Thursday, January 15, 2009

Be Mine In 3-D

Ten years ago, a tragedy changed the town of Harmony forever. Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles), an inexperienced coal miner, caused an accident in the tunnels that trapped and killed five men and sent the only survivor, Harry Warden (Rich Walters), into a permanent coma. But Harry Warden wanted revenge. Exactly one year later, on Valentine's Day, he woke up...and brutally murdered twenty-two people with a pickaxe before being killed. Ten years later, Tom Hanniger returns to Harmony on Valentine's Day, still haunted by the deaths he caused. Struggling to make amends with his past, he grapples with unresolved feelings for his ex-girlfriend, Sarah (Jaime King), who is now married to his best friend, Axel (Kerr Smith), the town sheriff. But tonight, after years of peace, something from Harmony's dark past has returned. Wearing a miner's mask and armed with a pickaxe, an unstoppable killer is on the loose. And as his footsteps come ever closer, Tom, Sarah and Axel realize in terror that it just might be Harry Warden who's come back to claim them.

As someone who's not overly fond of horror remakes or eye-straining 3-D crap, I went into My Bloody Valentine: 3-D knowing all the facts, but with fairly muted expectations. The movie, which does employ several 3-D "gotcha!" gimmicks as well as subtle immersion into the story and character-driven moments, begins with a flashback of what happened in Pennsylvania's Hanniger Mines 10 years ago. It was February 14, when the owner's college-age son Tom (Ackles) set a chain of events into motion which led a psychotic miner Harry Warden (Walters) to kill some 22 people. Careless Tom was enjoying himself at the big holiday dance when it happened. Having fled in shame, Tom returns home a decade later to collect his now-dead dad's ashes and inherit the family's tarnished legacy. Nobody's exactly leaping with joy to have the stern young man come back to town. His old flame Sarah (King) is now married to his ex-best friend Axel (Smith), who has recently become the town's sheriff. Axel took over from retiree Burke (Tom Atkins), who always harbored bitter feelings after having to shoot and kill Warden. Even the executor of the Hanniger Will, the seemingly benign elderly local gadabout Ben Foley (Kevin Tighe), has nothing but outright dislike for Tom. Then, a strange thing happens: The grisly pick-axe murders start up again. It is the ghost of Harry Warden? Has Tom's return triggered fury in a latent killer? Is it (and was it) Tom himself? All these questions are answered in the end, which is what makes the movie so much fun to see twice… now, don't get me wrong: it's no Usual Suspects puzzle, but armed with your knowledge, it's a kick to go through the motions again and pick up all the hints and clues showing whodunit. Having seen far more 3-D than I'd care to admit (Friday the 13th 3), I must say that My Bloody Valentine: 3-D makes the very best use of the medium I have ever experienced. The gory and violent death scenes spatter blood most gleefully outward, while the breasts bounce up and down in the gratuitous nude scenes (totally expected and welcomed in this hard-R horror world!) — but what you may not realize is how drawn in you get into the everyday worlds of these characters.  There are people with shades of gray; a plausible pool of (ever-dwindling) suspects; indoor and outdoor locations, including expanse and claustrophobia; and just enough comic relief to punctuate the seriousness of the situations. The actors all do their parts very well — from the bit players (Selene Luna) to the main attractions (King) — but there's a certain scene-stealer I'd like to single out. Not because she is buck-naked throughout one drawn-out and pivotal suspense scene, but because Betsy Rue is a damn fine actress. As the feisty and spirited Irene, she gives a truly fearless performance in every sense of the word. Rue's definitely got the chops to make to wear the scream queen crown if she so chooses. This was gory, good fun in 3-D and I have to admit that I liked every bit of it. A bloody 3 on my "Go See" scale.

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