Archive for the ‘Murder’ Category

 

This weekend I watched GROSSE POINTE BLANK again, for the first time in a long time. It’s eighteen years old now! It can vote! As an undergraduate film student, I wrote a seventeen-page paper on GROSSE POINTE BLANK — that’s how convinced I was of its greatness. I still love it, but I’ll try to be more brief here.

 

 

GROSSE POINTE BLANK has a perfect one-liner comedy concept – a contract killer accepts invitation to his ten-year high school reunion due to its proximity to his latest contract – and a sharp fit of a leading man in John Cusack, always the most cerebral of 1980s teen stars, who transitioned better than most into adult roles in the 1990s.

 

 

Cusack and his co-writers fine-tuned Tom Jankewicz’s original script and got the movie made under the direction of George Armitage, a filmmaker who works way too infrequently, having made the way-underrated hillbilly barnstormer VIGILANTE FORCE with Kris Kristofferson and Bernadette Peters, the somewhat-underrated (many cool people know how fantastic it is) crime classic MIAMI BLUES with Alec Baldwin and Jennifer Jason Leigh, and the most-underrated-of-all action epic HIT MAN with Bernie Casey and Pam Grier.

Armitage nails the unusual tone of GROSSE POINTE BLANK, a very dark comedy about a paid murderer who kills people for money and who is lovable mostly only because he’s played by that guy who everyone loved in BETTER OFF DEAD and SAY ANYTHING.

 

GROSSE POINTE BLANK is one of the best-sounding movies of its decade, which is quite a feat considering this was the era of DAZED & CONFUSED, PULP FICTION, DEAD PRESIDENTS, and FRIDAY. The score is by Joe Strummer of The Clash. Pretty epic ‘get’ there. The soundtrack is stacked with killer pop, ska, punk, and new-wave songs from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

The supporting cast is pretty deadly – Dan Aykroyd deftly playing against type as Grocer, an insane hitman and rival of Cusack’s Martin Blank, who in true capitalist fashion is looking to consolidate his industry.

Alan Arkin as Blank’s traumatized psychologist, Dr. Oatman, who is terrified of his patient and continually begs him to stop coming back.

Joan Cusack as Blank’s secretary, equally traumatized by her cuddly sociopath of a boss.

Hank Azaria and K. Todd Freeman as a pair of bored government spooks who Grocer sets on Blank.

MAGNUM FORCE’s Mitch Ryan — a Dirty Harry sidekick! — as the dad of Blank’s high school sweetheart (played by a very winning Minnie Driver).

Stuntman and martial artist Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, who probably has the movie’s single best line. (“It is I…”)

 

 

In retrospect, GROSSE POINTE BLANK is a bit less successful in its action-movie moments as it is any time it’s being a hyper-verbal, deep, dark, and truly bizarre character study. But boy, it’s not like we ever get too many of those. I mean, technically this is a romantic comedy where plenty of people get shot dead.  My kind of movie entirely. If I were making movies, I’d probably make one like this (though maybe not as witty). We flatter ourselves with self-descriptions sometimes.

 

grossepointeblank-07

 

And in case you were ever wondering where the name of my site came from, now you know!

 

 

 

 

Fire away at me on Twitter: @jonnyabomb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Invisible Man (1933)

Island of Lost Souls (1933)

I’m never happier than when I’m writing about old horror movies.  Hopefully that’s true for you too, because as of today, you can read what I wrote about a pair of old horror movies over at Daily Grindhouse!

>>>READ IT HERE!!!<<<

And then follow me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

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On the poster above, Quentin Tarantino describes MILANO CALIBRO 9 as “Il piu grande noir italiano de tutti i tempi”, which translates roughly to “This movie is fucking incredible.”  He also probably threw the N-word in there somewhere, but we try not to do that here.

