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Tuesday, July 13, 2021

‘Valentine’ Kicked Off 2000s Horror With a Fun Trip Right Back to the 1980s [You Aughta Know]

Hello, true believers, and welcome to You Aughta Know, a column dedicated to the decade that is now two full decades behind us. That’s right, it’s time to take a look back at one of the most overlooked decades of horror. Follow along as I do my best to explore the horror titles that made up the 2000s.

Thanks to the success of Scream, the slasher was revitalized in the late 1990s, with Valentine coming along in 2001 to capitalize on the trend. Based loosely on a novel by mystery writer Tom Savage, it’s pretty much what became standard fare for the films of this era. A group of friends who are twenty-something are stalked, and eventually killed, by our mystery killer. The cast were all young actors and actresses who were budding stars at the time (Katherine Heigl, Marley Shelton, David Boreanaz, Denise Richards), although numerous other names were attached at some point, including Jennifer Love Hewitt and Tara Reid. It was also originally offered to Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly (HOLY SHIT, what would that movie have been?!), but it eventually fell into the lap of Jamie Blanks

Blanks is a name that probably isn’t too well known but should be. He’s the man who crafted the cult classic Urban Legend in 1999, which is arguably one of the best slashers to come out of the post-Scream mania. It was also wildly successful at the box office, raking in almost five times its budget, so it makes sense that Artisan would hand off a film in the same vein to someone who had proven himself competent and financially successful. So two years after Urban Legend (and a solid year after Scream 3), Valentine was released twelve days before Valentine’s Day and caught the tail end of the teen scream revitalization.

Originally landing at Warner Brothers and set to be based on a college campus, the film found its way to Artisan and some changes were made. We start at a sixth grade Valentine’s dance in 1988, where Jeremy Melton is the stereotypical nerd, and is asking girl after girl if they’d like a dance. These all end up being the women that we will follow for the rest of the film. Jeremy finally asks the other social outcast, Dorothy, if she would like to dance and they are soon found making out under the school bleachers. Embarrassed to be caught with the boy her classmates have all dubbed “pervert,” she claims he attacked her and he is beaten up, stripped, and left bloody.

Flash forward thirteen years later where all of these same women are still friends but they begin to be targeted by a Cupid-mask wearing, Valentine’s Day themed murderer. 

Blanks actually makes a bold move with Valentine. While the films of the genre at the time were all copying Scream, Valentine instead presented itself with the same modern day sheen but was decidedly eighties in its execution. It was an exercise Blanks explored in Urban Legend, with a themed killer in a “costume” of sorts, but he fully commits to it in Valentine. Not only do we get a Cupid mask-wearing stalker who is sending delightfully macabre Valentine’s, but our cast of characters aren’t quite as referential as the characters we had been meeting in the late nineties and early aughts. The twist ending is also a direct shoutout to the slashers of twenty years prior, swerving into a classic curveball ending that could potentially lead directly into a sequel if need be. 

The kills feel blunt and brutal with wickedly smart Valentine’s Day lead ups. A knife to the throat, three arrows in the chest, an electric drill jamming through the top of an enclosed jacuzzi. Sure, this is 2001, but Blanks is giving us kills straight out of Friday the 13th classics. The tone of the film feels poignantly directed to be a throwback as well. The characters, although dying off and being stalked, spend much of the movie joking about men and partying. Even Boreanaz, our main lead and possible suspect, spends the film far less brooding than his Angel counterpart, and makes loads of goofy jokes with silly physicality. The score by Don Davis even reaches back in time to give that discordant jovial soundtrack that was so often found in the hack and slash of yesteryear. 

It’s fun because Blanks leans so easily into these tropes but also casually flips others on their heads. Where we are used to seeing a bunch of sex-crazed males spend every minute either begging women to take their tops off or getting flayed, this female-dominated cast spends most of the movie rejecting men for their oafish advances. The women actually mock men for their ridiculous behavior, spurn guys who are chauvinistic assholes, and are in complete control of their sexuality. It’s refreshing and in 2001, it was way AHEAD of its time cinematically. 

At release, the film was slammed, to the point where Blanks apologized for it and said they “did the best they could.” Mister Blanks, I’m here to tell you that you have nothing to apologize for. It seems Valentine perhaps suffered from a generation riding the high of the post-Scream meta slashers that wasn’t ready for such a tongue-in-cheek wink at the foundation of the slasher genre. Two decades later, Valentine has received a small, welcome and deserved resurgence as a fun and charming hack and slash in a decade that was overall lacking in the subgenre. 



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3673815/valentine-kicked-off-2000s-horror-fun-trip-right-back-1980s-aughta-know/

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