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In 1998 I was introduced to a then unknown director by the name of Jamie Blanks. The film was "Urban Legends", a fresh approach to the once again tired horror genre. After 1996's "Scream" revived the genre, many copy-cat films followed. None of which ever came close to matching the sheer genius of the original "Scream". Flash forward to the fall of 1998, Columbia Tristar scores a moderate size hit with a film that puts a interesting spin on the tired slasher genre. In "Urban Legends", director Blanks moved away from the traditional way of killing, instead having the killer follow urban legends. The year 2000 saw a sequel to that film which disregarded everything that was original and great about the first one and slipped into senseless predictable teen horror fare. Since 1998, I've been eagerly awaiting the follow-up film from Blanks and it has been a long wait however where "Urban Legends" was clever, original and unpredictable his follow-up "Valentine" is unoriginal, uninspired, and features some of the worst acting I've seen of late.

Valentine
Movie
"Valentine's" premise is very simple. It opens in a high school gym where a Valentine's day dance is occurring, the audience is shown a little boy (the class nerd) asking out a string of girls. He is continually shot down and just when it looks hopeless for him the last girl he asks (a slightly plump girl named Dorothy) says yes and they start making out under the bleachers. After a few minutes some of the other people at the dance notice them and ask Dorothy if she allowed this to happen, folding under peer pressure she says that he attacked her and she hadn't given permission. Flash forward 13 years, we suddenly are sitting in on a date that is not going so well. Shelly (Katherine Heigl) is having dinner with Jason who keeps referring to himself in the 3rd person as "Jason". She decides that she has had enough of this and leaves to go study for her med school exam. It's late and she's in a creepy dark building with her corpse as she works on her medical techniques. All of a sudden we hear the creepy music and sounds suggesting she's not alone. She goes to look around and runs into another med student who was just on his way out. After he leaves she sees a red envelope with her name on it. She opens it up and reads the card, it appears to be a Valentine although a rather morbid one. Before you know it, she is being chased by a guy who looks and acts like Michael Myers (from Halloween) with a white Cupid's mask. Needless to say it's not long before she is dead and we see her friends at her funeral. At the funeral the audience learns that these are the same girls from the dance and that nothing much has changed. There is still the trampy one Paige (Denise Richards), the kind one Kate (Marley Shelton), the airhead (Jessica Cauffiel) and the plump one Dorothy (Jessica Capshaw). It is here we are also introduced to Kate's boyfriend Adam, a guy with a drinking problem played by David Boreanaz of TV's Angel. After the funeral the girls all start to receive creepy valentine's and the hints start flying.

"Valentine" is a film with numerous problems, the writing is severely lacking and is almost insulting to anyone who has seen any other teen slasher flick. Where "Scream" was witty and clever with pop culture references, this movie is dull, drab and features some of the most uninspired dialogue ever uttered in a slasher film. One of the biggest faults of the writing is the sheer obviousness of the killers identity. To try and throw the viewer off their game there are quite a few characters who's sole purpose for being in the film is to create suspicion that maybe, just maybe, the person we all think the killer is not really the killer. These red herrings never fool anyone in the movie or out of the movie for longer than 5 seconds yet they continue to pop and reoccur throughout trying to show that they are not just glorified extras.

While the writing is bad, it's not the biggest problem. The acting or lack of acting in "Valentine" is downright awful. Now one doesn't expect Oscar caliber performances in horror movies but this is just horrible. First of all, I never expected that I could see a more cardboard like performance in my life after seeing Denise Richards in "The World Is Not Enough". Well she has out done herself here as Paige. The rest of the performances are just as bad with one exception. Marley Shelton who can also be seen in the black comedy "Sugar and Spice" gives us the standout performance of the film as Kate, the nice girl who let down young Jeremy gently unlike all her mean and cynical friends. While this performance is not as good as her recent turn as a pregnant bank robbing teen in "Sugar and Spice", she is light years above the likes of Denise Richards and David Boreanaz in this movie. Also worth noting is the lovely Katherine Heigl from TV's "Roswell" who should have had the lead role in the picture but sadly was only able to do 3 days work on the film due to her TV commitments. 

I went into "Valentine" expecting a better picture and was let down a lot.  The marketing had me thinking that this film could once again cause a resurgence in the ailing genre. I didn't get what I was expecting and I didn't like what I got.