The point is that Fernando DiLeo’s 1972 crime thriller MILANO CALIBRO 9, also known sometimes more simply as CALIBER 9, is a really, really cool crime flick, in a down-and-dirty and completely under-recognized way.  It’s about a career tough-guy who gets out of prison and is pressured by his old gang into revealing the location of money he may or may not know about.  The mob doesn’t believe him, the cops don’t believe him, even his fine-ass girlfriend (German actress Barbara Bouchet) doesn’t believe him.  Things get ugly.  That’s more than you need to know or care about the plot — not that the story isn’t worthwhile, but this movie has plenty else to recommend it besides its scriptwriting, I think.  The camerawork by Di Leo’s regular DP Franco Villa is aggressive, visceral, even a little sloppy, which makes the whole enterprise have the feel of a punch to the face in a dive bar.  The orchestral score Luis Enríquez Bacalov and the band Osanna is, most notably in the main theme, reminiscent of Morricone but with a bizarrely-awesome prog-rock twist.

It’s somewhere between documentary-style cinema-art and a brash, boistrous knuckle-dragging guy’s guy’s movie.  Just check out the opening sequence, which starts on a blatant phallic symbol and progresses into a flurry of slugfests, dynamite. and the least relaxing shave ever:

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You may notice from that sequence that, no offense, but most of the guys in this movie look a lot like like apes.  It has a lot to do with Di Leo’s apparent ambition with the picture, to portray crime as it probably should be portrayed — violent and animalistic and not as appealing as most movies paint it.

The lead actor, Gastone Moschin, who plays the excellently-named Ugo Piazza, is like a cross between Steve McQueen and Bruce Willis, but with a brow that weighs a ton.  Outside of a role in THE GODFATHER PART 2, he hasn’t been in many movies you’d have heard of, but he’s a very striking-looking dude.  Most movies wouldn’t think past casting a guy with this kind of looks (handsome but brutish) as a henchman, but it’s totally refreshing and probably necessary to have him as a protagonist.  Pretty-boys have little place in badass crime films — you want a guy who looks like he can scrap.

Mario Adorf plays the gregarious but vicious and explosive Rocco Musco as a kind of proto-Billy Batts.  Adorf was apparently Peckinpah’s first choice to play Mapache in THE WILD BUNCH, which tells you all you need to know about what this dude brings to the table.  Rocco is loud and obnoxious but oddly charismatic and you sure won’t forget his face.  Or his mustache.

Lionel Stander plays the ominous, malevolent crime boss.  Stander was an American actor with a long television career, but he played his share of roles in Italian cinema — notably in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.  Lionel Stander, like Ernest Borgnine or Willem Dafoe, is the kind of actor who is impossible to imagine was ever a baby.

The cops in this crime flick, the detectives on Ugo’s case, are given almost equal screen time to the cons, although they hardly get to leave the station.  They’re still compelling, played as they are by a couple of terrific journeymen actors who are well-remembered by fans of Italian cinema from the era.  Luigi Pistilli is probably best known as Tuco’s brother the priest in THE GOOD, THE BAD &THE UGLY, but he also played against Lee Van Cleef in DEATH RIDES A HORSE, had a key role in the unforgettable spaghetti THE GREAT SILENCE, and also starred in the great Enzo Castellari’s EAGLES OVER LONDON.  Meanwhile, Frank Wolff was an American who worked with Corman and Hellman before moving to Italy.  Like Pistilli, he worked with Sergio Leone (ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST) and Sergio Corbucci (THE GREAT SILENCE), in the latter movie providing some much-needed sardonic comic relief as he does also in CALIBER 9.

It’s a great cast, and a rambunctious, energetic movie overall.  The ending in particular strikes like a loud howl and a gut-shot.  Quite honestly my comfort zone is Italian westerns and not Italian crime films (outside of VIOLENT CITY, STREET LAW, and REVOLVER, all fantastic), but this one, widely-regarded as a high-water mark of the genre, has compelled me to get my homework done.

MILANO CALIBRO 9 has been screening all month at the Spectacle Theater in Brooklyn.

@jonnyabomb

 

   

PUNISHER: WAR ZONE & THE SAD STATE OF THE CINEMATIC SHIT-KICKER.

