Valentine is another in a long line of movies about “hip” teens/20-somethings being “haunted by their past.” It’s been done to death in recent years, starting with the God-awful I Know What You Did Last Summer and it’s obscene sequel and ilk. I usually know what I’m going to get, and I usually know the villain will act dead at the end, but won’t be truly dead, since he needs to return for a sequel. I know the “nice” girl will survive, and the nice girl is always apparent at the very beginning by being “nice” in everything she does, as opposed to the “not so nice” folks around her.
I know the “bitchy” and “slutty” girls will go out in bloody kill scenes. I know the “bullies” and the “asshole” guys will also get their comeuppance. I know the cops will be ineffective and have the investigative mentality of retarded children. I know all this going in, but was proven wrong with Jeepers Creepers. I had hoped Valentine would prove me wrong again. Alas, it did not.
Valentine begins with a Junior High School dance for 6th graders where a nerdy looking kid with glasses is going around the gym asking girls to dance. They all say no, until a bored, slightly overweight girl agrees. The two end up kissing under the bleachers and upon being discovered by a group of boys, the girl tells them the boy is attacking her. It’s her attempt to convince them she’s “above” voluntarily kissing the nerdy boy. They attack him and he’s sentenced to reform school for his “crimes.”
Fast forward 13 years, and all the girls who had said no to the nerd, including the overweight girl, are now in their ’20s and still close friends. One of those friends meets an untimely death in a medical school morgue at the hands of a masked killer wielding a large knife. This brings the rest of the friends back together, and so begins our slasher film, as the friends and the bumbling cop tries to figure out who the killer is before he finishes them off.
What’s most interesting about Valentine is that its attempts to hide, and at the same time give us clues, as to the identity of the killer is so pathetic. It doesn’t help that the person who most looks like the killer is played by an actor who most looks like a killer! (You’ll understand when you see the film.) The clues are so in-your-face and obvious that it’s impossible to ignore them, read them, and conclude the killer’s identity from them. Red herrings are thrown in for good measure, but they’re pretty much ineffective, since anyone with half a brain can figure out who the killer is barely 20 minutes into the movie.
And if you can’t figure it out, then I suppose these kinds of movies were made for you — the dumb teenage crowd with just enough brain cells to buy your movie ticket and your popcorn at the concession stands. Without a decent mystery, the movie then has to rely on gruesome kill scenes and what passes for characterization. Unfortunately, as many slasher film fanatics know, characterization has no place in slasher films. So with that out of the way, what’s left? The killings, of course.
Valentine’s death scenes are not as gruesome as one would expect in a slasher film. Although one notable exception is when a victim has her face shoved into a group of broken glass. Another problem with Valentine is that we follow the 4 friends throughout the movie, but the majority of the killings before the slaughter at the end involves minor, peripheral characters that have little impact to the story. (Actually, it’s really hard to explain why the killer even bothers to kill them, anyway, since they have nothing to do with him or his vendetta against the friends).
What about the characters, you ask? Oh, well, let’s see, there’s the slutty one (Denise Richards); the homely one (Marley Shelton); the formerly-overweight but now slightly spoiled brat (Jessica Capshaw); and the fourth girl (Jessica Cauffiel) who is spared the filmmaker’s attempts to “round her character” because she bites the bullet early in the film. In fact, until the slaughter at the end, which can boast half a dozen corpse to its name, the film is relatively bloodless, and even a tad boring. Fortunately, the filmmakers realize they really have little to work with, and the movie, just slightly under 90 minutes, moves at a quick pace. It also helps that of the four friends, we are with Denise Richards and Marley Shelton the most, and both women are easy on the eyes. Both women wears skimpy clothes and has more than one shower scenes each. How nice, thank you.
One of the foundations of slasher films is its implausibility. In Valentine you have the presence (or should I say, lack of presence) of logic. One of the four friends is killed off early in the movie at a social gathering, falls down some stairs, and lands in a garbage dumpster at the lobby of the building. Her body apparently goes unnoticed for days, because neither the cops nor the friends realize what happens to her until days later. Another character is axed to death in a basement and his body is left there to rot, but nobody discovers it — ever.
And like all slasher monsters/killers, the killer in Valentine seems to possess not only superhuman endurance, but also superhuman speed and agility, since he seems to be able to appear and disappear at will. The filmmakers use the tried and true slasher technique where a character is attracted to a noise behind her, looks behind her, sees no one, and when she looks forward again, either the killer is there or something that wasn’t there before is now there. I guess you could say every killer in slasher movies has the ability of a super ninja. Also in the last scene, a house full of servants and partygoers suddenly empties out to allow the last survivor and the killer to face off. It’s completely ridiculous but necessary in slasher films for the entire world to disappear at different intervals.
Valentine is not a bad film, but it is incredibly predictable. I might have enjoyed the film more if I didn’t know what was going to happen every minute of it, or who was going to die and who was going to survive. Jeepers Creepers convinced me that the slasher film had potential, but Valentine convinces me that it doesn’t. What to believe?
Jamie Blanks (director)
CAST: Marley Shelton …. Kate Davies
David Boreanaz …. Adam Carr
Jessica Capshaw …. Dorothy Wheeler
Denise Richards …. Paige Prescott
Jessica Cauffiel …. Lily Voight