MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981)
Directed by George Mihalka
Unfortunately, the original doesn't kick off with the same violent, shocking intro as the remake -- instead we witness two masked miners wandering through a mine, and then, for no reason at all and with no explanation, one miner removes her mask and clothing, revealing long waves of blond hair and a heart tattoo on her left breast. She seduces the other miner, stroking his oxygen tube. He suddenly has a "change of heart" and impales her on his pickaxe. Roll intro credits. The 2009 remake takes hold of the audience within the first 5 minutes, opening with a brutal scene at Mercy Hospital where our killer Harry Warden has just awoken from a coma, and mutilated everyone in his path. Blood drips from the walls and fresh corpses litter the hallways. Take your "pick!"
Of course the plot development differs in both films -- every director interprets a script differently. In the original, local legend tells us that Harry Warden escaped from a mental hospital, returning to Valentine Bluffs to kill residents on the night of the Valentine Dance, a tradition he warns the townies to cancel every year . . . or die. The "kids" ignore the town bartender's warning and a bunch of candy boxes housing human hearts, and have a Valentines party at (you guessed it) the Hanniger Mine, where the first set of murders took place years ago. One by one they are killed off, in typical slasher fashion, with a "twist" of an ending that is all too predictable. The remake takes a different approach, following the individual lives of each character and focusing on their interaction while trying to determine who the killer is. The characters have a history, and feel much more real. Throughout the storyline we are treated to gory high-tech death scenes that are further enhanced by the 3-D technology.
The original is a low budget Canadian slasher film that echoed the genre stereotypes of its predecessors, Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980). One obvious difference between the two films is the usage of CGI, 3-D, and special gore effects in the remake, technology that was unavailable at the time of the original. However, the 1981 version was way ahead of its time in that it shocked the viewer with realistic gore effects and fantastic on-location camerawork inside a real mine, a difficult feat even for modern film, due to the lighting and camera challenges filmmakers are faced with when shooting underground in a mine rather than inside a man-made studio setting. The first-person point of view of Harry Warden is the most terrifying aspect of the original (especially when we hear his breathing through the mask and witness the murders through his own eyes), a concept that was regrettably missing from the remake. Why the 2009 director (Patrick Lussier) decided to omit this POV is beyond me, considering how effective it was in both Halloween and Friday, when Michael Myers' and Jason's breathing made the very hairs on the back of our necks stand up straight.
Another notable comparison is the character development in both films. The actors in the original are too old for their roles (and terrible actors at that), so we sympathize with them much less, whereas in the remake the character development is much stronger. We get a real sense of their history & friendship -- growing up in a small town I could relate to their feelings of discomfort and terror when their innocent home turf is turned upside down by a series of grisly murders. Our murderer Harry Warden doesn't change much -- the miner mask and pick axe are the tools of a memorable 1980's slasher icon, putting him right at the head of the class with Jason, Freddy, Leatherface, and Myers -- changing his appearance would have been simply disastrous for the remake.
While vastly different in terms of plot, characterization, and cinematography, both films shine in their use of creative kills. Most notably for the original is the old woman's melted corpse in the dryer at the local laundromat. In the remake the sheriff's jaw is torn off by Harry's pickaxe and flies off the screen in all its 3-D glory. Gaping chest cavities with missing hearts are trademark effects in each film, but today's modern film magic makes My Bloody Valentine 3-D a more rewarding experience. Make sure you check out the DVD extras for some cool insight into the special effects used in the film . . .
Speaking of the DVD, it is important to note that the original film fell victim to a great deal of censorship in the 80's, and until the 2009 Lionsgate release the film had not been seen in its original format. Cuts were requested to every death sequence in the movie. Even after cutting the movie to match the requirements made by the MPAA, the film was returned with an X-rating and more cuts were demanded. But if you grab this year's release you can see it all!