So I was one of those strange people who watched Punisher: War Zone during its brief theatrical run.  If you’re a fan of left-field action flicks and intentional unintentional humor, I’ll tell you it’s definitely worth that late-night rental.  If you like to get drunk, get drunk.  If you like to get high, get high.  If you’re like me and you’re a screwy enough personality even without adding any chemical influence, you’ll absolutely get a chuckle out of the thing. 

It’s total junk, but you know what?  Maybe most times you like to eat healthy.  But sometimes you somehow end up at McDonald’s.  And on occasion, while you’re there, you might even feel dumb enough to try the Fillet O’ Fish. 

Punisher: War Zone is the McDonald’s Filet O’ Fish sandwich of action movies – if you’re brave enough to try it, it’s a very temporary very positive experience which you will probably regret doing and probably not admit to having done.

No one will ever persuade me that even a moment of the previous two Punisher movies (in 1989 and 2004) were remotely watchable, and I’ve never been much of a fan of the character.  But the Garth Ennis Punisher stories are some of the few comics I have kept up with regularly for the last several years.  I’m not talking about the first few stories he did with Preacher collaborator Steve Dillon – those were over-the-top black comedy that’s not to my tastes.  The previous Punisher movie, the Thomas Jane one, went to that well, and “well” is not how that approach turned out.  No, instead I’m recommending (highly) the bleak, black-hearted stories Ennis has written more recently, including The Slavers, Barracuda, and The Long Cold Dark, in which the cold-blooded vigilante is pitted against enemies even crueler than he is.  It’s the only approach that makes much sense.  You have to go with the vicarious impulse.

So I don’t actually agree with the notion that The Punisher is too one-note a character to hang a movie upon.  Film franchises such as Death Wish and Friday The 13th managed to do very well for themselves with a one-note, mono-maniacal mass-murderer as the protagonist.  And in War Zone, the story actually starts with at least two relatively interesting concepts which could make The Punisher an interesting feature-film prospect.  One, he accidentally kills one of the good guys; two, he’s put in conflict with a cop who has a more traditional right on his side.

The movie just happens to bury that promising story framework in a sloppy, overacted, underlined, frequently hilarious comedy.  War Zone is unstructured, aggressively miscast, and lit like a caricature of a 1985 Michael Mann film.  (Neon is everywhere – I especially liked the shot of a character sitting on a stool in front of a shelf of assorted liquor: cut to a wider shot featuring a lime-green neon sign proclaiming “BAR.”) 

Maybe Garth Ennis himself could have written up a dark, interesting Punisher movie, but that won’t ever happen.  At this point, another Punisher movie is probably out of the question entirely. 

Especially not after you see the performances of the movie’s lead villains, Dominic West as Jigsaw and Doug Hutchison as L.B.J.  These guys are starring in a campy, incestuous John Waters comedy, playing homicidal psychopathic brothers with insanely ridiculous accents.  Somebody went and mixed the Punisher into their weird-ass movie, instead of the other way around.

On the subject of that Punisher – the one place where Punisher: War Zone isn’t totally miscast is with Ray Stevenson.  I first noticed Ray Stevenson in King Arthur, which was not a great movie but it was stocked with great badasses such as Clive Owen and Ray Winstone.  If you know Ray Stevenson at all, you know him from Rome, the HBO series in which, among other things, he pulls out some dude’s tongue with his teeth

I don’t know if Ray Stevenson makes a great Punisher, exactly –  he probably projects too much depth for that – but he is quite skilled in the bad-ass arts.  He’s convincing as a shit-kicker in a way that very few actors are, especially these days.  I wish to hell somebody would give Ray Stevenson a different movie in which to practice shit-kicking, because he’s so very good at it. 

Which brings me to a deeper point…

While I was watching Punisher: War Zone, I started thinking about how rare that badass action movies about the great shit-kickers have become.  Shitkickers used to be so popular; not so much anymore.  Where are the big, ugly, mean mother fuckers? 

Where’s Charles Bronson, who was always so many more shades of tough than people give him credit from just the Death Wish films? 

 Where’s today’s equivalent of James Coburn?  Lanky, toothy, fierce, unfukwitable?

