My Bloody Valentine 3D 2009
Directed by: Patrick Lussier
Starring: Jaime King, Tom Atkins, Jensen Ackles
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
This review brings back great memories for me as I wrote it just after getting out of this film’s premier in central London. That’s why I have chosen to leave it exactly as it was. I watched the film again recently and although I can say I was a tad generous here, I do still agree with most of what I said back then…
Taking a good look at the two heavily populated cinema ‘lives’ of the slasher genre, the most striking similarity is that they were started by the box office successes of a pair of stand-out features. Halloween in 78 launched a tidal wave of wannabes that included the much maligned but equally as heavily imitated Friday the 13th. The category had a good run, but eventually lost popularity mid-way through the eighties due to a restriction on gore, minimal funding and creativity from production teams. Wes Craven’s popular semi-parody, Scream from 1996, kicked off yet another major influx that sent the imitations crawling out of the woodwork and on to video-store shelves. Eventually, a lack of originality meant audiences and studios alike gave up on the cycle and it befell a similar fate that had sent its forefathers into obscurity.
There were thirteen years between the death of the Halloween-inspired glory days and Scream’s unexpected re-birth, so a believer in destiny such as I, may have indeed been forgiven for predicting that the time was upon us once again in 2009 for another run of masked killers and gratuitous gore.
Indeed, during that year there were a few great months where it looked like it could be a possibility, especially for fans of the original My Bloody Valentine. Not only did we learn that we would able to see the full uncut version of the original, repackaged on a shiny new DVD with extras; but also we were treated to this highly financed remake at a time when the category had sunk to the lowest of depths.
Harry Warden’s name lives long in the memories of the townsfolk of a small town in West Virginia after he went on a maniacal killing spree, butchering 22 people on a cold valentine’s night. Despite rumours that he was buried alive in the mines that he stalked, the body of the maniac has never been discovered. Fast forward ten years and it seems that the evil has returned, because a gas-masked maniac begins stalking the village and killing everyone that was somehow connected to the original massacre. Has Harry returned?
As the title accurately informs us, a key gimmick for the release of this remake was the fact that it is filmed in explosive 3D. Now many have tried to bring horror into the third-dimension, but the likes of Friday the 13th III, Silent Madness and Freddy’s Dead had failed drastically to make the most of an ingenious tool in the creation of supreme virtual terror. So with all that was riding against it, does My Bloody Valentine 3D actually deliver??
Like hell it does! Buckle your seat belts baby and prepare yourself for a speed-train through slasher clichés that has never been taken to such extreme heights. This is a non-stop juggernaut of fast-paced gore and shock tactics that will keep your heart beating at the speed of a Japanese freeway. You can mock the brainless script and the at times overly-gratuitous exploitation, but this is a slasher movie and slasher movies exist to give you two-hours of freedom from the stress of everyday life in a virtual-world where you can leave your brains at the door.
Firstly, the film is immensely gory. So much so that even a hardened old horror-addict like myself was cowering from the screen in places. Pick-axes through faces, dismemberment, eyes popping out of their sockets; and best of all, it’s all filmed in fantastic 3D. This is a car-crash of over indulgence that has the balls to drive to the borders of cinematic acceptability and then smash through them with its pedal to the medal. The pace is unrelenting and the suspense at times absolutely immense. Patrick Lussier may not be the next Hitchcock, but MBV 3D is not to be categorised alongside Psycho or Halloween. This is a film that sets out to shock in any way possible and on that level it succeeds. There’s one or two tense jump out of your seat jolts and a few credibly created scares that are all the better for the stylish production.
The cast do a good enough job of keeping the plot moving fluidly and the healthy financing means that no expense has been spared in the producer’s effort to unleash total mayhem on audiences. Jamie King takes us back to the Laurie Strode/Ginny Field era of brave heroines, but somewhat authentically, she also has huge character flaws. The story shares much with its predecessor and Lussier also re-uses many of the scenes that made Mihalka’s hit so memorable. This may well be the first slasher remake that actually pays credit to its heritage and unlike Rob Zombie’s insulting Halloween re-hash, MBV 3D can sit comfortably alongside its grandfather.
It’s not fashionable to give a slasher movie a good review and I can see without looking the piles of one-star write-ups that will be cluttering up column-space in the self-righteous brigade’s film magazines. I bet that many will be having a field day ripping this particular movie to shreds. Agreed, this is not an intellectual film. To be fair, in some places it doesn’t even do the basics right and there’s some shockingly poor plot holes towards the climax. For a fan of splatter flicks however, this is an hour and a half in paradise and I really enjoyed every moment of this long-overdue gore-soaked extravaganza.
