Editor’s Note: Jeff does a hell of a job getting us timely articles. For example this one should have been released around Valentine’s Day. I was lazy and messed it up. My apologies, Jeff!
By 2001, horror fans had quite a fulfilling few years of gruesome greatness. The Scream sequels, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend, Cherry Falls, School’s Out, The Faculty and Halloween: H20 brought the genre back to bloodlust days of the 80’s. Full of popular faces taking the primetime dramas by storm were now flooding the big screen. But amongst these, there was still no definitive take on the “holidays” or festive one-ofs (H20 an exception). Mainstream horror fans still had to rent My Bloody Valentine, a classic in its own right, come February 14th to get the horror fix. Those with Blockbuster Video accounts probably stumbled across Cupid (starring Hellraiser’s Ashley Laurence) or even Lover’s Lane (with Scary Movie’s Anna Faris). They were decent little entries, but nothing that captured the essence of Valentine’s Day.
Thankfully, during a business meeting, producer Dylan Sellers came across a novel by Tom Savage called Valentine. This discovery would launch the producer into selling his pitch to Warner Brothers to make a thriller set on Valentine’s Day. Through rewrites, the story would become less like the novel (which this author owns having immediately rushed out to the bookstore the opening weekend of this movie) and more about a modern day take on an issue that remains very real: childhood bullying. Chosen to direct was the man that made Urban Legend the stylish and gothic entry that it is, Jamie Blanks. The cast was chosen – and what an impressive cast it is – and off they went to British Columbia to shoot the film in what was originally a planned 37 day shoot.
I’d rather be burned alive!
The story begins at a grade-school dance, where we meet young Jeremy Melton attempting to get a dance with some of the most popular girls at school. Innocent Jeremy, with buck teeth and big glasses, seems like a decent enough kid but is treated to “I’d rather be burned alive!” by Paige, or the cut to the chase “Eww!” by Lily. The only one who gives him a chance is the pleasantly plump Dorothy who craves the attention the other girls get. However, once the popular boys find her making out with Jeremy, she changes the story and sides with the in-crowd causing a public humiliation of Jeremy getting stripped down to his underpants in the centre of the dance floor and beaten.
Flash forward ten years, we start with Shelley (Katherine Heigl) as she is on a bad date and anxious to get back to work on her finals. She does return to her school after ditching the weird Jason Marquette (Adam Harrington). This opening kill sets up the revenge plot premise with Shelley receiving a Valentine’s Day card containing a threatening message and the killer sporting a Cherub mask. Note that one of the kids in the dance prologue was a passerby wearing the same mask. The rest of the girls are reunited at Shelley’s funeral and quickly get caught up to speed on the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death courtesy of Detective Vaughn (Fulvio Cecere). The lead girl, Kate (Marley Shelton), is a writer who is also having unresolved romantic issues with alcoholic Adam Carr (David Boreanaz). While Lily (Jessica Cauffiel) and Paige (Denise Richards) have their freewill fun, it’s Dorothy (Jessica Capshaw) that is also having her share of crisis when she meets Campbell (Daniel Cosgrove). Still longing for the attention after these years, she unwillingly deceived by Campbell’s charm but doesn’t want to face the truth. Whether it be Adam, or Campbell, or a few other guys thrown in, they all play as good red herrings to the viewer. We never quite know who it could be despite some of the obvious signs.
The climax unfolds at Dorothy’s Valentine’s Day party where the Cherub killer continues the murderous pursuit. With only a few girls left, it’s up to Kate to figure out if the killer really is Jeremy Melton or someone else. The kills are relatively simple, and Paige’s demise in the hot tub is the most gruesome and violent – a deliberate action since she was also the most harsh to Jeremy.
The film was budgeted at an approximate $29,000,000.00 and despite the negative reviews from critics, was able to pull in an impressive $10,024,648.00 in its opening weekend of February 2nd, 2001. Overall, by the end of its theatrical run, the film grossed $36,684,100.00. That’s not bad for a film that was loathed by genre fans and critics; it made its money back. What was it that made it so terrible?
