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Valentine
Tonight's Feature Presentation

VALENTINE (2001)

Starring: Denise Richards, David Boreanaz, Marley Shelton, Jessica Capshaw, Katherine Heigl, Jessica Cauffiel

Written By: Donna Powers, Wayne Powers, Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Harberts, Tom Savage (novel)

Directed By: Jamie Blanks

The Short Version

Many people consider Valentine rock bottom when it comes to slashers that have made it to the big screen.

Honestly, you’ve seen worse, but not many, and you won’t think so while you’re enduring this one.

Did somebody bribe the MPAA to get this sterile tripe an “R” rating?

Like OMG these characters are like so totally shallow and like so easy to hate and stuff.  Like.

You only watch Valentine to see how bad it can get.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

E-Z CHEEZ.

Overly processed crap in a spray can that’s had every bit of flavor, texture, and goodness removed to create a product guaranteed to make everybody want to hurl.


Pairs Well With...

SCREECH.

Newfie moonshine so named, it’s said, because of the sound people make when they drink it.  Similar results have been known to occur for people subjected to watching this movie.  (Personally, I’d suggest going with the legal and relatively safe Newfie rum that purloined the name; that way you won’t go blind.)  “He’s not a drunk.  He’s just a borderline addictive personality who happens to like alcohol a lot.”

“Now this party officially sucks.”


I remember hating Valentine when I originally saw it on the big screen in 2001.  The passage of eleven years hasn’t made it any better.  In fact, I think it only got worse.

It took four credited writers (and who knows how many uncredited ones) to adapt a novel into this?  Someone needed to stand up, can everyone, and go back to the drawing board.  If you think I’m being too harsh, then you haven’t seen Valentine yet.

If you have seen Valentine already, you probably think I’m not being harsh enough, in which case, hang on.  I may get there.  So if you’re looking for minced words, feel free to turn back now.

Once Jason and Freddy left the stage in the early-mid 1990s, the mainstream slasher genre as a whole started to go the way of the porcelain bowl.  Oh, sure, something good would still pop up on occasion, but overall, things got more and more sanitized, and the genre lost its edge.  For many people, Valentine represents the bottom of the septic tank.  I’ll at least admit that if you’re a true genre fan, you’ve definitely seen worse.  However, those movies have the excuse of dinky budgets and production values that were never meant to get past the video store.  Coming in at just under $30 million with a cast of fashionably hot young name recognition, major studio support, and a big date with the big screen, Valentine has no excuse whatsoever.  Taken from that perspective… oh yeah, when you hear the characters yap in this one, it’s the sound of the barrel being scraped.

Our fiasco begins at a 6th Grade Valentine’s Day dance in 1988.  (I’ll let you ponder that.)  You don’t even need to be a bigtime slasher fan to realize that this little precredit sequence is the blueprint for the entire movie to come.  The audience follows a big-toothed nerd named Jeremy Melton as he is rudely rejected by a series of mean little girls when he asks them if they’d like to dance.  Eventually, one says “Maybe later,” and unlike the rest of us, Jeremy appears to take her seriously. 

While he’s waiting, though, he steps up to the one girl who isn’t getting any attention from anyone (you know all of the mean kids call her “the fat girl”) and asks if she’d like to dance.  She says “yes,” and soon after, they’re making out under the bleachers.  Alas, a cadre of school bullies comes along, and faced with embarrassment, the girl claims that Jeremy attacked her.  The bullies then proceed to bathe him in punch, strip him down to his underwear, and beat him up right in the middle of the dance floor.

We later find out that Jeremy’s the one who got sent to reform school.  We can only assume that the bullies were sent home with candy and presents.

Roll credits, flash forward thirteen years.  All of the girls we met earlier are fresh out of college, incredibly shallow, and impossibly well-off.  As we start to catch up with them, they start to receive creepy Valentine’s Day cards with verses like:

“Roses are red / violets are blue / they’ll need dental records to identify you.  – J.M.”

And sure enough, one by one, they start getting offed by someone wearing a cherub mask much like those used to decorate that school gym all those years ago.  Gosh, whoever could this killer be?

Try not to think too hard…

Valentine stands as one of the most reviled slashers ever to get a big screen release, and it’s not hard to see why.  Valentine is what happens when you try to make a slasher with all of the fun stuff (like blood, gore, nudity, an interesting killer, etc.) taken away.  Aside from the fact that hundreds of blameless people got jobs while this trash heap was made, the only positive thing I have to say about Valentine is that the poems from the cards were kinda fun.  That’s it.  How do I loathe thee, Valentine?  Let me count the ways, in no particular order.  (At least until I force myself to stop.)

First, the killer sucks.  The premise behind him is okay, and the mask has some creep potential, but beyond that, Valentine gets everything wrong when it comes to handling its killer.  For one thing, the movie pretends to be a whodunit, and it’s not.  From the very beginning, the audience knows it’s Jeremy Melton, and within seconds of being introduced to him, the audience also knows who Jeremy became as an adult.  (You seriously have to be clueless to miss it.  It was even easier back in 2001, since the cast was identifying him out loud during prerelease press interviews.  Way to go!)  The script, however, pretends like it’s all a big mystery, and fails miserably at it.  While the audience has been eye rolling from the start, it takes the victim pool almost half the movie to decide that the killer is Jeremy Melton, though they can’t possibly guess who he’s masquerading as now.  When the film makes an eleventh hour attempt to throw a red herring at the audience that’s supposed to keep hold until the final seconds before the credits roll, the attempt isn’t clever; it’s pathetic.  Indeed, it’s an active insult to the intelligence of the audience.  Valentine could have been so much more effective if the cadre of writers had just given up on the idea of a whodunit and just admitted to themselves that the audience knows the truth from the get-go.

