Valentine Review

Prior to it's release, the one thing that seemed to sell Valentine as a film was the fact that it starred David Boreanaz - more familiar to most of you as TV's Angel. Following its release and subsequent panning at the hands of critics on both sides of the Atlantic, the film became far better known as a failed Scream wannabe. The US DVD release didn't come too long after our UK theatrical release and considering the short length of time the film had on the theatre circuit in this country, this DVD is also the first chance a lot of you will get in seeing the film.
The concept behind Valentine is quite promising - a school geek sets out to get revenge on all those that were spiteful to him during his school days - or at least that's what we are supposed to think and the film is built up in such a way to convince you that this is the case. It comes firmly from the Scream/I Know What You Did Last Summer generation of horror films - loads of good-looking twenty-somethings being stalked and killed by a masked murderer. Where Scream had the Ghostly mask, and I Know... had the hooded fisherman, Valentine has 'Cupid'.

The opening sequence of the film does show promise. A young medical student, Shelley (Katherine Heigl), is about to perform a late-night post mortem when she hears a sound, after investigating and turning up nothing more than another student she returns to the body to start the operation when suddenly the 'corpse' breathes... What ensues is your usual horror-film chase sequence where the girl runs as fast as she can, the stalker walks purposefully until she is cornered within a morgue where she is finally murdered. The filming is all very 'surgical' in it's execution - listening to the commentary reveals the time constraints the crew were up against as Heigl has to return to her regular role in the TV series Roswell. The rest of the film follows the same pattern and doesn't really deviate from the tried and trusted teen (twenty-something) horror formula.

The main problem the film faces is that there isn't enough suspense. The killer is seen by the audience before each murder and he's never really unsuccessful - we know he's going to kill his intended victim and we don't really get to see any inventiveness in the way in which he carries out his 'heinous' crimes. None of the actors and actresses are really given anything particularly difficult to work with - they don't really get to do much more than read their lines and run away. There are also a number of unanswered plot threads which appear to have been introduced with no real reason - Shelley's date who briefly appears later in the film and is the main suspect of the murders for a large chunk of the film doesn't really gel. Dorothy (Jessica Capshaw) offers a room to her new boyfriend Campbell (Daniel Cosgrove) who is later revealed to be just after her money - this is revealed in one scene and then Campbell is killed in the next. It appears that there's a lot more the director wanted to include but couldn't due to time constraints - however it's unforgivable for the editor to leave these plot threads dangling with no real reason unless the aim was a failed attempt at creating more three-dimensional characters.

The final sequence of the film is a mish-mash of horror clichés that fail to gel convincingly. There is a huge twist towards the end that would have given a fairly satisfying conclusion - however this is ends up being a waste when the closing shot of the film confirms that the murderer was who many people thought it was all along. This also makes the twist completely unbelievable and unexplained. What else do we have? Well, there's slimy policeman Vaughn (Fulvio Cecere) who unconvincingly comes onto another of the 'murderees', Paige (Denise Richards). The unexplained disappearance (to the characters in the film at least) of Lily (Jessica Cauffiel) - we see her get murdered but it appears that no-one notices she's missing (the excuse being she's 'gone to LA') - the police don't even make any attempt to track her down. Then there is the murder of Detective Vaughn - he's on his way to the party at the end of the film one minute, the next he's dead. The list goes on and on.

Given the fact that director Jamie Blanks also has another half-hearted teen-horror film to his name in the form of Urban Legends you would have at least have expected him to learn from his mistakes in the earlier film. The fact is that he appears to have taken a fairly large step backwards - at least the first film had a good idea as the backbone and exploited it as much as possible. Valentine fails to deliver on almost every count. It's a watchable film - but entirely unsatisfying even to those that usually like films in this Horror sub-genre.

The DVD is infuriatingly good considering the film's calibre. Why do the distributors put comparatively more effort into flops than they do into their real classics?

The picture is nothing short of reference quality - bar some very minor flecking in a few scenes there's nothing at all wrong with the transfer. It's beautifully sharp with well-defined colours. As with almost all horror films, a lot of this one takes place in the dark and there's plenty of shadow detail with no sign of any sort of digital artefacting. In all there's not really you can say when you have a good picture on a disc - of course it goes without saying that I wouldn't expect anything less from such a new film.
The soundtrack is also reference quality - and there are some notably outstanding moments when all five channels are put to good use almost simultaneously. The most obvious example is during the 'art' exhibition in chapter's 10-12 with sounds and voices coming from every corner of the room. In general the soundstage is very wide with dialogue coming from all around - the centre channel is home to the majority, but good use is made of the front left and right channels to place off camera dialogue.

Now the extras - most important of which is the commentary. Thankfully, it's refreshing to hear that Blanks wasn't entirely happy with any aspect of the film - he's continually making excuses for the reasons why things fail and highlights a number of the constraints the crew faced - both technically and in terms of the actor's availability (in particular David Boreanaz and Katherine Heigl who had commitments to their respective television shows). Unfortunately the commentary has the effect of making you ask why, if there were so many ways in which the film failed did they not pick these up?
The rest of the extras are fairly average - there is a making-of that consists solely of quick flashy interviews with the cast and crew. It's all your usual superficial glossy promo sort of stuff and none of it shows any particular depth. The trailer is thankfully spoiler free and plays far more like a teaser than a full theatrical trailer we usually expect. Finally there are a few pages of text filmographies and a music 'video' which consists of clips from the film.

Technically, the disc is hugely impressive. The extras are for the most part average with the exception of the commentary that is worth listening to if you can stomach watching the film more than once. The film itself is near enough at the bottom of the ladder of recent horror films - certainly not something that will be remembered by many people much past the end of the year...

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