MY BLOOD VALENTINE IN 3D, the remake of the 1981 Canadian slasher film, opens in theatres nationwide today. Last night, director Paul Lussier and writer Todd Farmer attended a preview screening at the Arclight Cinemas Hollywood and answered questions about the film. (Lussier will be appearing after the 8:00pm screening of the film at the Arclight Cinemas Sherman Oaks on Saturday - click here for details.) Attendance on Thursday night was sparser than I expected, which is to say there were lots of people but it was not a sell-out, inspite of the chance to mee the director and the screenwriter in person. Nevertheless, those in attendance did enjoy the film, hooting and hollering as though they were white-water rafting (or should that be red-river rafting) on a tidal wave of blood. Afterwods, Ryan Rotten of Shock Till You Drop moderated the discussion with the two filmmakers, who offerd a handful of behind-the-scenes stories. WARNING: Spoilers!
The first topic was the reason for being interested in remaking this particular property.
TODD FARMER: The original terrified me when I was young. The thing with the drier was a tribute to it. I saw that when I was a kid, and it screwed me up so bad that I never saw the movie again until we started doing this. I subconsciously just stayed away from it. It was great to watch it again while working on this because I had forgotten how great a movie it really was. Some people have trouble with it because it is tongue in cheek, but I love it. I love the fact that horror can be SAW; horror can be BLOODY VALENTINE; it can be so many different things.
PATRICK LUSSIER: Being from Canada, this is a very big Canadian icon. It’s unabashedly Canadian. When you get a chance to revisit these characters and the situation, it’s pretty great.
What elements did Lussier and Farmer want to retain from the original, and what did they want to change?
PATRICK LUSSIER: The big thing was the miner itself. The love triangle. The murder mystery. The drier. The hanging mining clothes – which is exactly how they do that in a mine. And smashing the lights when the miner comes in at the end.
TODD FARMER: The biggest difference was that we were going to treat this a little more realistically than tongue in cheek. Hopefully, there is humor there, but it comes out of the situations more so than jokiness. As far as adapting it, it felt like there was a rich texture there. A couple people poked fun when I said we really liked the love triangle aspect of it. Why would you want to laugh at that? Anybody older than sixteen has been involved in a love triangle whether you like it or not. We liked the way that it worked. I think the biggest aspect for me was… a lot of what you see on screen is not necessarily the writers; it’s this guy [Lussier]. He’s been doing this forever, and because he comes from an editing background, he sees things that I never saw. So as far as the writing, he gets as much credit as I do.
When was the decision made to shoot in 3-D?
PATRICK LUSSIER: Mike Pasternack (of Lionsgate] wanted to remake the film. He had been involved as an executive on the original film. Then it was talked about: ‘We might want to do it in 3D.’ As we got closer and closer to getting ready to shoot it, we started doing tests in 3D. The second we did the first test and showed it to everybody, that was pretty much the clincher. We went to a stage and set up our faux mine with black clothe and ladders and had somebody walk through, you could see the potential in it.
One challenge was keeping the kills interesting, because the homicidal maniac always uses the same weapon, a pick ax.
PATRICK LUSSIER: That was something we talked about with Gary Tunniclif, our special effects makeup guy. He said, ‘You can’t just hit him with a pick ax; he’s got to do something terrible to them.” He wrote this thing called “A Document of Death,” which outlined a million ways to kill somebody with a pick ax. We would go through and apply it to certain scenes. Kevin Tighe’s death came out of the location. He originally died quickly in the script. Then when we found that house with the wooden floors, that led to the pick in the floor and the EXORCIST III homage for the killer’s entrance in that sequence. Burk’s death was always that way, although it originally happened earlier in the film. Really it’s the last death you see on camera, so it needed to be spectacular. The jaw ripped off was quite a horrible thing to do.
Coming up with inventive 3D kills was less a concern for screenwriter Farmer, who was focusing on other elements.
TODD FARMER: In the beginning the biggest concentration was on the story and characters. We wanted to keep the audience guessing: maybe it was Tom; maybe it was Axel. What would happen was, he [Lussier] would call up in the middle of the night and say, ‘So there’s this girl and a shovel…!” A lot of stuff came out of him just being nutty.