But even if they had, the killer would still suck anyway.  Even setting aside the tangents he takes away from his assigned motives, the fact is that this killer is lacking in all three of the qualities that make for an effective slasher: he’s not scary (in fact, he’s pathetic), his kills aren’t bloody, and despite obvious attempts at it, his kills aren’t very creative, either.  (His creativity is used up on his threatening gestures in the form of his notes and a box of doctored chocolates.)  Halloween proved that kills don’t necessarily have to be bloody to work, but Michael Myers was frightening.  This guy’s a loser and a wimp.  Especially given the target audience here, one really does need blood to overcome the killer’s built-in drawbacks, but instead, the crew went out of their way to actually tone it down.  As a result, the killing blows are off camera, and the weapons seem bloodless unless you really squint hard to catch the tiny tint of red on the edges.  You just have to take everyone’s word for it that the first victim’s throat was slashed; even though you were theoretically there to witness the murder, you don’t actually see anything.  Bo-ring.  And let’s face it, if you can make a hot iron to the face look dull – which is exactly what happens about halfway through Valentine – then you really don’t have any business pretending to make a slasher flick.

And if you’re going to telegraph – let’s call it promise – that a character whom the audience will come to despise is going to be boiled alive (which Valentine does in fact telegraph in its opening moments), then you’d better bloody well do it.  What happened to the nurse played by Pamela Shoop in Halloween II counts as being boiled alive.  Being (tamely) electrocuted in a hot tub does not.  (We won’t even get into the plexiglass cover that you can’t see until it’s used.)  It’s still the movie’s best kill, but it’s also very lame.  Poor show, guys.

Especially since by that point, everyone really wants to see that bitch get boiled.

Again, perhaps you think I’m being overly harsh; truly, I’m not, and if you’ve already seen Valentine, you know that.  [Indeed, I watched this movie with a date at one point, and it was she who broke out with the ters “vapid bitch” to describe the character played by Denise Richards (The World is Not Enough) within the first twenty minutes without me ever saying a word on the subject.]  Trust me, folks, this is a gaggle of slasher bait that nobody can enjoy.

In some movies, this wouldn’t be a problem.  However, those movies also have strong killers that the audience can actively root for, and they usually reward the audience by making the deaths as nasty as possible.  We’ve already noted that Valentine blows on both counts.  Those other movies also put their major effort on being, y’know, slasher flicks instead of devoting most of their screen time to stuff better suited to The Worst of Lifetime Network Meets The Worst of After School Specials.  Seriously, who thought that anyone, male or female, would enjoy spending so much time watching these mean, shallow trust fund babies walking around acting mean and shallow?  (Even the “nice one” is too wishy-washy and clueless to care about.)  It’s a group that no one identifies with (even the people who belong to it), and frankly, time spent having to watch these spoiled brats is just time spent getting angry.  In this corner, you have the “vapid bitch” who thinks she’s superior to everyone.  In this corner, you have the pathetic, drunk emo boy who makes Charlie Brown look like Mr. Confidence.  In this corner, you have the spoiled rich bitch who thinks the world revolves around her.  (Take your pick which one I mean.)  In this corner, you have the arrogant dipshit who talks about himself in the third person.  Oh, yay.  Slasher movies are supposed to be fun; Valentine is the antithesis of fun.

At that point, it becomes impossible to blame the cast for much of anything.  It’s tempting with Denise Richards, but let’s be honest: she’s just playing her character exactly as written, and in other movies, that’s called doing a good job.  The same holds true right on down the line, and realistically, if the cast didn’t know it at the time, they figured it out soon enough.  (Katherine Heigl later admitted that if she’d read the whole script instead of just an excerpt, she’d have never signed on.)  At the end of the day, this one’s on the wretched writing and wimpy direction.

Speaking of wimpy, I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that Valentine doesn’t actually earn its “R” rating.  The violence is tame, the “sexual situations” are a joke, and really, the characters don’t even swear.  In a con job that’s all too common, the studio figured that the target audience wouldn’t go for a slasher that wasn’t rated “R” (they were right), so they cheated their way into it, even though the film is actually about fifteen seconds away from a “PG”.  (Not a “PG-13;” a “PG.”  That’s how tame this crap is.)  The already twitchy MPAA was going to give them the “violence” collar just because of the genre.  Write in a scene wherein a character uses the word “penis” while the camera is focused from his armpits up, and follow it up with him telling you-know-who (that would be the vapid one again) to “wax it,” and even though you see nothing and she in fact doesn’t, you get “language” and “sexual situations.”  Tack on an essentially invisible breast flash on a TV screen in the background, and the studio laughs all the way to the bank while duped audiences expect a real slasher and the possibility of shower scenes that don’t involve really bad silhouettes.  Lame.

Bottom line, Valentine just sucks, plain and simple.  It’s what you get when you take everything that makes slashers fun out of the equation, and the end result is a justifiably reviled piece of garbage that serves as the poster child for everything that went wrong during the era of “sanitized” horror.  Unless you’ve been dared to watch this and the payoff is something really extraordinary (perhaps the "sexual situations" that the movie itself doesn't deliver), don’t waste your time.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, February, 2012


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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