I KILLED TOM ATKINS -- Review: "My Bloody Valentine 3D"

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If you've got a dark spot in your heart where an unapologetic love for slasher flicks, blood-spurting gore, dismemberment, and innovative filmmaking resides, I've got six words for ya: Go. See. My Bloody Valentine 3D.

I'm no film critic, and I'm not going to pretend to have an unbiased perspective about Valentine 3D, the new LionsGate horror flick. I'm buddies with Valentine 3D's director Patrick Lussier, and even had a smidgen of input on the script. The end result? I killed Tom Atkins. More on that in a moment.

Back to Valentine 3D. The movie is equal parts cutting-edge modern horror flick, and homage to the great classic slasher pictures of the late '70s and early '80s -- the original 1981 My Bloody Valentine being one of them. The grisly tale takes place in Harmony, Penn., a mining town that's running on fumes ... and haunted by a mineshaft massacre ten years ago.

Back then, young Tom Hanniger (played by the my-goodness-could-the-guy-be-any-studlier Jensen Ackles, best known for Supernatural) made a grave mistake while overseeing his father's mine. A tunnel collapsed, trapping several miners. Only one emerged alive days later: Harry Warden. He slayed all of his colleagues after the accident, to preserve his air supply.

Warden goes on another killing spree on Valentine's Day, and is killed by Sheriff Burke (played by the mighty Tom Atkins; geeks will remember him from The Fog and Escape From New York, as well as Maniac Cop). Warden is gone for good.

Or is he?

Cut to ten years later, as Hanniger returns to Harmony after a mysterious disappearance. He's here to sell his father's mining company, but his sudden appearance disrupts the quiet lives of the friends (and former lover) he left behind. Worse still, it looks like psychopath Harry Warden is also back in town ... and he's got a pickaxe to grind with damned-near everyone.

Bring on the gore, baby!

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The movie is unapologetically violent, knows exactly what it is -- and what its audience expects -- and delivers. This ain't no PG-13 horror flick (PG-13 is for pussies, demographic sweet spots be damned), and it ain't no presposterous "torture porn" snuff-film wannabe, ala Saw, either.

This is a man in a creepy-as-hell miner's suit (complete with spooky rebreather) with a pickaxe. And he's bringing a world of hurt to sleepy little Harmony.

I want to comment on four noteworthy things before I talk about my role in killing Tom Atkins: Gore, story, 3D and editing.

GORE: Valentine 3D's got it. There's gobs-o-gallons of blood gushing in this flick -- poor Jensen Ackles gets a faceful in the first 10 minutes -- and the death scenes are memorable and inventive. Villain Harry Warden is towering and iconic (definitely a 21st century "Jason" if you're into that sort of thing) and jeepers, the things he does with that pickaxe. I'm kinda scarred for life on the whole pickaxe thing now.

STORY: There's more than just blood pumping in this picture. The movie is smarter than its peers, and there are some delightful sparkles of dialogue and dark humor here. It's a lean and mean movie -- we don't waste much time deep sea diving into backstories of archetypal characters we already know so well -- and I partculalry enjoyed the Scream-esque "Who's the killer?" subplot. The ending is taut and well-conceived ... and be sure to stick around after the end credits. Not all may be what it seems.

3D, PART ONE: 3D's come a long way, baby. The 3D experience is rock-solid in Valentine 3D, and its filmmakers took great care to frame and shoot even the most pedestrian scenes (exposition, procedural stuff, etc.) with the technology in mind. There's always something "popping" on the screen, which Lussier and Co. deftly use for emotional and narrative impact.

3D, PART TWO: And while I admire Lussier's use of 3D in the obligitory "everyday" shots in Valentine 3D, he and cinematographer Brian Pearson get a standing ovation for its use in action and horror scenes. The pickaxe, blood and body parts fly. I physically reacted more than once -- "Oh shit!" *dodge* -- and cringed as the murderous mayhem soared my way.

EDITING: Lussier's direction is great stuff, and the actors are clearly having fun in Valentine 3D -- these are talented young people who came packing their A-games. But it's the film's editing that truly shines. Lussier, who has been Wes Craven's editor for the past 15 years, co-edited Valentine 3D, and his bloody fingerprints are all over it. The man is a master at both the "Boo!" scare, and the more terrifying slow burn tension scenes. Special props go out to composer Michael Wandmacher for a truly compelling score.

MY INVOLVEMENT: Okay, so now that I've gushed about the picture, what did I contribute to Valentine 3D? Months before principal photography, 7th Son fan Lussier asked me to take a peek at the script, and offer feedback. I did, pointing out some character stuff, digging the action and ending, and suggesting that there be more variation in the death scenes. I even pitched one.

Lussier kindly obliged ... and Tom Atkins took it in the jaw on my account. Go see the movie, and watch the angonizing horror that Lussier and Hutchins wrought upon the poor man. I gave a hoot during its blood-spattered punchline.

UPDATE: Check out what Atkins himself said when he read the death scene in the script: "I'm in for that! I want to do that!"

Also look for the name "HUTCHINS" on-screen during an interrogation scene between Harrigan (Ackle) and young Sheriff Palmer (smartly played by Kerr Smith). I also snag a "special thanks" mention in the end credits. That, friends, made my decade.

So whaddya waiting for? Don your miner's helmet, grab a pickaxe for protection, and check out My Bloody Valentine 3D!

--J.C.