Like a shot through the heart, Scream Factory’s new Collector’s Edition release of Valentine has arrived and is filled with nothing but love for Jamie Blanks’ underappreciated 2001 cinematic love letter to slashers and giallo films. And as someone who has been a fan of the movie since its theatrical release, I am totally a smitten kitten over all the awesomeness contained on this new Valentine Blu, making for an excellent celebration of one of the most overlooked modern horror whodunits, and I hope it helps folks who may have dismissed it in the past realize just how much fun Valentine truly is.
For the uninitiated, Valentine first transports us back to the year 1988 where, at a middle school dance, social reject Jeremy Melton attempts to ask a bunch of the popular girls to dance, getting wildly rejected before finding one gal who would make out with him, but once they’re discovered by a gaggle of bullies, she claims he forced her into it, resulting in poor Jeremy getting humiliated in front of everyone at the teeny bopper soirée.
Flash forward 13 years, and we catch up with the popular girls in the present day, navigating their way through the dating pool’s choppy waters, but keeping their longstanding friendship front and center. There’s med student Shelley (Katherine Heigl), rich girl Dorothy (Jessica Capshaw), the bubbly Lily (Jessica Cauffiel), smart and sexy Paige (Denise Richards), with nice girl Kate (Marley Shelton) at the center of it all. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, the women all have romance on their minds to varying degrees, but when a masked killer donning a Cupid visage begins stalking and killing them off, the ladies realize they’ve got more to fear than another bad date.
Blanks, who burst on the scene in 1998 with Urban Legend, another stellar modern slasher, made his return to the genre with Valentine at a time when slasher movies that took themselves seriously were not in fashion, which is probably why the film did pretty great during its opening weekend (its per-screen average was higher than the number one movie that week, The Wedding Planner, so take THAT, J. Lo), the film mostly got lost in the shuffle over the last 18 years. So, kudos to Scream Factory for showing this gem some love, because it definitely is deserving.
What struck me during this rewatch of Valentine was just how smart the film is, and how interestingly it taps into these intriguing female characters and relationships as well, especially at the turn of a new century when there were only the inklings of where our society was headed towards these days. Also, it was a lovely reminder of just why I got married in 2001 to begin with, because the horrors of dating on display in this movie are almost as terrifying as Cupid’s aim with a bow and arrow. In all seriousness, though, all the dudes in Valentine are total duds, but that is entirely by design (but more on that later), with even David Boreanaz’s character, Adam, eventually showing his true colors once he gets drunk at Dorothy’s lavish Valentine’s Day party during the film’s final act. Blanks and screenwriters Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Harberts, Donna Powers, and Wayne Powers are far more interested in celebrating these women and the bonds they share, flaws and all, and that’s pretty cool and certainly far more interesting than most of what we were seeing in horror at that time.
As far as the Blu-ray presentation of Valentine goes, this Collector’s Edition is excellent. My only quibble is the film’s sound mix, which was all over the place, and had us worried that something was wrong with our 5.1 surround sound system (after numerous tests, and watching the recent Urban Legend Blu, we confirmed that everything was fine on our end). Because I only ever watched the movie on DVD, I will say that the quality of the transfer for Valentine is great, though, and there are so many different options when it comes to special features that I spent an entire day just going through everything.
The Collector’s Edition includes two different commentary tracks, but the one featuring Blanks with longtime friend Don Coscarelli was just an absolute delight. Their conversation was warm and engaging, their anecdotes ranging from informative to enlightening to entertaining, and I was genuinely bummed when the end credits began rolling. There was a lot to unwrap in this Valentine commentary, which is why it was so highly enjoyable for me, and some of my favorite tidbits include:
We also get some featurettes on the Valentine Blu which feature several cast and crew members, including Denise Richards (who touts Paige’s death scene as one of the best in modern horror history, and I do not disagree with her), Marley Shelton, who discussed using Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby as her inspiration, Jessica Cauffiel, who shared that her death being mentioned in Fangoria was a huge moment for her brother. We also get an extensive featurette on the writing process of Valentine with Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts, who originally met at Northwestern, and were the rare writers who dabbled in both television and film at the time (they also worked on shows like the OG 90210 and Roswell). They talked about how they were sent the script before the first meeting, but it was centered more on the revenge component, which was more drawn-out at that juncture. The initial appeal for them was that the story revolved around different types of women from different backgrounds who had different experiences with relationships.
They shared how they initially had written a vending machine death scene for Katherine Heigl and a dumbwaiter gag, but both got cut because of the budget. Something else that I thought was interesting, too, was that the killer was originally supposed to don a pig mask and they built on the idea of a more iconic-looking creepy mask with Jamie and it evolved into the Cherub. Two of the other featurettes focus on editor Steve Mirkovich (who also cut films like Big Trouble in Little China, Prince of Darkness, Spellbinder, and even came in to edit the epic fight scene for They Live) and composer Don Davis, who talked about his process of scoring Valentine and some of his inspirations.
Also included are nearly two hours of behind-the-scenes footage (culled from over 10 hours) and it was pretty fascinating to see the moviemaking machine in motion, especially with how they approached Paige’s death and the epic party scene (which was shot in silence—SO weird). Also, you haven’t lived until you’ve watched David Boreanaz quoting The Shining. The vintage featurettes and making-of videos were really fun, too (man, everything about it feels so 2001, which is a compliment because it almost feels like you’re unearthing a time capsule), and there’s also a music video and other goodies included here that were rad as hell, too. Seriously, Scream Factory went all out with their Collector’s Edition of Valentine, and as a fan of the film, I could not be more appreciative of their impressive efforts.
Movie Score: 3.5/5, Disc Score: 4.5/5