Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 36 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Horror Violence, some Sexuality and Language
Directed by: Jamie Blanks
Written by: Donna Powers, Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts
(based on the novel VALENTINE by Tom Savage)
Starring: David Boreanaz, Marley Shelton, Jessica Capshaw, Hedy Burress, Jessica Cauffiel, Katherine Heigl & Denise Richards
I occasionally stumble across films that were panned by both critics and audiences alike, but somehow works right for me as pure entertainment. VALENTINE is such a film. Essentially an 80’s slasher that just happened to be made in the 2000’s, VALENTINE is an underrated flick fueled by cool death scenes, a considerable body count, and many silly red herrings. This 96-minute dose of cheesy fun is currently the best Valentine’s Day slasher in existence (it’s head and shoulders above both MY BLOODY VALENTINE installments). While that doesn’t exactly sound like high praise, I imagine that many horror aficionados will find quite a bit to like here. It’s a welcomed gory alternative to Nicholas Spark’s generic chick flicks for this any V-Day!
In 1988, four popular girls cruelly humiliated a geeky preteen at their junior high Valentine’s dance. Years later, those popular girls have grown into superficial women with varying relationship issues. Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and the women all receive a series of menacing cards. These pink valentines do not only contain rhymes and hearts, but hold not-so-subtle death threats too. When bodies begin to pile up, it’s clear that a killer in a cupid mask has bloody revenge in mind. Could the horrible deed at the junior high dance be coming back to bite everyone in the ass or is someone just out for a bloody revenge?
I won’t sit here and pretend that VALENTINE is a perfect horror flick, but it’s a damn fun slasher. To go into specific details about the characters would be a waste of time as most them simply exist to die. I will say that a couple are likable enough, but the rest range from annoying to downright hateable. Normally, this would be considered a bad thing in any other subgenre of horror. However, this is a slasher. We came here to watch these victims meet their creative demises and they do exactly that. The cupid-masked murderer has some very interesting ways of dispatching people around him. The kills are where VALENTINE truly shines as some actual suspense is built up during a few of the death scenes (an opening chase milks one moment for all that it’s worth). The gory set pieces are also creative for the most part. My personal favorite moments involve a stalking scene at an art show and one elaborate kill in a hot tub (that actually got a vocal “oh, shit!” out of me).
Even when the killer isn’t on the screen, VALENTINE remains an enjoyable watch. The despicable characters manage to be entertaining in spite of their sheer unlikable nature. When most of them bite it in particularly painful ways, the viewer can’t help but get a sort of satisfaction out of it. The dynamic between the four flawed relationships make for a lot of dark humor and many red herrings. The script makes it tough to correctly predict the identity of the masked killer as it lays out a long list of potential suspects. When it’s finally revealed (in a legitimately well-executed finale), it makes for a nice little send-off to a creepy, cool, and overlooked slasher flick.
VALENTINE is far from high art. It’s a straight-up slasher and suffers from flaws that come with the gory by-the-numbers territory. There are stupid character decisions and ridiculous moments that come out of nowhere. The performances are far from great and poorly written lines of dialogue don’t help the cast either. However, the death scenes and sheer entertainment value are what really count in a film like this. While it definitely has its faults (most of them being more than obvious), VALENTINE is a rare example of a 2000’s slasher that feels like it would be right at home in the 80’s. I mean this in the best way possible. If this sounds like something that’s up your alley, then give this gory guilty pleasure a watch!