Loretta Sisco On… My Bloody Valentine (2009)

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Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favorite things. Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years. Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too. Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on… something they love.

I had mixed reactions when I heard there was going to be a remake of one of my favorite horror movies, My Bloody Valentine. Would it be a 3-D disaster, or would it find a place in my heart with the original?

I had tickets to see the movie on opening night in 2009, but due to burst water pipes brought by freezing temperatures, the theater was closed, delaying our plans another week. I hoped that wasn’t an omen, and when I did see the show, it was worth the wait. I recall this movie being the start of many subsequent films released in 3-D. While 3-D may be popular among some moviegoers, I find the plastic frames theaters provide to be heavy and cumbersome, even more so if you wear prescription glasses. The DVD includes the old, cellophane-lens cardboard frames which were used once at home. If that isn’t your thing, the disc also contains a 2-D version of the film.

In the modern take on My Bloody Valentine, it’s the town of Harmony, not Valentine Bluffs, which sets the story. The plot differs somewhat from the original. The opening shows miner Harry Warden asking the owner’s son Tom Hanniger if he remembered to bleed the methane lines. Tom responds that he knows his job, but Harry disagrees. There is an explosion, and Harry Warden survives, but it is believed he killed the other trapped men to preserve his own oxygen. Harry is seen comatose in a hospital. A year later, on Valentine’s Day, he snaps out of it before killing staff and escaping.

Some time later, local kids are shown having a party down in the mine. In attendance that night are Axel, Tom, and Sarah. Unbeknownst to them, Harry has returned to his workplace, hiding below the surface to terrorize the young people. Harry kills a few partygoers before being stopped by the police.

Ten years have passed since Tom Hanniger left Harmony following the murders at the party. Where has he been all that time? He returns after the death of his father, and as majority shareholder, he plans to sell the mine, a decision which upsets the locals. Many residents still hold Tom responsible for what happened a decade ago. Just as he has returned to town, so has a killer dressed as a miner.

Is it a vengeful Harry Warden who brings havoc to Harmony, or is it Tom’s demons from the guilt of causing the disaster (if, in fact, he caused it)? Could it be Sherriff Axel Palmer, jealous of Tom’s relationship with his wife Sarah? True to the original, the plot twists keep the viewer unsure of the killer’s identity until the end.

There are hearts in candy boxes sent to authorities, but they lack the witty poems that accompanied the gruesome gifts in the 1981 version. Some deaths pay homage to the original. When you see the Palmers’ domestic help busy with the laundry, you just know someone is taking a spin in the dryer.

My favorite kill in this movie is Ben’s. He is attacked in his home by the miner and is forced to the floor. The killer swings his ax, missing the intended victim, but the weapon’s tip is embedded in the floor. The villain grabs Ben’s head and positions it above the exposed end of the pickax. Ben resists, but the miner ends the struggle with one kick to the old man, forcing his head to be impaled.

The killer in this film has better moves than his predecessor. He’s more agile, brutal, and expressive. The use of his head lamp as a searchlight to stalk victims, the way the pickax handle slides through his gloved fingers, makes him all the more menacing. There is an increased use of sound in the remake when it comes to the miner’s respiration, making him a creepy villain you will hear before you see.

One element in the story that bothered me was when Axel accused his wife Sarah of infidelity with suspect Tom. Axel was meeting Megan, Sarah’s coworker, for trysts in the woods, and had the nerve to fling accusations because he found an old picture on the dresser of Sarah and Tom. Axel’s smugness annoyed me more than it should have.

Since fan is short for fanatic, when I learned the mine where the movie was filmed could be visited, I wasted no time planning a road trip. In October the mine becomes a haunted attraction, so in October 2009, we drove six and a half hours to see the fictional Hanniger Mine, located just 20 minutes away from Pittsburgh.

Tour-Ed Mine and Museum in Tarentum, Pennsylvania, is Hanniger Mine in the movie. We rode down into the mine in a small cart to begin our adventure. Not only was it awesome to know that one of my favorite slasher movies was filmed there, but at the conclusion of the haunt we encountered an angry miner, clad in garb similar to the movie villain, complete with gas mask and pickax. It was a nightmare come true. The half hour it took to go through the attraction was well worth the long drive if you love this film.

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Since we travelled a great distance, we set out to find other filming locations. Seen in the movie’s opening is the Kittanning Citizens Bridge which spans the Allegheny River. This bridge can also be found in The Mothman Prophecies.

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Other than the actual mine, visiting the grocery store where Sarah and Megan take on the miner was a trip highlight. Kittanning is also home of Sprankle’s Neighborhood Market, renamed Mercer’s in My Bloody Valentine. I bought some Halloween decorations and a box of Twinkies from the store. (Zombieland was just out and we saw it in a nearby theater following our mine excursion. If you saw the movie you will understand the Twinkies reference). Below is a picture of the aisle where Sarah and Megan are confronted by the miner.

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I’ve had the good fortune to meet three stars of the My Bloody Valentine remake, Betsy Rue who played Irene, stuntman Chris Carnel, the man behind the miner’s mask, and the awesome Tom Atkins, who played Burke. Below are two pictures. In the first, Chris Carnel and I are holding a candy box prop from the movie that he autographed, “To Loretta! Be mine forever!” In the second photo I am delighted to meet actor Tom Atkins.

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Tom Atkins

As much as remakes are often unnecessary, I loved the My Bloody Valentine reboot. When I can’t choose which to watch, I will often decide on a double feature. If you liked the 1981 original, give 2009’s effort a try. This underrated horror character needs more fans.

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