Roses are red, violets are blue… there’s a million nice things to continue that opening line on a valentine, but it is rarely followed up with “they’ll need dental records to identify you.” If you find yourself as the recipient of such a note, you may find yourself as the potential victim of a slasher story. A sweet one, but a slasher nonetheless.

Director Jamie Blanks cut his teeth by keeping the slasher trope alive in the late 90’s with his sophomore hit in 1998, Urban Legend. Following a film that hit the refresh button on the typical formula, Blanks along with writers Tom Savage and Val Valentine (how perfect is that name?) tackle one of the horror genre’s most ignored holidays with Valentine in 2001. Here’s the (pretty cheesy) summary:

Love is in the air. On the most romantic day of the year, would-be lovers woo hearts with flowers, candy, cards and gifts. Best friends Kate, Paige, Dorothy, Lily, and Shelly are young women looking for a relationship — a valentine to die for. And this year they might just get their wish

Valentine delivers on the relationship commentary and promise of slasher fanfare. Starring Marley Shelton (Scream 4), Denise Richards (Wild Things), Jessica Capshaw (Holidate), Jessica Cauffiel (Legally Blonde), David Boreanaz (Angel), Fulvio Cecere (Resident Evil: Afterlife), and Katherine Heigl (27 Dresses), Valentine might seem like a dated sentiment, but it draws some new blood when revisited with its charismatic slasher theme and romantic rejections in mind.

 

Be Mine 

The slasher dominated 80’s horror by capitalizing on a strong formula that was able to withstand a range of adaptations: single menacing figure, victim stalking, increasing body counts, final girl, sharp weapon, and a distinctive costume. When the Halloweens, Friday The 13ths, and A Nightmare On Elm Streets ran their gamut, a new killer took over the genre and flipped the slasher upside down, embracing the rules and breaking them at the same time. Wes Craven’s Scream broke meta-horror ground, simultaneously inspiring a brief slasher frenzy and suspending the subgenre in its quality and application.

It was difficult for others to follow in Ghostface’s mortal, yet dangerous footsteps, ultimately ushering in alternative scares with more spectral centric haunts. After the millennium turned over a fresh new milestone and all new eras of horror, Valentine had the guts to write a love letter to slasher norms and return to the formula’s bare bones. That might make Valentine seem like a bore, but there’s still so much more to love about it.

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Valentine delivers on the relationship commentary and promise of slasher fanfare.

 

From a who-done-it to a who-is-it, Valentine follows a group of young women and a pitiful schoolmate from the past bent on revenge at the center. It has that engaging callback to a certain event, a group of potential corpses, and a strange, faceless man. The guessing game, assumption, and uncertainty between the women almost turns the mystery of the boy they rejected into lore or an urban myth of sorts as he picks them off one by one, but not before tugging at their heart strings. Leaving grotesque Valentine card decorated with disgusting messages, gifting infested chocolates, breathing into the phone receiver, and signing his initials, J.M., the film’s killer makes a memorable presence that is shrouded in a longing, adoring kind of hate.

The film brandishes a slew of creative kills from body bag concealment to a real bow and arrow hit to a romantic boiling hot tub trap and, not to mention, a nasty whipping hot iron whipping. Valentine is not littered with jump scares and the ones that occur are not cheesy as to be expected. The fun, light spikes of humor combined with the mysterious stalking builds up the tension right before the big quintessential Valentine’s Day party acts as an impetus for the third act’s bloodbath. A tense cold opening, leading lady with inherent final girl vibes, and red herrings at every corner turn out a saccharine kind of slasher that builds modern substance around old school standards before finalizing it with a trick ending. Adding to its slasher trope, Valentine dares to dress itself in slight giallo motifs; The pops of color, deep reds and creamy yellows in particular, black-gloved hands, brutal slayings, trademark nosebleed and love notes, and thrilling mystery all revive notes of popular giallo trends from decades before as a way to swoon a new audience. It might not have been the most direct, but it’s certainly inspired. Perhaps a love letter to the style in itself. 

 

Stupid Cupid

One of the most entertaining and notable attributions of cinema slashers is their style. From their visual look, to their accessories, and even their signature sounds, slashers have that odd appeal that really leaves a mark. In dual functionality, the slasher costume provides both a frightening statement in the killer’s endeavors as well as maintaining mystery to his or her identity. The heart of Valentine is pumped by an angel-faced madman by the presumed name of Jeremy Melton.

