What better way to celebrate Hallmark’s manufactured love holiday than with the heart-ripping fun of the My Bloody Valentine films! In the same way that films like Black Christmas, Halloween (and yes even Uncle Sam) fully embraced their respective holidays, the MBV films truly own February 14th and integrate it as a central part of the story. The original is undoubtedly a significant early slasher but does it still hold up after thirty-six years? Conversely, the remake has the advantage of treading down a well-worn path with a story already laid out, but is it a worthy update? Well, let’s discuss.
The original takes place twenty years after Harry Warden, the lone survivor of a mining accident, takes his bloody vengeance on those he deemed responsible for causing it. He also blames the Valentines Day dance the men were hurrying to get to and demands that it never be held again. However, after two decades the incident has been relegated to the status of an urban legend and the townspeople no longer heed the warning as they prepare to resurrect the dance once again. As you can imagine, bloody mayhem ensues.
The remake follows the plot of the original pretty faithfully in some ways but also makes some significant changes in others. In this version we see Harry wake from a year-long coma following the accident to go on a bloody rampage that culminates with an attack on a large group of teens partying in the opening of the mine. After he is shot and believed to be dead the film then jumps to ten years later and focuses primarily on the survivors of the attack as the killings begin once again.
The original was not only known for being a landmark film in what many consider the golden age of slashers but also an infamous casualty of the censorship from the morality police known as the MPAA. After being severely cut for content an “extended” version was released in 2009 to coincide with the remake but bafflingly only has three of the nine excised minutes restored. Still, what was put back in was good and we are treated to a much gorier version than the previous R release. Being that the remake was released almost thirty years later, it naturally has slicker visuals and more graphic violence. However, the filmmakers also opted to present the remake in 3D which may have been an interesting novelty if watched in theaters or on a 3D TV but on a standard screen simply draws more attention to some unrealistic CGI effects. Those shots aside though, the remake does deliver copious amounts of blood and a lot of nice, gory kills.
Now, blood and gore is all well and good but when it comes to determining the quality of a film it really comes down to the story, the characters and the acting. Both films features characters returning to the town after a long absence, TJ (Paul Kelman) in the original because he couldn’t hack it in the “real world” and Tom (Jensen Ackles) in the remake, a survivor of the attack that inherited the mine from his recently deceased father. In both cases, their return is the source of significant tension for the characters as they reconnect with their ex-girlfriend (named Sarah, in both versions) who is now in another relationship. However, it is also a source of a melodramatic low point for both films as the men take a lengthy scene to have a heart-to-heart with Sarah and not the kind that involves it being torn from someone’s chest and put in a candy box like it does in so many other scenes. Overall though, the acting in both films falls into the realm of serviceable for the story but nothing particularly spectacular.
One difference between the versions is that the original features a few more scenes of grating comic relief which, thankfully, were absent from the remake. More significantly, the fact that while the original does present a solid, straightforward slasher, the remake is actually able to keep the plot more tense and engaging. This goes beyond gore and production value and really comes down to twists, red herrings and questions about who is really behind the killing that keep you wondering until the climax.
Being a Hollywood remake coming out decades after the original (and presented in 3D no less) everything about this screamed “cheap cash-in” to me at first. But in this case, director Patrick Lussier actually took the time to make sure the remake was done effectively, and it shows. So, if you are going by historical significance (as well as the nostalgia factor) then of course the original would take it, but in reality, that is always the case when comparing remakes and originals. Remakes tend to have the advantage visually with modern techniques and sleeker production values but usually fuck up the story and end up being worse overall. That didn’t happen in this case and if it comes down to a question of which delivers a better experience when you put it on today, I would have to go with the remake, and yes I’m as surprised as you.