Would there be room today for a wonderfully unique, growly, and two-fisted actor like Warren Oates? 

Do we have anyone on the 2008 landscape who could play the kind of roles that men like William Holden, Jason Robards, Robert Ryan, Toshiro Mifune, or Steve McQueen routinely played? 

Could my beloved hero Clint Eastwood have his amazing, legendary career if he were to start out today?

It used to be that movies had a place for men, real men – men acting mean for the sake of good.  They were convincing as tough guys and they gave our dads and grandpas the metaphorical instruction manual as to how to behave.  Looks were secondary, tertiary, or lower still, as qualifications for cinematic supremacy – physical beauty had little or nothing to do with the careers of John Wayne, most likely the most popular and famous American movie star of all time, or of Humphrey Bogart, one of the best remembered.

So I gotta be a little concerned about the state of American masculinity when the most popular action-movie character of the last ten years is…

Captain Jack Sparrow. 

Johnny Depp is great, but while he’s admirably tried to fight it, he’s ultimately, unavoidably, a pretty-boy.  And in the Pirates movies, he’s an action hero with makeup

Dude’s got makeup on, and HE’S the ruler of all the pirates?  Tyrone Power was a pretty-boy too, but he went easier on the makeup at least.  But these are the pirate movies our generation gets.  Babyfaces for babies.  I actually like Orlando Bloom, but he’s in those movies to make Jack Sparrow look butch.  You see my point?

The next most popular lead in action movies?  Probably it’s Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man.  Now, I’m a big Tobey fan, despite and/or because of the universally agreed-upon fact that he resembles me pretty much exactly.  (On a good day, I also get the Jake Gyllenhaal comparison, but that works even more damningly towards my point.  Gyllenhaal is twice the romantic, sensitive poet type that Maguire is.)  While Sam Raimi is all the more a genius for casting my doppelganger as the greatest comic book hero who isn’t Batman, I still have an issue with this, weirdly enough.  I’m not sure that our action heroes should necessarily resemble me – at least, not as a rule, rather than the exception.  Our action heroes should look like they FLOSS with runts like me.

The guys who should be in that spot haven’t broke through to action in the way I’m describing. 

Clive Owen has not exactly been able to hit as an action star the way he should be. 

Russell Crowe was holding it down for a minute there, but he rushed off into serious-actor territory and never really returned. 

Bruce Willis was great at it, but he seems not to be doing it [in watchable movies] anymore. 

Sam Jackson is brilliant at it, but he works so often that it’s not special anymore. 

Keanu Reeves and Matt Damon were very solid in the Matrix and Bourne films, but remember, they were cast against type. 

Denzel can do it, but he’s got so many other vivid facets to work at, and all of them are squarely in leading man territory – he’s more a Robert Mitchum than an Ernest Borgnine. 

Daniel Day-Lewis can do it (Gangs of New York) but usually refuses to. 

I could see Mickey Rourke getting it done, but the proper system isn’t in place. 

Remember, I’m not maligning any of these actors – I don’t think I’ve mentioned a one that I don’t think is legitimately great.  I’m merely talking about a genre that seems to have disappeared off the big screen, a joyfully malevolent genre where pretty faces exist only to get pushed in.

In action, real down-and-dirty shit-kicking action flicks, generally the actors who we think of today strictly as character actors should actually be the kings.

Casting Daniel Craig as Bond was a great step, in my opinion.  He was kicked up from villainous supporting roles, in movies like Road To Perdition, to the big time.  I know the ladies find Daniel Craig dreamy, but I like him because he looks like he’s actually been in some fights; maybe there’s even a busted nose somewhere in his hazy past.  I’m not particularly a Bond fan, and those fancy spy extravanganzas aren’t the kind of movies I’m talking about, but I like that he’s out there in big movies.

But outside of all of the above – really, what else is out there? 

I like The Rock in movies, but he’s not the answer we need.  He’s a little too metro, and definitely too funny. 

