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January 24th, 2009


by John Coakley

Just in time for Valentine’s Day.

New Yorkers have always looked back nostalgically to a time when the city was better/safer/more dangerous/more exciting/cheaper/friendlier/sexier, etc. This is especially true for Times Square; we tend to resent the tourist-friendly mecca for its crowds and sanitized, mainstream ways. We long for the days when 42nd Street was home to porn theaters and grindhouses—the kind of loud, smelly places where you could catch the latest kung fu epic, women in prison melodrama, or sleazy horror flick.

Maybe these films were offensive or degrading to some tastes, but movies like 1980’s Maniac, for example, delivered what they promised. As Quentin Tarantino would be quick to point out, that is why these were called exploitation films—not because they exploited women (some of them did, some of them didn’t; how one chooses to define that kind of exploitation is a subject for another time) but because they had an exploitable hook or a gimmick that put people’s butts in the theater’s chairs. Maybe the old Times Square was a dangerous place to visit, but you sure as hell weren’t going to see Cannibal Holocaust or Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things at the Paris or Lincoln Center. People needed catharsis when it looked like the city was falling apart. They wanted to forget their cares either through cheesy, outlandish violence that bordered on the comic, or disturbingly realistic violence that felt like a practice run for the very real dangers that lay right outside.

The remake of My Bloody Valentine that I saw at the Loews on 42nd Street last night definitely falls in the former of the two categories. There have been a lot of remakes of seminal horror films lately, and they’re usually enjoyable if one is able to treat them as completely distinct from their inspirations. In other words, Michael Bay can’t improve on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre but he can still provide an entertaining alternate version of it. It works even better when the original wasn’t that great to begin with, which is certainly the case here. The original Valentine was no classic, so this new story of a mining town haunted by a psycho killer in a creepy miner’s mask and wielding the world’s biggest pick axe had nowhere to go but up. And up it does go. Not only does this new version spill gore everywhere with creative killings left and right, provide a gratuitous sex scene that leads to one of the best chase scenes EVER and entertain us with some really bad acting, but it’s in 3-D. That’s right, folks: a whole bunch of violence and a little bit of sex popping out of the screen and into your lap. And this isn’t the red and blue lenses, headache-inducing 3-D of old. No, the glasses were completely comfortable and the effect perfectly seamless. Half the fun was in seeing the everyday scenes—not just pick axe coming straight at ya scenes—take advantage of this marvelous technology: That little dog is coming straight toward you! That jeep is coming straight toward you! The expository newspaper headline opening montage is coming straight toward you! You get the idea.

Usually, going to the movies in Times Square is a horrible idea. You don’t want to see a serious drama when people are taking on their cell phones or making comments at the screen. For My Bloody Valentine, it makes perfect sense. This movie is way too silly to actually terrify anyone, but the sight of someone’s eyeball getting poked out via a pick axe through the back of the head is one best experienced with a big, boisterous crowd. That kind of Coney-Island-in-Midtown thrill was one way that New Yorkers got through the pre-Wall Street boom days. It works just as well today.

Filed Under: Arts & Leisure | Community | Events | New York





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