In my opinion, it is not a terrible film. The movie focuses on a very relatable issue as having gone through grade school as one of the unpopular, bullying does happen and rejection from girls is a bitter pill to swallow. Painful memories just don’t go away, but society has the expectations that everyone matures and the past is the past. There is counseling and support groups available to make sure that any violent tendencies don’t come to fruition. This film speaks on that level, when treatment hasn’t worked, and how it affects not just the victim but the culprits. As all the girls are now mature and working on their careers, they are still very aware of their actions and roles they played in damaging a boy’s life. The guilt still haunts them and how do they come to terms with that now that they are in danger. These are adults dealing with adult issues, and stalking is still one of the number one most dangerous issues that America, and the world, has to deal with. In an article on the movie in Fangoria #200, Marley Shelton elaborated on the reality of the issue, “When I was growing up, I was both a victim and a perpetrator in my time. It’s the strangest period of life, and the script is absolutely on the mark.” (p.77)
Each character represents an archetype of the societal stereotypes we place on our friends, colleagues, and even family. In my favorite scene, Dorothy lets loose on Kate and calls the girls out on what each archetype they represent. It’s a scene that I feel plays to the viewer and makes the audience associate with how Dorothy feels or what role they play in their own lives. That’s not the only intelligence found hidden in this movie, but also the narrative craft employed by the writers. Each characters death is representative of the comments made to Jeremy at the dance; a clever way of foreshadowing fates. One last bit to point out is the tongue-firmly-in-cheek irony that all these girls, considering they were the popular and sought after ones, are all either in relationship troubles or outright single. It’s an acknowledgement to show that the “in-crowd” don’t always remain that way.
This movie is not without its flaws. There are times when the acting seems a bit overdone and the dialogue comes from a cheap late night baby blue movie – the scenes with Detective Vaughn and Paige for instance. At most, characters are dropped without any send off. Jason Marquette, although discussed, is not seen again or even bumped off, nor is Max (Johnny Whitworth) and Brian (Woody Jeffreys) – his machismo attempt to seduce Paige gets him in hot wax – so we are left to believe that he survives the slaughter still hurting upstairs in the bedroom. However, this could be a blessing in disguise. Yes, many characters do bite the dust, but it was refreshing to see that additional characters that were brought in were not killed unnecessarily just to heighten the blood levels. I believe it was a wise move not only to keep the red herrings open, but also serve some reality that the killer was not after them, only people who threatened to interfere with the revenge process.
No Blu-Ray, not even a direct money grab transfer, has been released for this and it’s a shame. With the DVD (one of my first ever DVDs to own might I add) having some special features, it lacked what horror fans would actually enjoy. MORE HORROR! Yes, it was revealed shortly after, that cuts were made and fans didn’t get to see the “coincidental” pool of blood shaped like a heart which oozed out of Ruthie’s neck or the skin-sizzling aftermath of the iron kill on Gary. PLEASE WARNER BROTHERS – give us this stuff!
Perhaps it was the editing that created some of the aforementioned character confusion, as material was cut down to fit the running time. Even still, the film flows and becomes a welcome Valentine’s Day season shocker. The cast was impressive to say the least – David Boreanaz made his film debut here as he was a soaring favorite on Buffy and Angel, Denise Richards (who started in Starship Troopers and even played a Bond girl in The World Is Not Enough), Jessica Capshaw (she went onto play in The Practice and Grey’s Anatomy), Marley Shelton (Grindhouse, Scream 4) and lastly, Katherine Heigl who is no stranger to horror with Bride of Chucky and her behind-the-scenes attitude became “the talk” of Hollywood with her role on Grey’s Anatomy and the movie Knocked Up.
I don’t think a sequel would have been necessary despite the not-so-surprising reveal at the end of the movie, but the marketing potential was there. The Cherub killer would have made a great addition to McFarlane’s Movie Maniacs toyline or Neca’s Cinema of Fear.
Valentine’s Day 2015 just came to a close and I saved this movie to end my marathon. Let’s face it, the 2009 remake of My Bloody Valentine in 3D might be the best Valentine’s Day horror movie ever made, but it would not be February 14th if ‘Valentine’ was not on my MUST WATCH list. I implore any viewer to give this movie a look-see and enjoy an A-List cast, with the 80s slasher nostalgia, mixed in with some millennium pop-culture and concerns. To coin the movie’s tagline whenever I see my enjoyment of this movie bashed by critics, “Falling in love never hurt so bad.”
The original website is full of suspenseful flash antics, eerie music and interactivity where you can still send out the same Valentines that are seen in the movie: http://valentinemovie.warnerbros.com/
Rowe,Michael. (2001) Valentine Runs Red. FANGORIA. New York, USA: Starlog Group, Inc. www.Fangoria.com