I like Mark Wahlberg too, a whole lot, but as an actor way more than an action guy – I’ll never be able to forget “Good Vibrations” no matter how good the guy was in Boogie Nights and Three Kings

Jason Statham is decent at what he does, but there’s nothing quintessentially American about that guy – he’d ideally be the fourth down the line in a badass ensemble, not the headliner.  Besides, he used to be a male model. Dismissed.

Hayden Christensen keeps getting action roles, but come on now, seriously. 

Hugh Jackman has a little Clint in his look, but also a whole lot of musical theater. 

That kid in the Twilight movie is inevitably going to get his shot in an action flick now, but he looks like Kate Winslet to me.

  
We’re THIS close to a Justin Timberlake action movie.  That’s all I’m warning against. 

And if that happens, I guarantee Lee Marvin is going to be royally pissed.

You know, the world is upside down.  You’d have to vacate movies almost entirely and go all the way to television in order to see the character actor running rampant in his badassed primacy.  You’d have to watch The SopranosThe ShieldRescue MeThe WireOz.  The characters on Lost who used to star on Oz.  And of course, Rome.

All of which brings us back to Ray Stevenson.  He’s part of the solution.  But he can’t do it alone.

Consider all of the above to be an S.O.S.

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This essay was originally posted in December in 2008. Since then, the most dire prophecy contained within it has come to pass.  The situation has not much improved.  “It gets better,” my ass.

Doesn’t look happy.

 

http://twitter.com/jonnyabomb

 

 

 

Jennifer Aniston boobs Horrible Bosses topless

In my opinion, Seth Gordon is a comedy director to watch.  He made a few short films before breaking through in a big way with the documentary The King Of Kong: A Fistful Of Dollars in 2007.  His follow-up, Four Christmases, was a big-star romantic comedy that was worth a try, even if it shrinks in the long shadow of Gordon’s debut.  He then went on to direct episodes of Community, Parks & Recreation, The Office, and Modern Family, which pretty much covers almost all of the best comedies on television, and also co-created a fun, short-lived series called Breaking In.  I’m well at the point where I’ll check out a movie based on his name.

So now, Horrible Bosses, directed by Seth Gordon from a story by Michael Markowitz and a screenplay co-written by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (a.k.a. Sam Weir from Freaks & Geeks!!!)

Well this is going to be a short little review here, because there’s really only ever one question that counts with a comedy, which is, “Is it funny?”  Did I laugh?  Yeah, and frequently.  Horrible Bosses has an admirable joke-to-laugh batting average.  The premise, where three likable losers plot to murder their unlivewithable bosses, is an instantly compelling one.  Sure, it’s reminiscent of Strangers On A Train and its loose remake, Throw Momma From The Train, but the characters are aware of that, and not in an annoying self-referential way either.  And the cast is uniformly terrific, starting with ace deadpanner Jason Bateman (always clutch with a reaction shot), likeable horndog Jason Sudeikis (in a much more agreeable rendition of his similarly-geared character from Hall Pass), and shrieking “hamster” Charlie Day (from FX’s It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia), and continuing to a murderer’s row of great evil bosses, Kevin Spacey (as a motherfucker from hell), Colin Farell (as a cokehead philanderer sleazebag), and Jennifer Aniston (as a sexual predator, basically).

Are they all funny?  Definitely.  Did I laugh?  Several times.

Do I have a few reservations?  Yeah.  Overall, I liked and would recommend the movie, but if you want to hear the reservations, read on.

Basically it comes down to this:  In the end, in my heart, I never really bought into the premise, as executed.  The script, direction, and performance of Horrible Bosses plays well with the more questionable notions it raises – namely, that these three generally decent guys would ever seriously conspire to murder, that anyone would turn to Jamie Foxx as “a murder consultant”, that anybody would even complain about Jennifer Anistion sexually harassing them – but ultimately it didn’t sit right with me all the same.  The reason for that is, because I, as the audience, never wanted what the three main characters wanted, which is to see those boss characters dead.  Spacey is a great villain, playing a role he’s absolutely played before, in Swimming With Sharks, Glengarry Glen Ross, Casino Jack, and that serial killer movie which shall remain nameless.  Farrell has rarely had a chance to be funny, but he’s as deft a comedian here as he was in In Bruges,  He throws off the badass pretty-boy thing entirely to look and act utterly horrible in a totally hilarious way, and of all the characters, he’s the one who’s hardly in the movie enough.  And Aniston… hey, I’m already a fan, but there’s new stuff happening here.  She’s cruelly sexy, but also bold and perfectly-pitched and completely foul-mouthed, maybe more than any of the male characters.  It’s a great comedy performance, regardless of being so much fun to look at.

