As more and more studios adopt 3D as the Last Great Hope to get audiences into theaters, there's a debate emerging about which is the best way to use this inherently silly technology. Some think that the mere experience of 3D is glorious in and of itself, and enough with things popping out at the screen and pretending to spit on you. Others say the more gimmicks the better, and were delighted when Brendan Fraser picked up a paddleball game in Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D and flung that rubber ball right in their faces.
I'm in the latter camp, and went into My Bloody Valentine 3D prepared to squirm at all the dismembered heads, gushes of blood and boobs that would fly off the screen and into my lap. But whether it's from lack of imagination or filmmaking skills, My Bloody Valentine 3D is a much more standard-issue horror movie than I'd hoped, with only an occasional few gags really capitalizing on the 3D gross-out potential.
The plot is a textbook small-town horror, starring nubile "good girl" Sarah (Jaime King), her hot-tempered husband Axel who is the town sheriff (Kerr Smith), and her old flame Tom (Jensen Ackles), who has returned to town intending to sell the mine that, 10 years earlier, was the setting of a series of brutal murders. The killer, Harry Warden, was a miner who went insane after being trapped in a collapse. He was presumed dead, but not long before Tom's return, a series of murders point to the crazed miner as the only suspect.
The movie starts strong with the prologue, introduced by a dizzying newspaper montage and Harry Warden's initial murder spree, first in the hospital, then back at the mines where the local teenagers (including Sarah, Axel and Tom) have come to party. The three barely escape murder, but other friends are less lucky, including one girl whose head is bisected by a shovel, and a guy who is struck in the head with a pickaxe so precisely that his eyeball pops out of his skull (and out of the screen as well).
But in the present day the story, written by Todd Farmer and Zane Smith, gets bogged down in Axel's extramarital affairs, Sarah and Tom's rekindled spark, and the bungled investigations by ancient police officers. Thrown in among the endless talky scenes is a gratuitous (and hilarious) 3D sex scene, a motel room bloodbath, and a nice tense scene down in the mine, where Tom goes to find out for sure if Harry is back after all.
The movie keeps you guessing all along as to who the real killer is, as town residents are picked off one by one and Sarah is caught between her philandering husband and her possibly-insane ex, both of whom insist that the other is probably the killer. The murders are the obvious appeal, and most them satisfy, particularly a tense chase in a grocery store and the moment the killer arrives to threaten Sarah's young son and her housekeeper. From what I hear, there was one particularly iconic kill in the original film that involved a household appliance-- and it's repeated here with maximum shock value.
But despite the few tricks it has up its sleeve and its strict adherence to a genre of horror that's been lampooned for years now, My Bloody Valentine 3D doesn't have nearly enough fun with either its jazzy technology or its inherently campy premise. It gets it right in an early scene, when Betsy Rue finishes up her motel sex and spends 5 minutes chasing the killer, completely nude. Exploitation, murder, blood and guts converge beautifully, and in glorious 3D-- but after that we're back to boring Sarah, interchangeable supporting characters and a murderer with a pickaxe who barely even bothers to swing it near the audience. The gauntlet has officially been thrown down for someone to make the horror 3D movie I know we're all capable of enjoying.