She loves me…she loves me not…she loves me…she loves me not…
What do you get when you take everything out of a horror film that makes a horror film fun…the creative killings, the suspense, the gore? You get Valentine.
Facts of the Case
Poor Jeremy Melton. Seems the nerdy kid isn't liked at his junior high school. At a dance, all the stuck-up rich girls refuse to dance with him (except one, who tells him, "Maybe later."…predictably, she lives to the end of the film). One girl goes behind the bleachers to make out with him, but then claims he forced her to when confronted by the school bullies. Flash-forward 13 years. All the stuck-up rich girls are now stuck-up sorority girls in college. One by one they receive creepy Valentine cards and are sent to the Big Mall in the Sky. (That means they were killed, for you slower readers.) Who could the killer be? All the valentines are signed "J.M." Could it be the creepy Maxim-reading guy one of the girls dated, or could it be…David Boreanaz? Duh.
What is it that makes Hollywood writers, producers, and directors think that we, the unwashed movie-going masses, identify and relate with rich snobs? Really, if they want to show the real college experience, why not show late night study sessions, endless hours in the financial aid office, and meals of ramen and peanut butter? Why not put real people in harm's way? It worked so well for so many horror films…The Evil Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, Psycho. The females of Valentine are so insipid, so stuck up, so clueless, it's almost a relief to see them maimed and butchered. Their deaths are like the filmmakers doing the audience a favor, except, if they really wanted to do us a favor, they would've killed off Denise Richards a bit earlier. Her vamping rich girl shtick worked in Wild Things, but this isn't Wild Things, because it's not clever, there's no twist ending, and there's no Kevin Bacon money shot. This movie is too timid for money shots.
Hollywood gets dumber by the day. Before Valentine's release, I recall seeing Denise Richards on some morning talk show. I think she even said that David Boreanaz was the killer. Thanks, Denise. I hope your original nose comes back some night. She also talked about how the movie was cut so that it wouldn't be as bloody. Isn't that what horror fans go to see? Disemboweling, dismemberment, decapitations? There's more visual impact in your average episode of "E.R." Even Scream had more guts (err, pun intended) than this.
So, you might be asking yourself, who made this piece of llama manure? That would be director Jamie Blanks and screenwriting duos (yes, it took four people to write this) Donna Powers and Wayne Powers, and Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts. Jamie Blanks' only other screen credit is Urban Legend. You can take that for what you will. Personally, I think it's an effective horror film—not necessarily great because of its alternating lapses into predictability and insipidness, but it has a great hook (bringing urban legends to life) and a fun cast and more fake scares than you can shake a dismembered limb at. In Valentine, predictability and insipidness aren't just lapses, they are de rigueur. Even if it is predictable, the screenplay has so many lapses of logic, you'd wonder what the writers were thinking (and I'll get to the writers after this brief diversion). Okay, so the "Cherub Killer" (even if I didn't tell you it was David Boreanaz, you'd guess it pretty quickly) seeks revenge for his junior high woes. Why kill a guy with an iron, just because he likes to sniff your current girlfriend's panties? That's a dead giveaway (err, another intended pun). Why kill the freeloading con artist in the basement? Horror movies, particularly those with killers who are seeking revenge for past injustices, have a certain internal logic. The killer is only seeking his revenge, and will stop at nothing and does not take detours. Take A Nightmare on Elm Street (the first one, not the lousy sequels). Did Freddy Krueger kill the mailman in his dreams, or take a trip over to Oak Patch Lane to terrorize an old lady? No! He killed the children of the people on Elm Street who had put him to death. That makes sense…you know, in a cinematic sort of way. Valentine ignores the rules to its detriment. End digression. Perhaps if I tell you about the writers, their lack of writing prowess will become clear. The duo of Donna Powers and Wayne Powers are responsible for the much maligned Deep Blue Sea. I like that movie, but strong writing it does not possess. Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts worked together in the depressing post-Shannon Doherty years of "Beverly Hills 90210," as well as on the little-watched WB series "Roswell." Valentine is their first feature film. Considering it is a Warner Bros. film, perhaps they were trying to get some exposure for the show or something. Who knows what went on in the minds of the studio suits behind this piece of dreck.
Have I bitched enough about the movie for you? Now it's time to bitch about the disc itself, though unlike the movie, there's little to complain about. The film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, while audio is available in Dolby Digital 5.1. It quite possibly may be the only positive thing I say about this disc when I say the technical presentation is flawless. While viewing the film, I noticed no artifacts of any kind in the image, and color saturation and black levels and detail were superb. The audio is aggressive and enveloping, and will bring you right into the movie…not that that's necessarily a good thing. Extras consist of a commentary with director Jamie Blanks, filmographies for selected members of the cast and crew, a music video for the Orgy song "Opticon," an eight-minute promotional making-of featurette labeled as "Studio Extras," and a very brief theatrical teaser trailer. I recall listening to Blank's commentary on Urban Legend. He is very frank, sharing many details about the making of the film in his rich Australian accent. It's not nearly as entertaining as the Urban Legend commentary, because he doesn't have anyone else to bounce things off of (especially the hilarious Michael Rosenbaum).
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Valentine isn't all bad. The first murder scene in a med school morgue is effectively creepy, even if the gory throat slash at the end was trimmed. One of the girls is killed in a hot tub using a power drill. Never mind that most hot tubs don't have Plexiglass covers, or that most patios don't have power drills with two-foot long bits just laying about waiting to be used on nubile twentysomethings. It's still a cool scene.
Also not bad is the cast, with the exception of the aforementioned Denise Richards. I recently reviewed Sugar and Spice, and got my first taste of Marley Shelton. She's pert, cute, and a decent actress. Katherine Heigl's role amounts to little more than a cameo, but she sports red hair and looks good in a tank top…two things that this reviewer appreciates in ways you can most definitely understand. David Boreanaz, I have to admit, I'm familiar with only in a pop culture zeitgeist sort of way, because I'm not one of the legions of fans of either "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" or "Angel." He's hardly what I'd call impressive, but neither is he bad in the role. However (since it was leaked well ahead of the release of the movie, and I've already revealed it here), the dichotomy between his soft, understated demeanor as Adam and the viciousness as killer Jeremy is too extreme. Considering you can't see his face as the killer, I'll blame that on the script, not his performance (after all, for all we know it could be Kane Hodder under the mask, or Orrin Hatch).
This is one of those instances, all too common in DVD-dom, where you have a good DVD of a bad movie. On the technical side, it is a great disc. On the movie side, Valentine is sorely lacking, both as a movie in the broad sense and as a horror movie more specifically. If you're one of those collectors who buys anything that will show off your kick-ass system, this is a good disc for you. If you're someone who actually cares about what you watch, give it a pass. Even Urban Legend, Jamie Blank's freshman big screen effort, for all its faults is a much more enjoyable film. My opinion? Give it a rental if you think it sounds watchable, but don't bother buying it.
On the charge of technical presentation, Warner Brothers is found not guilty. On the charge of film quality, Jamie Blanks, the producers, and the screenwriters are found guilty of capitulating their artistic integrity to studio pressure and the invasive force of media scapegoating of violent films.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Commentary by Director Jamie Blanks
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