When I first heard about the green light on a remake of the 1981 slasher flick My Bloody Valentine I was, how shall we put it, dismissive. Derisive even, god help me, snarky. But the fine folks at Lionsgate certainly know how to turn a frown upside-down: They flew me to Pittsburgh and stuck me in a coal mine!
It sounds like punishment but it was actually a pleasure. See, for all my dismissive, derisive, and (yes) snarky ways, I'm actually quite the fan of The Horror Remake. Blasphemy, you say? OK, then while you're grousing about turkeys called The Hitcher and Prom Night -- films I've already forgotten about -- I'll be basking in the glow of John Carpenter's The Thing, David Cronenberg's The Fly, and Philip Kaufman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Remakes all. And then you have the remakes that may not be SUPERIOR to their predecessors, but (The Blob) still (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) deliver (Dawn of the Dead) the goods. (I'll even throw Hills Have Eyes into the mix, but only because I think it's a good horror film, remake or no.)
So there's my perspective on horror remakes: The 75% that are unmitigated crap are worth wading through if you end up a handful that turn out to be decent. (Oh, I forgot Toolbox Murders. Much better than the original.) And this set visit was certainly no "glamour gig," but it did fill me with a solid dash of optimism regarding Patrick Lussier's My Bloody Valentine 3-D. Here's why: Of the half-dozen crew members I conversed with, the common thread I noticed was that of "making a scary horror film." Seems like a fairly obvious goal, I know, but I was struck by how sincere these guys felt. I can spot fake fanboyism a mile away, and still I walked away from my five hours in Pittsburgh with the feeling that MBV3D could actually be something slightly special.
At first glance, "the gimmick" is what you'll notice. Yes, genre fans, My Bloody Valentine will be released in a 3-D format that you've never seen before. To those (like me) who have inescapable visions of Friday the 13th Part 3-D, Amityville 3-D, and (dear lord) Jaws 3-D, you can rest assured that Lussier's remake will deliver something that very few remakes even offer: something new.
Jensen Ackles stars as Tom Hanniger in MY BLOODY VALENTINE.
Photo credit: Michael Roberts
One thing you'll learn on a set visit is how to shut your mouth and nod respectfully. For example, a conversation took place between myself and 3-D cinematography mega-genius Max Penner -- and I understood none of it. Occasionally the word "lens" or "perspective" would make its way into my brain, but really: This man could have invented cameras for all he knew about the process. I even recorded the conversation but it would probably read like PASCAL or KLINGON, so I'll just get to the point: Halfway through Mr. Penner's explanations of the 3-D production process, it dawned on me that the guy sounded like he was working on Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. He was just so thrilled to see this sort of technology being used in a film that "people might go see!" that I was struck by the passion of the process. That he was working in service of a gory horror remake that most critics would dismiss sight unseen was of no importance one way or another.
And then there was director Patrick Lussier, who met me with a grin and said something like "I know your stuff. My son has you on Google Alerts, so I've seen just about all your comments on my movies." The director showed no signs of being irked by my dismissive, derisive, and (gasp) often snarky attitude, plus he seemed genuinely pleased when I offered a sincere compliment: "Scream is cut like a symphony, sir." (Translation: I know you edited the original Scream for Wes Craven, and boy you did a good job on that.") We then sat down to discuss, like, WHY someone would want to remake My Bloody Valentine. Aside from the simple fact that there's an audience for these movies -- and a studio willing to make the investment -- Patrick (rather adeptly) refuted my dismissals of My Bloody Valentine. Whereas I'd earlier referred to the original Valentine as a thinly-veiled Friday the 13th knock-off, Mr. Lussier insisted that it was just a bit better than that. He was struck by how a slasher flick bothered to use grown-ups instead of teens, how it managed to toss a halfway-interesting love triangle into a movie that didn't really need one, and how it was one of the earliest hack & slaher flicks to utilize the basic-yet-effective "whodunnit" aspect. If I thought I was dealing with a bunch of "slap it together and quick" filmmakers, I definitely did not anymore.
After watching two dozen people scrambling through a rather narrow old mine shaft, we were invited to head back outside and have a little talk with producer Jack Murray, who began in Hollywood as a production designer, but seems perfectly suited for the producer's hat. He admitted that, sure, the non-stop deluge of recent horror remakes may have genre fans irked and annoyed, but he was also grateful to be working in a genre that has such loyal fans. "We just want to make a good, scary horror movie, and we think this 3-D process will allow those fans to enjoy something a little bit familiar AND a little bit unique. It's all about giving the ticket-buyers something they'll hopefully enjoy. We sure didn't HAVE to bother with the 3-D workload, but if the extra work makes the movie that much cooler..." Again I was struck by the enthusiasm of these guys: Here we were at an abandoned coal mine just outside of Pittsburgh, and I'd just met three guys who can't wait to show off their new toys to all the fans. So yeah, sure, some remakes are little more than "churn 'em out and make some cash" affairs (perhaps even "most), my few hours spent on the set of My Bloody Valentine 3-D indicates that this project isn't one of them. We won't know until early next year if the efforts of Lussier, Penner and Murray will translate into a remake on par with Dawn of the Dead or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but based only on the intelligence, the sincerity, and the enthusiasm that I saw on-set, I'm now feeling quite a bit better about this remake.