Welcome to everyone’s least favourite fake holiday – Valentine’s Day. During the golden era of the slasher, studios gave just about every calendar holiday the movie treatment. Even April Fool’s Day was treated to a horror movie adaptation. When Wes Craven turned the subgenre on its head with Scream he inadvertently re-ignited a brief slasher-lite renaissance. Over the next few years, several slasher movies got the green light with varying levels of success. Though they all dutifully recycled the tropes, none had Scream’s self-awareness. At the tail-end of this revival, the ultra-derivative Valentine was dumped into theatres and quickly forgotten.
At their sixth grade dance, awkward and shy Jeremy Melton asks several popular girls to dance. Though he is rejected one after the other, Dorothy shows some kindness and accepts. But when other kids catch them kissing him under the bleachers, Dorothy lies and accuses Jeremy of attacking her. Several bullies then beat Jeremy up, humiliating him. Years later, someone is sending menacing Valentine’s Day cards to the same girls who rejected Jeremy. Now a figure wearing a Cherub mask is stalking and killing them one by one. Has Jeremy Melton returned to seek his revenge?
Valentine Tastes Like a Cheap Box of No-Name Chocolate
Where to start? First and foremost, Valentine possesses all the originality of no-name pharmacy store Valentines Day chocolate. With a screenplay that borders on lazy, this is the cinematic equivalent of a bowl of melting vanilla ice cream. No less than four screenwriters riff off familiar stereotypes standing in for characters. Marley Shelton is Kate Davies, the ‘nice one’ and obvious ‘final girl’. Denise Richards plays ‘Paige’ the ‘promiscuous one’, and Jessica Capshaw is Dorothy, the formerly overweight, insecure one. Even new horror fans shouldn’t have trouble figuring who dies and in what order.
…most of these red herrings are killed as quickly as they’re introduced.
Of course, lazy script-writing can still get you a passing grade in slashers if you can deliver a memorable killer. Sadly, Valentine disappoints like a bad blind date. The movie’s killer wears a cherub mask that is the exact opposite of scary; he also gets nosebleeds after every murder. Director Jamie Blanks (Urban Legend) introduces red herrings only to instantly discard them. Is Gary, the pervert neighbour, the adult Jeremy Melton? Or is it Campbell, the gold-digging boyfriend? Maybe David Boreanz’s Adam, Kate’s alcoholic ex-boyfriend, is the killer. At the time of its release, Boreanz was riding the wave of Angel. At least Bones was waiting for him after this dud.
Valentine Knows The Set-Up, But Can’t Order Up The Scares
Arguably, Valentine’s biggest problem is that it’s not scary. Ever. Instead, Valentine is a flavourless assortment of tired tropes. Victims run but are somehow still caught by a killer who never breaks from a brisk stride. If you’re concerned about getting too scared there’s no need to worry. That rising crescendo of creepy music lets you know when the jump scares are coming. Just be forewarned that contrived fake-out proceeds almost every attempt at a scare. In fact, Valentine’s just missing that scene where the victim adjusts the bathroom mirror and the killer appears.
While it’s rated-R, the death scenes are largely bloodless and pretty straightforward.
In contrast to classic 1980’s slashers, the slasher-lite renaissance that followed Scream were surprisingly light on both graphic violence and nudity. Unfortunately for gorehounds, Valentine is no different. In spite of its R-rating, Blank’s death scenes are largely bloodless and too often straightforward. One scene involving a hot tub cover and drill is entertaining, but it’s not enough to energize this lifeless slasher. When a floating head surfaces in a pond it gives the audience a pretty strong hint as to why the camera cuts away quickly during most of the film’s kills – the special effects are cheap-looking.
Swipe Left On Valentine
At over an hour and half, Valentine long overstays its welcome. Nothing remotely scary happens during this time. Even worse, the ending offers an absolutely pointless fake-out that is both obvious and a rip-off. Like a bad online dating profile, Valentine knows what audiences want to see, but only offers a photo-shopped imitation. If you’re planning on staying in this Valentine’s Day and are looking for a good scary movie, swipe left on Valentine.