There are a ton of options for what to watch on Valentine’s Day, but for me it usually comes down to George Mihalka’s 1981 My Bloody Valentine and Jamie Blanks’ 2001 film Valentine. Like many people, I sometimes opt for MBV, however, this year I’m opting to watch Valentine. I’m not saying that My Bloody Valentine isn’t an amazing slasher, I’m simply making the case that Valentine is a perfectly suitable alternative for your February 14th horror fix.
With the opening credits of Valentine, we observe an 8th grade Valentine’s Day dance where a young, quiet, geeky boy named Jeremy Melton is looking for a girl to dance with. Unfortunately for Jeremy, every young lady he asks turns him down. Then he meets Dorothy. Dorothy is a quiet, plump girl who all the other boys ignore. So, when Jeremy asks her to dance, she accepts. Soon Jeremy and Dorothy progress to making out under the bleachers. When a few boys spot the two, Dorothy accuses Jeremy of attacking her. The boys decide to humiliate Jeremy in front of everybody by stripping him down to his tightey whiteys. Poor kid…first he has a terrible haircut and Coke bottle glasses, now this.
We then jump forward several years and Dorothy and the girls who said no to Jeremy at the dance are all grown up. The women are now getting twisted greeting cards and gifts with the signature “J.M.” Soon the girls are getting stalked and killed off one by one. Could this be Jeremy back for revenge?
The film plunges into the mythology of the holiday. Many people argue that My Bloody Valentine is the best holiday-themed horror film for February 14th viewing. I’d argue that Valentine actually better fits the bill. Now, hear me out before you get your pitchforks. When it comes to My Bloody Valentine, take away the decorations and it could easily fit with any other holiday. However, with Jamie Blanks’ holiday slasher, it’s much more specific to the holiday. In Valentine, the storyline is tied to a series of secret admirer letters and blind dates specifically centered around Valentine’s Day. Even when it comes to introducing the characters in the film, they make reference to the holiday.
The majority of the guys in the film are shown as scumbags for not caring about their significant others around Valentine’s Day. While the girls are depicted as bitter for not having dates or significant others. If this was not a Valentine’s Day film, the motivations of the characters would have been entirely different.
Sure, Valentine is not reinventing anything in the slasher genre; however, it doesn’t need to. This film was released a couple of years after Wes Craven’s Scream. And what makes it noteworthy is that it was trying to emulate the ’80s slasher in a time when other filmmakers were trying to focus on meta horror. Valentine is a truly conventional slasher that many people dismissed out of hand upon its initial release.
Some of the dialogue is cheesy, yet a lot of that is intentional. The film has the same sense of humor that was common in 1980s slashers. Combine that with the fact that this is very much like a modern day giallo and you have yourself a solid piece of holiday slasher cinema.
As far as the performances in the film, they are surprisingly good, particularly the female characters. The women are effective and intelligent, while the men are depicted as a bit dull, save for one of the women’s neighbors who likes to sneak into her apartment to try on her clothes. A lot of slasher films feature one-dimensional performances. But Valentine has a pretty compelling cast of characters.
The moral of this film? It actually featured a pretty strong anti-bullying message before that was particularly commonplace. It warns that if you mistreat someone in your youth, they will come back as an adult with a new name and a new face to kill you and your group of friends.
I reiterate that Valentine is a perfectly suitable alternative to My Bloody Valentine for your February 14th horror fix. Valentine is not a perfect film, but it’s a lot of fun and definitely one to which I think people should give the benefit of the doubt.