That’s also a problem though.  I’m supposed to want, anywhere in me, to see these characters dead, and I don’t, not for a second.  They’re the characters who keep the movie alive, who lend it whatever asshole glory it attains.  Not every comedy needs to make an audience want what its characters want, but in a black comedy like this one, it helps.  Think of Throw Momma From The Train.  Think of what makes that movie effective and funny.  That lady was scary!  (Even if you end up liking her too.)  I feel like Horrible Bosses could have been even better if the bosses went further, if they were just a couple inches meaner.  I’m not sure exactly how to quantify this, but it’s a question of tone, and it’s not easy business.  Horrible Bosses generally has the right tone, but in the crucial area of hating the bosses, or more exactly, loving to hate them, it didn’t work for me personally.  Spacey and Farrell are having too much contagious fun, and Aniston is doing the same, and is too damn good-looking to boot.

More troubling on a personal level I wasn’t comfortable with the frequent usage of the word “bitch” to describe Aniston’s character.  Defenders of this terminology can shrug off my objection if they want, but I’m prepared to die on this hill.  Horrible Bosses doesn’t have many female characters:  There’s Charlie Day’s fiancée (a non entity), Sudeikis’s “pregnant” coworker (essentially one extended fat joke), Farrell’s two Asian playmates, and Julie Bowen as Spacey’s wife, who isn’t more than one note.  Jennifer Aniston plays the movie’s only real female character, and she’s introduced with huge white letters naming her “BITCH” and then referred to as such several more times throughout the movie.  Look, I’m not calling this movie misogynist, because I don’t believe it is, but it ain’t exactly pro-lady either.  I don’t personally make a habit of calling women “bitches” and I don’t have much respect for guys who do.  There are more creative ways of describing female characters, and I would have preferred to have heard some.  It’s not as if these writers and performers aren’t proficient enough with language to have come up with other terminology.  I know this is basically a question of taste, but in this case, I think my taste is just plain better.

But overall, I had fun with the movie, certainly enough to recommend it.  The situations the characters get themselves into are generally fresh and unpredictable, and the energy of the three leads is a lot of fun.  Most modern comedies are driven by lone wolves or duos, but there’s a classic comedy symmetry to trios.  Bateman, Sudeikis, and Day make a solid trio, and their buddy-banter makes many of the movie’s best moments.  And there’s an intelligence behind Horrible Bosses’ engine and direction:  It’s one of the few convincing recession comedies of the past few years.  Why do these guys hang onto their jobs so long?  Why don’t they just quit?  Well, because jobs are hard to find.  Makes sense.  I think that the best movies, even the comedies (especially the comedies), have this level of thinking behind them, or at least can stand up to this line of interpretation.  How much does a comedy engage in its cultural moment?  The more it does, the more resonant it is, the deeper and more appreciated the laughs.  Horrible Bosses is a good distance from perfect, but in its best moments, it brings real, genuine, familiar, earned laughter.  Which brings me back to that one pivotal question.  Which is why you probably will like this movie.  Maybe even more than I did.

 

My Bloody Valentine started out as a lesser-known Canadian slasher film from the 1980s (which I haven’t seen).  Because name recognition is king, it was updated in 2009 with a bigger budget, a glossier cast, and what was at the time a technology that was way past its prime.  Two years later, it’s strange to remember, but 3D was an archaic technology and a gamble of a release strategy.  For better or worse, Avatar was undoubtedly the movie that changed that.  But the My Bloody Valentine remake beat ‘em to it by several months.