This is not the next Shawshank Redemption and it has no intention of trying to be, so it should be judged on its merits as a gore film and on that level it is everything that you want it to be. Full frontal nudity, buckets of gore and all the things that your mama warned you about rapped up in a tense and riveting thriller with the added bonus of an intelligent twist (Was the killer really the only bad guy? I wouldn’t call the ‘hero’ good…) Prepare for the next invasion folks…
Just on that. The next invasion never came…. But I did hope for a while…
Killer Guise: √√√√√
Final Girl: √√√
The Toolbox Murders 2004
aka La Masacre de Toolbox
Directed by: Tobe Hooper
Starring: Angela Bettis, Brent Roam
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Throughout the seventies and early eighties, Tobe Hooper was widely considered as one of the greatest horror directors ever to grace the silver screen. If it wasn’t for his 1974 video nasty The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, then we may never have seen movies like Slumber Party Massacre or any of the other slasher ‘massacre’ titles. We may not have even witnessed classics like Halloween. Sometime after his career redefining joint venture with Steven Spielberg (Poltergeist), Hooper fell into an awful run of consistently poor form. Later years saw uninspired efforts like Crocodile, The Mangler and Night Terrors completely ruin his almost peerless resume. It was somewhat ironic then that he decided to direct a remake of the 1978 gruesome slasher (The Toolbox Murders) at exactly the same time that New Line Cinema were renewing his very own masterpiece (Chainsaw Massacre).
The original Toolbox flick is a tough act to follow, let alone reproduce. What it lacked in style and quality, it more than made up for with brutality that has never been expressed in such a gratuitous fashion. Some of the gruesomely vicious scenes are almost impossible to forget and seeing a masked maniac use a nail gun to slaughter a naked teenager while he merrily hums away like he’s changing a light bulb is a shock tactic has never been used as effectively since. I must admit I hoped for more of the same from Hooper and I knew that he had already proved that he had the quality to break the hex of extremely poor horror remakes.
The Lusman Arms is a run down hotel in Hollywood, which has stood since the early twenties. In the opening scene we see a young woman get brutally murdered by a hammer-wielding black shrouded menace in one of the guest-rooms. Her body is dragged into the shadows and it seems that no one notices her disappearance. Next up we meet Nell and Steve Burrows (Angela Bettis and Brent Roam), a young married couple that have only just moved into the Lusman Arms. Steve is a doctor and spends most of his time out of the house, which leaves Nell suffering with her noisy neighbours through the wafer thin walls. Having already mistaken two rehearsing actors for someone being slaughtered, the Local Police are less than impressed with the housewife’s over-active imagination. After hearing the diving screams of her neighbour, she begins to realise that the complex has more to its history than first meets the eye. Nell eventually heads out to solve the mystery of the disappearing residents, and what she discovers is more shocking than she could ever have expected…
Toolbox Murders is something of an impressive return to form from Tobe Hooper. Slasher movies are always easy templates to unleash some directorial flair and the veteran horror icon seems to lap up the chances to shine with relish. You can tell from the off that this is going to be something of a step up from the typical post-Scream lowbrow trash. Joseph Conlan’s impressive score keeps the tension running on a knife-edge, and the set locations prove that the feature has been slickly produced. Hooper does a great job of making an ordinary everyday backdrop like an apartment complex feel as creepy as a haunted castle and the conclusion is exciting as it is enjoyable. The two lead characters are fairly well acted, and kudos to the scriptwriter for giving the viewer the option to sympathise with the protagonist. There are enough mysterious suspects to partake in a reality TV Cluedo marathon and each of them will give you a good enough reason to think that they could be the masked maniac. I especially enjoyed the stuttering manager, who describes a tin full of torn out human teeth that Nell found in her bedroom wall as, “Part of the building’s charm and character!”
At the time I wrote this in 2005, Toolbox Murders had not yet been released in either the US or the UK on DVD, which is somewhat inexplicable. I’m not sure what kind of business this took at the box offices, but I believe that it does certainly deserve a bigger status. There are a few flaws that perhaps undermine Hooper’s experience. The use of stereotypes is beyond belief; and as soon as a creepy toolbox-clutching handyman popped up as a hackneyed red herring, the movie lost a touch of credibility. At times the characters behave with a knack of ineptness that was totally nonsensical and perhaps underlined a lack of effort from the screenwriters. Victims leave themselves open to the killer’s murderous advances in such a fashion that makes you wonder if they were suicidal; and the director fails to add anything remotely different to the conclusion.
Questions will be raised about the numerous plot holes that are scattered throughout the runtime, but personally I feel that they add an extra layer of mystery to the synopsis. Audiences don’t always need to be hand-guided through a story. Gaps can be filled by a creative imagination and that is part of the beauty of cinema.
Toolbox Murders is not so much a remake of its 1978 ancestor as it is a complete re-imaging. Yes there’s a nail gun murder and a similar masked killer theme; but this time around we have an intriguing supernatural sheen, which makes the movie a tad more interesting. The rubbish mystery has been replaced with a good old school horror plot that works wonderfully, making this one of the best remakes of the nougties
All in all this is well worth picking up. Gory (one guy gets his head sawed in half ala Intruder),suspenseful (the final stalking scenes are brilliant) and well watchable to boot, this is Hooper almost back to his best. Let’s just hope that he can keep up the good work with his latest adventure – Mortuary (another remake?).
Killer Guise: √√√
Final Girl √√√√