Feb 3, 2015
VHS Week Day 2: VALENTINE (2001)
Ah, the early months of 2001. It's not so long ago, really, yet it was such a simpler time. Women's eyebrows ran amok in untweezed glory, movies were released on VHS and the unproven "DVD" format, AOL advertised their amazing new service on those DVDs and VHesses, and Denise Richards was in stuff. It all seems so quaint now!
Horror was in a weird transitional phase at the time. Half a decade into the Scream cycle, audiences were fed the eff up with glossy, tepid genre flicks filled with glossy, tepid actors. The resurgence of on-screen gore ushered in by "torture porn" was still a few years away. It's no surprise, then, that 2001's offerings fall somewhere in between the two phases. There's no shortage of garbage sequels, sure, but there's also some smart indie fare. And there's Arachnid, which is undoubtedly in that timeless "fuck yeah, this is great garbage!" category. In the midst of all this plops Valentine, totally unsure of how to present itself, like a 7th grade girl who wears a blouse that makes her feel sort of human and grown-up except that it's too tight in places and she can't help but focus on that and her whole day is ruined. To wit: Valentine's poster/box art cries "Look at all these young pretty people, arranged in a row! I am just like those 1998 movies you like!" The movie itself, however, cries "Look at my story structure and the killer's mask and all the slasher tropes everywhere! I am just like all those 1981 movies you like!"
To which I say, "1981? Hmm. 1983, maybe. I mean, you're okay, Valentine, but let's not get crazy here."
It's true, though, Valentine is simply a good ol' fashioned slasher movie. You know how it goes: humiliation suffered at the hands of classmates leads to a young nerd disappearing for years as he spends time in mental hospitals and the like...a decade or so later, a masked killer shows up and kills off those responsible for said humiliation, did the young nerd really come back, blah blah blah, all aboard the Terror Train. Because it was released in 2001 and not 1983, however, the violence is obviously snippy-snipped by censors and the cast is full of Hollywood-fresh lily-white faces.
These aren't huge negatives, mind. The acting was perfectly...you know, horror movie adequate, and the characters were blandly likable (or likably bland, perhaps). Valentine is closer to Carpenter's Halloween than Zombie's Halloween in terms of tempo and execution, so the mitigated violence isn't necessarily a strike against it. You won't find anything close to artistry, of course, but you get the sense that director Jamie Blanks admires Carpenter's "less is more" approach to scares.
That said, "scary" is about the last word I'd use to describe Valentine. Yeah, the mask is a little creepy. Sure, it adheres to the stalker cycle formula used so successfully to terrify in the past...but where's the tension? Where is it, Valentine? It's just not there, and everything is a bit ho-hum and workaday. Scream, slash, kill, yawn, repeat. And yet...
Maybe I'm feeling generous, but I might go so far as to call Valentine a high-water mark of the post-Scream horror era. What! I know, I'm as surprised as you. But man, scrub off those slick production values and it'd likely land somewhere on some sort of "notable slasher movies" list on some shitty horror blog.