My bloody poor attempt at horror

My bloody poor attempt at horror

My grand scheme this week was to rent both the 1981 and the just-out-on-DVD 2009 versions of My Bloody Valentine in order to compare and contrast the two. My fiancee and I had both really wanted to watch the latter version in the theater when it was being shown in 3-D last February, but missed it. The version released two years after my birth showed up in the mail first and oddly had previews for current films, so I was certain there had been a mix-up. I later realized the original was only just released on DVD in January. Modern previews and an early '80s production date notwithstanding, this film was straight out of the 1970s--and that's almost enough said. Poor acting, an extremely hokey plot and crude makeup made the entire film difficult to get through.

No surprise, then, that when the 2009 edition arrived, I was feeling a little less patient. Seeing perpetual teen Kerr Smith (Final Destination, Dawson's Creek) among the cast list was off-putting, but when the killer popped up less than 10 minutes in, I had to shut the thing off. Perhaps in three dimensions--which would've made the opening credits and initial kill significantly more interesting--I'd have been more tolerant. As it was, I could take no more Bloody Valentines.

The remaining Netflix title at our house at that point was the 1997 "is he gay?" Kevin Kline comedy In & Out. I'd been reminded of the title recently when I read a Yahoo article on Tom Hanks that said the film was based on one of his blunders. Apparently, when he won an Academy Award in 1993 for Philadelphia, he thanked a former gay teacher of his. Unfortunately, the teacher hadn't yet come out.

The fictional story takes off from there, painting a picture of effeminate-but-straight high school instructor Howard Brackett (Kline), outed on national TV by doofus thespian and former student Cameron Drake (Matt Dillon)--whether he's actually gay or not. The town and national media erupt into madness, forcing Brackett to confront his newly questioned sexuality.

It's a sweet and innocent enough attempt, but writer Paul Rudnick (2004's The Stepford Wives) and director Frank Oz (the voice of countless Muppets) may have missed a golden opportunity, some 12 years ago, to cast a different light on the debate over homosexuality. Instead of simply underscoring the "it's OK to be gay" theme, they could've really played up the ability of people to understand that whether he was gay was actually missing the point.

California's Proposition 8 debacle is grand proof that gay issues still befuddle the masses. And while it was nice to revisit a warmhearted comedy about acceptance, today it comes off as a bit condescending. Still, Kline is a masterful actor regardless of his subject matter, and it was fun to see Tom Selleck in a serious departure from his norm. And given a choice, I'd pick this title over a boring bloodbath for Valentine's Day any year.

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