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Valentine (2001)



I had a chance to read the novel that this film is based on before heading to the theater. My wife and I had seen previews for Valentine for a few months and when we discovered Tom Savage’s novel at Borders, we picked it up. My wife read it first, and couldn’t put it down. In the couple weeks before the film, I finally flinched, worrying that the book might spoil some of the impact of the film. I should have went ahead and read it. Nothing could further spoil this garbage.

After about 15 minutes, my wife gave up trying to correlate the film (something I don’t necessarily think should be done, but I realize most of us do it) to the book--she said it was futile, so she tried to just enjoy the film for what it was. That apparently didn’t help either. She thought that director Jamie Blanks’ (whose previous film, Urban Legend, I actually enjoyed, despite its cliché/cheese factor) work deserved a thorough drubbing, but I can't completely pan it. Valentine is truly so bad that it’s funny. I laughed out loud at least once every five minutes.

The story, which you must be wondering about by now, goes like this--at least according to the film: In junior high school, Jeremy Melton, the school’s infamous geeky pervert (well, he really looks a bit like a young Stephen King), is shunned by all the girls. We know this because Blanks takes us first to a junior high Valentine’s party where everyone turns him down when he asks for a dance. He finally gets lucky with Dorothy, primarily because she’s a bit chunky, and instead of dancing, they start making out beneath the gym’s bleachers. When the class punks see them, they start picking on them and Dorothy claims that Jeremy attacked her. They beat up Jeremy and he’s sent to reform school or something (we learn that last bit later in the film). Years later, when everyone is grown up and all the women have turned into gorgeous, boyfriend-less models (yeah, right), everything is fine until one woman turns up dead and the rest of the female friends start getting threatening Valentine’s cards. That’s really it. It took four scriptwriters to turn what was reportedly a gripping, intelligent horror/suspense book into a bad slasher/"I can’t find a boyfriend" film.

If there’s one thing that Valentine does consistently, it’s incoherence. Very little of the film makes sense. The filmed script seems not only like the writers must have just skimmed the book and taken out ideas at random, but like a final script doctor thought the best plan of action would be to randomly remove scenes and lines of dialogue. There isn’t one scene where character motivation seems in line with how people behave on any planet you’re familiar with and every character is shown following courses of action that would only make sense to a lobotomized badger.

For example, the women are all looking for boyfriends (even the one who already has one), but inexplicably we see them evaluating every possible type of guy, from dweebs to handsome hunks, from the agenda obsessed to intelligent, "normal" guys, but none of them seem to be what the women are looking for. Possibly they’re searching for men from whatever planet the scriptwriters are from. Although reporting this might seem a bit odd, I’m not overemphasizing. This is a major theme of the film, occupying more total screen time than the slasher death sequences. At one point, the scriptwriters even have two of the women participate in some bizarre, unexplained game where they each consider a candidate for 30 seconds, one after the other. But it’s only the two women and a busload of guys doing this in what looks like a normal restaurant filled with normal people. Again, this might be some ritual from a distant planet.

If you’re at all familiar with my reviews, you know I’m not the kind of guy who complains about horror flicks not having enough character development. Well, now I’m complaining. I didn’t know who any of these women were, what any of their personalities were like, why they did any of the things they did, what they wanted out of life, where they worked, where they lived, etc. They just randomly rejected and tentatively accepted men for no reason as they played oblivious to all the slasher film developments smacking them on the forehead.

More instances of consistent incoherency can be found in some of the major plot developments (big spoiler warning for the rest of this paragraph). For example, if the detective actually found Jeremy, and Jeremy was Adam Carr (we never do find out for sure), why didn’t he tell Kate during one of the two subsequent phone calls he had with her? If he found Jeremy and Jeremy wasn’t Adam, then why bother with the backstory and the obvious links (the bloody nose, the mask, etc.)--just to throw us a ridiculous red herring? But then why was Adam psycho? Give us some meat.

The dialogue is another area of consistent incoherency, and during some scenes, such as the "group interview" in the detective’s office, it’s impossible to believe that the scriptwriters were so out of it that they expect us to think this is not supposed to be a comedy. I wasn’t the only one laughing during these types of scenes.

There are a few positive points to mention--the production design was nice, the death scenes were acceptable if implausible, etc., but why bother? If you’re daring enough, you’re not going to watch Valentine for any positives. You’re gonna watch this sucker to laugh at one of the worst films to achieve theatrical release this side of Bats.