fifteen minutes, the film settles down into a stock template of one killing every ten minutes or so. In the downtime, we get the usual melodrama that fills these kinds of films- infidelities, town elders hiding dark secrets, red herrings, and errant suspicions. And if you’re going to make the audience care about the mystery at the film’s core, you’d best play fair with said audience. For a film that seems to hold no regard for human life and encourages the audience to laugh and mock the onscreen carnage (which isn’t in itself a criticism), it sure spends a lot of time in the realm of human interest.

And that’s a shame, because the 3D effects are completely immersive and utterly impressive. Gore hounds will have a field day with the blood and guts on three-dimensional display, but they will surely tire of the overly repetitious killings. Unlike the original film, or even most slasher films, nearly every single murder in this film is done by the same pick-axe of doom. The 3D effects occasionally succeed in spicing up the routine murders (an eye-ball flying at the screen went over like gangbusters), but the majority of the violence is basically of the chase and hack variety. The film is quite violent and gruesome, but it is rarely if ever truly scary.

In the end, “My Bloody Valentine 3D” is a completely route slasher picture, with only the added gimmick of 3D violence as a selling point. If that’s enough for you, you’ll get your money’s worth. But the same-old same-old nature of the killings, the relatively fake looking 3D CGI blood, and the complete lack of any real tension or drama dilutes what should have been a popcorn-flying party movie. In the end, as an apt metaphor for a picture set in a mining town – 3D effects cannot turn coal into a diamond.

* How amusing that the two stars of televisions’s “Supernatural”, Jensen Eckles and Jared Padalecki, both headline major-studio remakes of ‘classic’ slasher films. We’ll see who wins the box office battle when Padelecki’s “Friday The 13th” opens in February. From my limited exposure to said TV series, I’m guessing that “Supernatural” is both scarier and better than both of these films.

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