Fueled by middle school rage and wearing the childish cupid mask from a sixth grade Valentine’s Day Dance, The Cherub makes for a very attractive slasher persona. It’s an androgynous identity with a blank stare that produces a majority of the film’s secrecy, yet the small curvy lips, chubby cheeks, and blonde curls contrast in sweet innocence. The Cherub’s face is a truly underrated, ironic mask that gives Valentine that special branded kiss.


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Fueled by middle school rage and wearing the childish cupid mask from a sixth grade Valentine’s Day Dance, The Cherub makes for a very attractive slasher persona.

 

The slasher menace with a baby face represents Cupid, the cute little angel with an unstoppable penchant for slinging true love upon the unsuspecting. When looking through a certain perspective, especially as it embodies the vicious killer and pitiful Jeremy Melton, Cupid, is very anti-true love. True love is something natural and organic, whereas Cupid forces the connection much like what Jeremy and so many of the other men in Valentine attempt. The Cherub is more than just an associated idol, but symbolic of forced love with a bow in tow.

Correlating love with the violent, quick sting of a small arrowhead and its young slayer proves that Valentine is a lot smarter than many perceive. The film returns to slasher origin ranks, but it has this creative contemporary lace fringe that bears originality. It’s not a remake or a sequel, but rather loosely adapts Tom Savage’s novel to bring back the tripe that had the genre under the knife for so long.

 

Love Me

There’s two very interesting methods of motive at work in Valentine, connecting heart and mind together. At the middle school Valentine’s Day Dance, viewers see Jeremy Melton go from girl to girl in desperation asking for the hand on the floor. All but Kate treat him harshly, especially Dorothy who accuses the boy of attacking her to save herself from embarrassment. Jeremy obviously suffers the brutality of his schoolmates’ jests, but the dance puts the final nail in the coffin with Dorothy’s false accusations. The constant bullying and rejection eventually culminates, turning Jeremy into a mentally unwell villain with only revenge and infatuation on the brain.

As Jeremy picks off the group of friends, he also rids them of others who wish them ill will, adding a level of possession and control to his adolescent loves. Harmless childhood crushes, the good and bad kind, turn into an obsession through to adulthood as the successful women date with the intention of forming relationships and Jeremy creepily hides in plain sight ready to pounce with the upper hand.

Despite his deadly revenge, Jeremy Melton is a sympathetic slasher in the beginning. His attempt to court the girls as a young boy is excusable as their behavior towards him is reprehensible. However, we see a different dynamic evolve as the young girls become young women and the men around them all become antagonists in some way or another. Like its titular basis, Valentine incorporates the complexities of love, relationships, adoration, sex, attraction, and dating, showing more of its ugly side than the one with hearts and sprinkles.

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[Valentine‘s] fun, light spikes of humor combined with the mysterious stalking builds up the tension right before […] the third act’s bloodbath.

 

From narcissism to sexual advances to adultery and theft, all of the men in Valentine are creeps with less than admirable traits. Kate and her friends are all independent women with unique personalities and desires, unamused by the variables of toxic masculinity and male conquests. In some ways, Valentine dodges back and forth between being progressive by way of strong women resisting forward men and reverting back to conservative slasher roots by way of punishing those strong women for rejecting those forward men with death. It’s a relevant thread that reaches more themes of empowerment in recent films, but definitely something fresh and ambitious for a standalone 2001 slasher. 

Valentine may not hit the every perfect note when it comes to slasher highs, but it has one shockingly killer soundtrack. Throughout the film you can hear spins of ‘Superbeast’ by Rob Zombie, ‘RX Queen’ by Deftones, ‘Love Dump’ by Static-X, ‘God Of The Mind’ by Disturbed, ‘Pushing Me Away’ by Linkin Park, and ‘Opticon’ by Orgy. A song list like that gives Valentine that certain edge it’s missing. Not to mention, it really gives love the middle finger if you’re in the mood to stick it up.

 

Are you a fan of 2001’s Valentine? What’s your favorite part about this saccharine slasher? Does it hold up 20 years later? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!