Isn’t it funny how when a film enjoys box office success, it can give birth (or in this case - rebirth) to a whole genre?
Following the success of Scream in 1996, the big studio race was on to produce hip teen slasher flicks. A relentless masked killer, big-breasted victims, a bankable teen heartthrob, a thumping nu-metal soundtrack, a couple of uncomplicated plot twists and you might as well roll camera. The nineties saw a rash of films made in this style and the public, realising that they were in fact watching the same film over and over again, soon lost interest. Isn’t it also funny then, that after the screams and giggles died down, someone decided to make another one and not only missed the boat, but missed the whole point? You are absolutely right. It’s not funny.
Valentine opens with a flashback to the Robert F. Kennedy Middle School 1988 Valentine’s Day dance. A hapless geek (you can tell he’s the geek of the film because he has lank hair, buck teeth and glasses) asks, in turn, five of his pretty, sixth-grade classmates for a dance. Our awkward little friend is refused (‘I’d rather be boiled in oil’), suffers further humiliation at the dance (a bowl of fruit punch tipped on his head), suffers a stress nosebleed (a relevant plot point), gets a little kooky and ends up in an institution. After fifteen years of being shipped from funny farm to funny farm, there is only one thing for it – kill those girls!
After fifteen years they are girls no longer. They are pouting, hot-blooded vixens that adhere strictly to the director’s ‘singlets only’ policy (victims may wear low-cut evening gowns for the party scene but if they wish to explore the house alone, a single wet towel will suffice). The women in question have grown together as friends and in a calculated nod to programs like Sex in the City, are forever on the lookout for the right guy. Valentine’s central character is Kate Davies (Shelton) who plays the group’s sweetheart and is the character we are supposed to feel the most sympathy for. Paige Prescott (Richards) is the most promiscuous of the group and, even while being stalked by a crazed psycho, manages to look seductive. Ladies and gentlemen, there is some serious eyebrow work going on here. Meanwhile, Kate’s alcoholic boyfriend, Adam Carr (Boreanaz) lurks in the background for many of the scenes trying his utmost to appear both likeable and suspicious (a pickled red herring?) but only really succeeds in looking confused.
Of course, no self-respecting maniac would ever think about stalking young starlets without a quirky getup with which to identify him. This one comes dressed all in black, carries a large kitchen knife and wears a mask Sound familiar? Well, this guy wears a cupid mask (Cupid? Valentine? Get it?), which makes the killer look kind of cute – surely not the desired effect...
The cast are, for the most part, admirable in defeat and manage to breathe a little life into their characters despite uninspired dialogue and some plot holes you could steer the Whitman’s blimp through.
Australian director Jamie Blanks (Urban Legend) certainly seems to have done his homework and takes a formulaic approach to proceedings. There are some nice little tricks and some fine imagery at play here, but I just couldn’t help but think that I had seen it all before. Like many recent releases of this type, he attempts to infuse the story with occasional humour. Not many of the jokes actually work, but as a plot device, the inclusion of humour helps to not only lighten things up, it also lets the viewer know that, above all, they should try to have a little fun while watching this film. This is a sensible approach and one that is probably more appreciated by fans of the genre.
Although there isn’t much here to earn it a place close to their black little hearts, slasher fans should still be reasonably happy with Valentine. The production quality is high, the scenes could be suspenseful (if you actually gave a rat’s arse about any of the victims) and the body count is adequate.
Ultimately though, this is one Valentine that lacks heart.
As with sound, the picture quality on Valentine is excellent. Although a lot of the scenes are shot in that same ‘cool blue’ that seems to be a prerequisite for establishing mood in this type of film, the colours are quite vivid.
You want blood? You’ve never had it so red! The images are very clear and, for all of Valentine’s faults, some of Jamie Blanks’ visual trickery is done great justice by the clarity of the picture.
Still, it all reminds me of something a wise man once said, "Son, you can’t polish a turd."
That’s the sound, if you can imagine, of someone being stabbed in the chest with a carving knife. Although it doesn’t seem so harrowing on the page, it can be a little more confronting when played alongside the action. Valentine is presented in Dolby 5.1 and, as such, these effects work well. If the aim of a slasher flick is to put its audience on edge, then a lot can be achieved with the utilisation of a decent sound system.
With surround sound, the subtle effects of approaching footsteps or a scream from another part of the house can take on a whole new, sinister quality. Whether you wish it or not, the audio quality on Valentine helps to immerse you in the action on screen and cannot really be faulted.