PATRICK LUSSIER: The kills came out of necessity, trying to exploit the 3D. You’ve got to sit there and look at it and wonder ‘What would it be?’ It’s not all coming at you. For the coming at you things, the technical term is ‘Outie.’ The shovel gag is called an ‘Innie,’ because you’re actually attached to the end of the shovel as the audience. It was just figuring out how to play with the three-dimensional space.
The original MY BLOOD VALENTINE is more famous for what was not shown. In the wake of outrage over the graphic violence in 1980's FRIDAY THE 13TH, MY BLOODY VALENTINE was eviscerated in order to achieve an R-rating from the Motion Picture Association of America. Lussier managed to avoid problems by overshooting with the goal of being able to trim back to the cut he wanted after showing a longer version to the MPAA.
PATRICK LUSSIER: We showed them a more extreme version the first time out, in 3D. There was a sex scene that was three times as long, which we felt would be the thing they would go after, and it was. Knowing that that was something we would never unleash on an audience, we had something that we were willing to cut out. We had enhanced a few of the kills even further, so when they came back and said, ‘We hve some problems here, here, and here,’ we said, ‘Oh, let us address that.’ Very quickly we sent them back the version of the movie we had been working on and really wanted. They said, ‘Oh yeah, this is fine.’
The film acknowledges its roots in the '80s slasher genre by casting Tom Atkins, who appeared in several John Carpenter films.
PATRICK LUSSIER: I was a huge fan of Tom Atkins. The original THE FOG was the first R-rated movie I ever saw. We were shooting in Philly and a friend of mine said, ‘Tom Atkins lives here – you’ve got to get him in your movie.” We immediately met with Tom and offered him the part and started fleshing it out even further so he had a much longer stay in the movie.
Screenwriter Todd Farmer (who also had an on screen death in JASON X, which he wrote), appears as a trucker who videotapes himself having sex with a woman in a hotel room. His attempt to get away from the woman, who demands the tape back at gunpoint, is interrupted by the killer miner. Why did Farmer take this role, which involves nudity and makeup effects?
TODD FARMER: I did audition for this one, but that’s not how it came about. He [Lussier] called and he was telling me this part was going to be cast locally, which is great – there are a lot of local actors in the Pittsburg area. The difficulty was that if we got someone who had never done it before, it could be challenging because there’s special effects, which take a lot of time. And getting naked is this whole other thing you have to deal with - there’s sex and all this other stuff. I was complaining, ‘It’s like going to Vegas – it’s a crapshoot. We don’t know what we’re going to get.’ It’s a small role but it’s a difficult role. He [Lussier] said, ‘Yeah, I know. Will you do it?’ I asked my wife. I thought she would say no. She said, ‘Rock star!’
Patrick Lussier earned his dues as an editor working for West Craven. Did he learn any lessons from the creator of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET?
PATRICK LUSSIER: Absolutely. I have been very fortunate to work with Wes since 1991 with NIGHTMARE CAFÉ. Over the years I have just picked up a lot of advice. Simple things: If it’s scary, make it darker. Always have your misdirection in mind. Never sacrifice character for style. Too often, horror movies are all style and shaky cameras, and it disengages you from the experience. RED EYE from Wes is a great example of a movie that has incredible tension with close ups of two actors sitting side by side. We talked about that: ‘Are you going to do some kind of fancy camera moves through the plane?’ He said, ‘I’m not going to do anything like that because that’s not where the drama is.’ That’s not how you connect to the audience. That was a big thing to learn.
What are the plans for the DVD release?
PATRICK LUSSIER: I think they’re talking about releasing it in 3D. It may be anaglyph. They’re still trying to figure out the polarizing process for release on video. It may be a year away from that. There’s a stack of deleted and extended scenes, a couple of Easter Eggs, and a commentary with Todd and I yammering away through the whole movie like we’re in your living room. Then I think we have a few other extras.
If there is a sequel, what will it be like?
PATRICK LUSSIER: Obviously do it in 3D again. The second part would be bigger, badder, nastier and probably have more massacres!
RELATED ARTICLE: Read a review of the film at Cinefantastique Online.