Looking Back: Valentine (2001)

I suppose it’s fitting to have a Valentine’s Day-themed horror film, as the holiday itself has some grim history. In addition to the holiday once being an observation of Christian martyrs, it is, of course, also the day of the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929 Chicago. With those footnotes in mind and the over-abundance of romantic comedies and lovey-dovey tie wasters readily available at most cinemas, it’s actually refreshing to know there’s more than one movie centered around February 14th. Two movies that don’t end with Michael Buble, Harry Connick Jr. or Frank Sinatra tunes over the soundtrack were the original and remake of “My Bloody Valentine.” The 1981 slasher movie was wretched, while its 2008 remake showcased some of the best 3-D I’ve seen (in 2-D, it’s a waste of time). That leaves the 2001 barely remembered guilty pleasure, “Valentine,” based on Tom Savage’s well regarded novel of the same name (which I’ve never read but am told is much better and very different from the film adaptation).

An opening that suggests “Carrie” by way of “Terror Train” establishes how, at a school dance, a young boy was abused by classmates, humiliated by an initially sympathetic girl and became a laughing stock. Years later, a group of attractive but rather mean, snobbish young women find their former classmates are being murdered and suspect the killer may be the boy they once tormented during their school days. A creepy quality of this murderer is that he wears a cupid mask, creates icky Valentine’s Day cards and, in a Freudian touch, gets a bloody nose at a point of excitement and/or after each murder he commits.

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“Valentine” is exactly the kind of movie one would watch as an alternative to all the sappy/happy/crappy, lovey/dovey movies we’re bombarded with around this time of year. Even better, director Jamie Blanks’ film is clever enough to address and tweak convention, becoming a satire of how ghastly the modern dating scene had become in the early 21st century. A sequence with an art installation is eerie and stylishly conceived, and the film’s odd sense of humor helps offset how this is, when all is said and done, a flimsy, if beautifully shot, slasher movie.

An exceptionally attractive cast makes this especially watchable, particularly Jessica Capshaw, Denise Richards, Marley Shelton (before she became a Robert Rodriguez regular) and David Boreanz. There’s also a post-“Roswell,” pre-movie stardom Katherine Heigl, whose opening scene (an amusing bad date followed by a late night stalk in a morgue) is well staged and, unfortunately, her only scene.

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Blanks’ “Urban Legend” was better than expected and the same goes for “Valentine,” which isn’t misogynist but is a revenge fantasy against hateful, catty young women (at least, I think that means it’s not misogynistic). If there’s a point or moral to any of these sort of movies, its being accountable for your actions and allowing time to remove you from personal accountability. Whether you’re a camp counselor attending to a young boy named Jason or a young gal who gleefully bullies a kid at a Valentine’s Day dance, you will, at some point, pay for your actions. In fact, as the tagline helpfully reminded us, “he remembers you.” Happy Valentine’s Day!



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