 

This week, My Bloody Valentine 3D is of interest because we are about to see the next offering from its creative team, director/co-writer Patrick Lussier and actor/co-writer Todd Farmer.  It’s called Drive Angry 3D and I can’t wait.  As I’ve noted before, My Bloody Valentine 3D was knowingly trashy fun with some real technical acuity, and Drive Angry 3D, from all the trailers, looks like more of the same.  As we roll into Oscar weekend, one of the most pretentious times of the year, this is just what the doctor ordered.

Here’s what I wrote about My Bloody Valentine 3D back in 2009.  There are absolutely no spoilers, but my brief comments on the 3D format are somewhat telling.

 

It wasn’t as easy as I thought to get to see Notorious, the cinematic life story of Christopher Wallace, The Notorious B.I.G..  Somehow I thought that I could just slip into the theater, in New York, in Times Square, on opening day – what a maroon!

Instead I bought a ticket for My Bloody Valentine 3D!  The ticket came with 3-D glasses.  The movie was a blast.  I knew that it was going to be, even before the opening sequence, because some of the other folks who couldn’t get a ticket for Notorious spilled into the theater with me.  So when the disclaimer screen appeared, politely advising, “Please put on your 3-D glasses now,” some guy in the row behind me shouted out: “PUT ON YOUR GLASSES, NIGGA!”

(If Rowdy Roddy Piper had said that to Keith David in They Live, that interminable alleyway fist-fight would’ve lasted twice as long.)

Point is, My Bloody Valentine is an audience participation movie and my audience was more than willing to participate.

Look, there are many other horror fiends and gorehounds who can explain to you what’s so fun about this movie, and whether or not it beats other psycho-killer flicks.  I will tell you that I am hardly a fan of the slasher film genre, and yet I loved watching My Bloody Valentine.  It has a couple surprises, a couple inventive ideas, somewhat better acting and character development than you expect, not as many crappy bits as you expect, a bunch of pretty girls, and a little person with a shotgun (or did I hallucinate that scene?).  No, it happened.  There is an extended sequence where the menacing psycho-killer faces down a dwarf woman who will not go softly into that good night.  That’s really not something you see every day.

The story has to do with old crimes in a small town.  A mining accident a decade in the past led to a horrific situation where the one survivor, Harry Warden, could only escape a cave-in by killing his fellow miners (to preserve the oxygen).  The mine owner’s son (Jensen Ackles from TV’s Supernatural) was partly to blame for the accident, and to compound his torment, a now-crazed Harry Warden awakens and goes on a Valentine’s Day murdering spree.  Warden is forced back into the mine, and seems to disappear, and the mine heir leaves town.  Of course, he returns a decade later with plans to sell the mine, and coincidentally, a series of murders resumes.  Is it Harry Warden?

Who cares, really, but the movie actually does do a way-better-than-average job of keeping you guessing for a while.  The main suspense is in the jump-scares, the main shocks are in the intensity and the speed of the gore-gags (Harry Warden wields a pick-axe, and you can imagine what kind of mischief a guy like that can get up to with an R-rating in 3D technology.)  The cast does the most they can with their roles, especially the excellent character actor Kevin Tighe and the genre legend Tom Atkins.

Tom Atkins!

You’d also have to single out the intrepid Betsy Rue for her work in the movie’s most memorable scene, in which she is stalked by the killer and actually does an impressive job fending him off, especially because she is running around entirely naked.  Even though my personal tastes tend to closer run to her costar Megan Boone, I have to salute this courageous young actress.  It’s a genuinely heroic performance.  That’s all I can (or should) say.

As for the technology, it’s well worth a look.  I’m sure it tripled the fun I had with the movie.  After seeing how this mid-budget horror picture looks and works in 3-D, I feel like this technology has a lot of potential.  Once I got accustomed to the wearing of the glasses and all the self-consciousness that wearing them implies, I was fascinated by every frame.  I can only imagine what Spielberg or Mann or Boyle or Nolan or Del Toro or Raimi – holy cow, Raimi! – could do with 3-D cameras.  In the meantime, see this movie in the theaters while you can – and take a date.  Or at least, your funniest friend.