Color, 2000, 96 mins. 5 secs.
Directed by Jamie Blanks
Starring David Boreanaz, Marley Shelton, Jessica Capshaw, Denise Richards, Jessica Cauffiel, Katherine Heigl
Scream Factory (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Warner Bros. (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
Critically lambasted and virtually ignored at the box office, Valentine proved to be a late and unwelcome addition to the rapidly dying neo-slasher revival in the wake of Scream. Taking a less grotesque angle on the romantic holiday than its less gimmicky '80s counterpart, My Bloody Valentine, this second studio yarn from director Jamie Blanks (who delivered the more gleefully absurd Urban Legend) attempts to drag the straight-faced slasher holiday formula into the modern age by injecting it with picture perfect young actors, glossy cinematography, and a distinct lack of gore or intense scares, though that final factor was definitely out of his control.
Our story begins with a nerdy high school boy, Jeremy Melton, being brutally rejected by four girls at a dance before being humiliated under the bleachers with a trumped up claim of attempted rape. Faster than you can say Prom Night, all of the characters have now grown up, and each girl receives a sinister greeting for Valentine's Day (which somehow manages to actually stretch out for about three days, but never mind). Rich girl Dorothy (Capshaw) hates her new stepmom and allows her new boyfriend of one month to shack up in her house, while bitchy Paige (Richards), Kate (Shelton), and Lily (Cauffiel) spend most of their time blithely ignoring their nasty Valentine cards and attending pretentious art installations where one of them winds up harpooned by an arrow-wielding killer in a Cupid mask. The murderer also suffers from nosebleeds during moments of intense stress, a trait confined to poor Jeremy. As the body count climbs, the survivors must figure out which of the men in their lives could be the spurned boy, now grown up and desperate to avenge his broken heart.
One especially interesting facet of this film is that it's one of the very few slasher films adapted from a novel, in this case ostensibly from a more complex thriller by Tom Savage that spread the murders out over several years and relied on an unfilmable plot twist reminiscent of Ira Levin's A Kiss Before Dying (also impossible to shoot in its written form). Blanks and company address that problem by ditching the entire story structure to focus instead on a Cupid-faced killer and a compressed, somewhat illogical timeline packed into a single Valentine's Day with a high body count. Some early sequences establishing the lead female characters are actually written and performed with a reasonable degree of snap; in fact, this might have been better as a dark comedy about the murderous perils on modern dating instead of a straight horror film. The top-billed, underused David Boreanaz made this during his tenure on Angel and doesn't really get to shine much, but Richards (a guilty pleasure actress to be sure) diverts one's attention with some tart one liners and her reliable spunky charisma. The rest of the cast is fine but bland , while Don Davis' score sounds like a more elegant spin on his earlier work for House on Haunted Hill. The twist ending in the final shot is executed with some degree of panache and would actually be impressive if it weren't cribbed from Jack Sholder's superb Alone in the Dark. All told, time has been surprisingly kind to the film with its modest charms easier to appreciate now as a straightforward example of a nouveaux slasher film packed with enough style and verve to kill a couple of hours quite nicely as long as you aren't too demanding.
Valentine's 2001 DVD release was solid for the time with a transfer that handled the intense shades of red about as well as NTSC could, with a nicely atmospheric Dolby Digital 5.1 track and optional English subtitles. Extras include an audio commentary from Blanks which goes through the mechanics of each suspense sequence and elaborates on the oft-reported story about how Warner Bros., skittish in the aftermath of Columbine, ordered the removal of the stronger violent intensity even after the film was well within R-rated territory. The other supplements include the moody theatrical teaser, a video montage to a song from Orgy, and some disposable studio PR pieces (7m59s) passed off as a featurette.
In 2019, Scream Factory finally brought the film to Blu-ray with a greatly expanded special edition that provides a huge amount of much-needed context about the creation of the film -- including a look at most of that excised footage at long last. The new 2K scan is a significant improvement over the DVD, most notably handling those various shades of red with far more fidelity and detail rising quite a bit throughout. It isn't the most crystal clear film on the planet thanks to the stylized look throughout, but it's a nice upgrade and likely to please fans. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 English track (with optional English SDH subtitles) is still lots of fun with plenty of dramatic separation effects throughout, with the hot tub scene in particular packing a nice punch for your subwoofer. The original Blanks track is carried over here, but you also get a new one with him in conversation with director Don Coscarelli (Phantasm) and author Peter Bracke. The director seems to be in much better spirits here with plenty of anecdotes about the shoot, his giddiness at having Coscarelli visit the Vancouver shoot, the approaches he took with the adult (and child) actors, the nature of genre filmmaking at the time, the influence of art studies, and plenty more. It's a solid, fun track and well worth a listen. All of the video extras from the DVD have been carried over here -- trailer, music video, featurette -- but a wealth of new featurettes have been added to sweeten the deal "Thrill of the Drill" (9m41s) catches up with Richards, amusingly from the same interview session as the one for Tammy and the T-Rex. She's quite open and warm about the film with memories about her thoughts on the role, Boreanaz being a good sport around "so much estrogen," and the mechanics of her unforgettable final scene. In "The Final Girl" (13m54s), whose title is itself a pretty huge spoiler, Shelton goes into her affinity for the horror genre, her thoughts on being the audience surrogate figure, and the "very '90s" elements of the film like the speed dating scene. Then "Shot Through the Heart" (23m3s) brings in Cauffiel, who's just as enjoyable and articulate here as her piece on Urban Legends: Final Cut as she notes the film's commentary on modern dating, female friendships, and the benefits of doing a scene with a good kisser. Then co-writers Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts appear in the epic-length "Writing Valentine" (64m33s) explaining how a spec script got them on the studio's radar, wound up coming on for a rewrite gig on this one after the original version ended up being unusable, and an in-depth explanation of how the set pieces evolved once they were given the blessing to write the final product. In "Editing Valentine" (27m50s), editor Steve Mirkovich talks about tackling this film after a run of John Carpenter projects and gladly jumping into a Warner Bros. horror film after being influenced by their output in the early '70s. Finally, "Scoring Valentine" (11m53s) has Davis noting how the horror genre allows for greater experimentation and use of new technology in composing music, with Blanks' own compositional skills coming in handy creating a sync between them. That's not all though; there's also a huge reel of behind the scenes footage shot on VHS (114m21s) with extensive coverage of the cast and crew at work throughout the production, including lots of fun stuff with the Cupid costume. An extended reel of interviews for the EPK (17m21s) features plenty of additional outtake comments from the cast, and you also get a teaser, a reel of TV spots (1m23s), a still gallery, and best of all, the surviving deleted scenes (8m40s) from a VHS time-coded workprint, featuring some extra character development and, more importantly, the more violent kill scenes in their original form. A barely hidden Easter Egg (1m6s) addresses that aforementioned similarity to Alone in the Dark from an unexpected source, too, in a highly amusing fashion.