"Remember that kid everyone ignored on Valentine's Day? He remembers you."
Five women are stalked by an unknown assailant while preparing for Valentine's Day. When they each receive a sinister Valentine’s card, they realise that the person responsible is Jeremy Melton, a nerdy classmate who they tormented and tortured for asking them out at a Valentine’s dance when they were in sixth grade.
I shudder to think that I actually paid to go and see this at the cinema back in 2001. Not that it’s terrible, just so derivative and captures a post-Scream moment in teen terror that is probably best forgotten. Scream introduced the post-modern, self-aware slasher where the characters all knew the rules of the genre, what to do and what not to do, etc. But that quickly became tiresome as a slew of clones were rushed out, and so then-modern slashers went back-to-basics, ditching the jokes and self-referential humour and trying to emulate the 80s by returning to the serious scares - these quickly outstayed their welcome too. Valentine emerged at the end of that cycle and it clearly shows.
Director Jamie Blanks, having previously helmed the equally-forgettable Urban Legend, returns to the sub-genre and regurgitates the same run-of-the-mill nonsense, albeit it with the classic seasonal-themed twist so popular back in the 80s. The whole whodunnit mystery element to the story throws in plenty of characters to interact with each other and attempt to bamboozle the audience with red herrings (particularly the male characters who all come off as very self-absorbed, cocky or inconsiderate) but for anyone remotely intelligent, it’s blatantly obvious who the killer is right from the first moment you see them on-screen. There’s also a lack of urgency surrounding a lot of Valentine’s run time and the whole plodding pace of some of the stalking and ‘hide from the killer’ scenes slam a brake on to any sort of momentum the odd moment of brilliant inspiration provides. Valentine is never outright boring, but some of the scenes move far too slowly for their own good. When the set pieces appear, they’re devoid of any real energy and everyone in front of the camera goes through the motions – the female characters put up a heck of a fight in their self-preservation but ultimately succumb to the inevitable.
True to form, Valentine features a swathe of young-ish, good-looking American actors who were popular at the time such as Denise Richards, David Boreanaz and Kathering Heigl to pad out the cast so that the audience are clueless about who is going to die next (this started and peaked with Drew Barrymore’s infamous scene in Scream). Rather than worry about that, I spent the duration of the running time trying to figure out how a bunch of gorgeous, supposedly twenty-five year old best friends are all still single. Their characters are fairly one-dimensional, generally arrogant and wholly unsympathetic (only one of them shows anything resembling remorse for their actions towards the young Melton). You do wonder why they’re all friends given the way they treat and talk to each other. There’s no real sense of friendship between them, something that Scream at least managed to develop between the lead teens.
The sad thing is that Valentine has production values way better than it deserves. This isn’t some slapdash low budget effort but something which has a bit of money behind it. There’s a really cool arty sequence inside an exhibition hall which smacks of Argento and the whole thing has a polished look to it: a far cry from the grainy, low budget slashers it’s seeking to emulate. Valentine was also heavily cut after its initial rating was given, in response to school shootings in America, and it shows in the relatively dry approach the film takes towards the gore. I think you see more blood from the cherub’s nosebleeds throughout the film than you actually do from any of the victims. Aside from some half-memorable kills involving a hot tub and power drill, and the obligatory bow and arrow (given the killer wears a Cherub mask) murder, there’s nothing to really get worked up over. The final revelation of who the killer is doesn’t come off as a shock in the slightest: as I’ve already said, you’ll have it worked out from the start – unfortunately for the characters, they spend far too much unnecessary exposition trying to piece together the clues. Well, something had to fill up the screen time.
A dull-looking killer, mediocre murders, a plodding pace and some pedestrian writing turn Valentine into a rather bland ninety-minutes of slasher action. It’s not the worst example of the sub-genre you’re ever going to stumble across but it’s hardly going to get your pulse racing.
Director(s): Jamie Blanks
Writer(s): Tom Savage (novel), Donna Powers (screenplay), Wayne Powers (screenplay)
Actor(s): Denise Richards, David Boreanaz, Marley Shelton, Jessica Capshaw, Jessica Cauffiel, Katherine Heigl
Duration: 96 mins