Valentine
Video
Warner Brothers presents "Valentine" in a gorgeous 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer that far exceeds the quality of the theatrical print I saw. When Valentine was released to theaters in Feb of this 2001, my friends and I headed out to the theater on opening night as we always do.  However I was less then pleased with my movie going experience that night. The image lacked focus and the colors seemed rather muted. Luckily none of the problems I experienced that night are present on the DVD.

"Valentine" is at times a very dark film with a lot of action occurring in dimly lit locations. In movies with a number of night time sequences I get worried about how they will look on the DVD. In "Valentine's" case all that worry was for nothing as all scenes show great detail and sharpness, especially those taking place at night. Colors are strong and vibrant which is important here as they need to stand out from the dark background. The film contains some of the deepest reds I've ever had the pleasure of seeing. 

However while the transfer for the most part is another outstanding effort, it does have a few problems. Upon my second viewing of the film (with the commentary track on) I noticed a few small speckles of dirt on the print used as well as a minor scratch in the image. Edge enhancement also makes a brief appearance as well as some slight grain during the art gallery scenes. None of these provide a major distraction from the film though.

Nevertheless this is an excellent transfer of a dark film. It's good to see the dark scenes accurately represented by Warner Brothers as they've had some problems with that in the past. Another step forward for Warner Brothers and their transfer team.

Audio
Horror movies can provide interesting opportunities for creative sound mixes. In some cases the sound mix can make an otherwise bad movie worth watching.  By placing ambient sounds neatly in the mix it can often heighten the scare ability factor of the viewing audience. I know that when I've watched certain horror movies and sounds come from behind me and off to the side of me it can get a little spooky. There's nothing better then a creative horror mix.

For "Valentine" Warner Brothers has presented a Dolby Digital 5.1 track that doesn't always thrill but does provide a fair number of chills. There were a couple instances that screams or footsteps surrounded me and caused me to get a little unnerved. I used to be frightened of even the simplest thing but with my constant exposure to horror over the past few years I'm pretty much immune to the scare tactics employed by modern filmmakers.  Dialogue levels are fine so you don't need to strain to hear the characters words, although why you would want to I don't know. Music is fairly balanced in the mix and the surrounds are used on occasion to try and open things up a tad. There's no real problems with this mix other then the music could be a bit louder.

Also available is a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track for those who prefer to watch movies in that way.

Valentine
Extras
Warner Brothers has been a studio that lacked consistency in their handling of their smaller titles. Movies such as "Gossip" and "The In Crowd" got pretty decent special edition releases where as "Red Planet" got the shaft. Since "Valentine" falls into the same area as "The In Crowd" and "Gossip", it was a little disappointing to see it not receive the same as its predecessors. 

While not a full fledged special edition, "Valentine" does have a few extra features.

Kicking off the disc is the director's audio commentary with Jamie Blanks. Having enjoyed Blanks previous film "Urban Legends" and his commentary for that film, I was interested in hearing what he had to say about "Valentine" - a film which didn't strike a cord with me. On the "Valentine" track Blanks provides an informative outline of the events surrounding the filming of the picture. Since "Valentine" - like so many other movies was filmed in my own hometown of Vancouver, BC, I was interested in learning about the locations used. Unlike other movies shot here I couldn't really identify any of the locations used. So I found it very interesting when Blanks mentioned where shots were made. Looking back at it I should have known that some scenes were shot at Granville Island or the Vancouver cemetery. Also adding to the fun of the commentary were comments involving the various stages of pre-production, including an early version of the project at a different studio that was set to star "Pussycat's" drummer Tara Reid. I can only imagine if that version had come to pass if the movie would have been better. A fun and informative track with very few pauses throughout. In some ways more fun than the movie itself.

Up next is the fairly standard 8 minute promotional featurette featuring behind the scenes footage along with interviews with the principals involved. Warning.. If you haven't seen the film don't watch the featurette until after the film as it contains major spoilers.

In a new take on the music video concept there is a bunch of random scenes cut together to a tune by Orgy called "Opticon".  An interesting idea that wasn't quite executed as well as it could be.

Rounding out the disc we have the theatrical teaser trailer which was basically the only advance publicity used for this film. I can't help but think if there was a full length theatrical trailer that it may have harmed the box office.

Also included are the standard cast/crew biographies.

Valentine is not the best horror movie by a long shot. In fact I'd put it near the bottom of my list. Fans of the movie will be more than happy with the disc, as it features excellent audio/video quality and a couple decent extras. Those of you who haven't seen the movie, don't bother it's not worth your time. If you're a fan of anyone in the cast, wait until you have a free rental coupon and then check it out. That way you won't be out any money. Not Recommended.


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