From the Archive – Valentine (2001)

Valentine

 

“Love hurts”

Directed by Jamie Blanks
Starring David Boreanaz, Denise Richards, and a bunch of pretty young things you’ve never heard of

A group of friends – Kate, Paige (Richards), Dorothy, Lily and Shelley – all blow off the class nerd at a Valentine’s Day dance in 6th grade. Well, all except Kate who says she might dance with him later, and Dorothy, who makes out with him then accuses him of attacking her.

Ah, high school; breeding ground of the psycho. Especially as we later learn that Dorothy’s lie saw the nerd sent to reform school, juvenile hall and so forth.

Flash forward ten years, and Shelley blows off a dud of a date – just the first in a long line of obnoxious male characters – and heads off for some last minute autopsy revision before her med school finals. She finds a poison pen valentine, and gets her throat slashed by a killer with a nose bleed.

We then follow the four surviving girls, as they pass by a succession of men who are all either sleazy or pathetic or just plain vile. In fact, the only half-way decent guy is Kate’s recovering alcoholic honey, Adam (Boreanaz). Lily dies not long after – shot through the heart with a bow and arrow – but the rest sadly last rather longer. Also going in the ground are Dorothy’s boyfriend – a con man after her money – Kate’s slimeball neighbour, an unfortunate maid, the con-man’s last victim and a lecherous cop.

The last three buy it in the Valentine’s Party dénouement – where Dorothy waxes bitter about her boyfriend dumping her and the fat girl not having a date, again – as does Paige (buys it, that is; not waxes bitter). The lights go out, there’s a lot of tensy-tensy creeping about in the dark. Adam has a drink and gets all creepy stalker and Kate belts him with a bottle.

Then the killer attacks Kate but is shot dead by Adam, and turns out to be Dorothy the bitter fat chick.

Except that as Adam swears he’s always loved Kate, and would never let anything happen to her, his nose starts to bleed.

What’s wrong with it?

Valentine is basically a dull, dull movie, about dull, dull people. And they’re not nice or likeable dull people either. I mean, at the end we discover that Adam is a psychotic killer who’s bumped off all his enemies and got the girl, and it’s hard not to think: “Well, more power to him!” His victims – with the exception of Shelley, whom we hardly see, and the luckless maid – are all, frankly, scum. The men are all, without exception, more unpleasant than send-you-a-scary-valentine-slash-you-with-a-big-knife Adam, and the girls… well, they’re all either spiteful or vapid or in Kate’s case so entirely drippy that you can’t give a rat’s ass what happens to them.

Actually, to be fair to Kate, she shot up in my estimation after she kneed creepy Adam in the bollocks, slugged him with a Champagne bottle then went straight for the firearms.

Back to Adam, he’s also quite a catch, psychosis aside. Having caught the creepy neighbour going through Kate’s underwear and battered him to death with the iron, he not only cleans the place up like new, he also winds the cord of the iron and sets it neatly back on the ironing board. Now there’s not many guys would be that thoughtful about the house.

Also, the stalk and slash scenes are minimal stalk and for the most part single slash. The most elaborate death is the old ‘electrical appliance in the hot-tub’ ploy.

What’s right with it?

Well, there’s a fair amount of decent eye candy on display, although it does rather favour the guys in the audience – there’s more of David Boreanaz on display in the average 42 minute Angel episode than here.

Oh, and Denise Richards plays a vapid slut and gets brutally slain, which is always good value.

How bad is it really?

Almost criminally dull, really. Not actively bad, just a little nonsensical. It’s not at the Mean Guns, monkeys on crack level of randomness, but it never really take the trouble to explain itself.

Best bit?

Really not one.

What’s up with…?

  • The killer’s tool kit? He seems able to transport the widest array of killing devices without being spotted. A bow and arrow at an art exhibition? A drill by the hot-tub? This isn’t even an array of essentially portable knives here.
  • Kate claims she knows Adam’s parents, but the nerd’s folks are supposed to be dead?
  • Dorothy’s repeated whining about being the ‘fat one’? Okay; I get that she’s ‘movie fat’, but still; it’s a bugbear.

Ratings

Production values – Some understated death scenes, and nothing that screams ‘phoney’. In general the sound and vision is good, even if the content and soundtrack are not. 6

Dialogue and performances – Pretty lame and uninspired. There is nary a memorable quote in the film except for the young Paige ‘ironically’ foreshadowing her hot tub electrocution by saying she’d rather be boiled alive than dance with Jeremy the nerd. 18

Plot and execution – The plot has its holes, but fewer than it could have. It’s a little unclear how Adam manages to dress Dorothy up as the killer and throw her down the stairs on top of Kate without being seen, but otherwise most things add up. The direction however is lacklustre. The film generates little or no suspense, and even the ersatz heroine fails to conjure much audience sympathy. 14

Randomness – Another field in which Valentine scores quite well. Having accepted that there is a psycho killing people because he was victimised at school, everything else more or less fits. 6

Waste of Potential – While some people yearn for the good old days when a girl could be chased screaming through her house for the capital crime of having sex, and no one in the audience would think to ask why she didn’t just call the cops at some stage, I myself am a fan of the more self-conscious horror film. I think that the standard slasher played out; that’s why the irony comes about. What I’m trying to say is that this is an old-fashioned slasher, with little irony to its name, and thus was never going to be the catch of the day, but that by denying us our knowing asides – especially given this is the ‘breakout’ film for an actor with David Boreanaz’ self-deprecating comedic instincts – a great seam of potential is left untapped. 12

Overall 56%

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