FEBRUARY 13, 2009
Post-Scream, there was a flurry of slasher films in theaters. Not as many as in the early 80s heyday, but still, from 1997-2000, we had the Scream sequels, Urban Legend 1 and 2, 2 I Know What You Did Last Summers, H20... probably a couple others I can’t remember. And the one thing they all had in common was a winking attitude. They were “hip” and aware (the I Knows toned it down a lot, but they are also the worst of the lot, ironically enough), which got annoying after awhile. So when Valentine came along in 2001, people were already sick of slashers again, and the movie tanked and was also pretty vilified (even director Jamie Blanks apologizes for it).
Me? I don’t see what the problem is. I like it a lot. It’s humorous, but other than a terrible joke about David Boreanaz not being an “Angel” (ugh), the humor is contained within the film. In a way, it tackles Valentine’s Day the same way Mike Dougherty tackled Halloween in Trick R’ Treat (to an admittedly better result), basing the horror around the traditions of the holiday. Even My Bloody Valentine, a superior film in just about every other way, didn’t really capture the holiday’s spirit as well as this film did. So amidst the usual slashings and red herrings, you get four women dealing with the bullshit of the day. Guys expecting them to throw themselves at them in the “spirit” of the day, blind dates, secret admirers, the feelings of desperation and loneliness, cheap candy... it’s all there. Of course, you have to buy into the idea that women as beautiful as Marley Shelton or Jessica Cauffiel would be having trouble finding a boyfriend, but come on. Suspension of disbelief is sort of required the moment you buy a ticket for any movie with a guy in a mask.
And what a mask. Cupid was one of the best looking slasher getups in ages (certainly better than the fucking fisherman or either version of the Urban Legend killer), and the design got the two issues of making a good slasher costume down perfectly. You can’t just have a guy who looks like he bought the mask at Wal-mart, but you can’t have anything too elaborate either. It got it just right, and it’s a shame that the movie tanked, because I would have loved to have seen the mask (complete with bloody nose - an overused gag) on the shelves at Halloween time.
Speaking of the bloody nose, I want to point something out. A lot of folks will claim that this particular plot point was “a ripoff” of Alone In The Dark. Well, geniuses, ever stop to think that maybe Blanks, like you, me, and a few others, really fucking likes that movie and wanted to pay homage to it? He even points it out himself on the commentary track. Jesus. It’s like saying that having a guy named Sam Loomis in Halloween is just a “ripoff” of Psycho.
Another thing I dug about the movie was the idea that all men are pretty fucking scummy. There is seriously not a single sympathetic male character in the entire movie, which is awesome. We get a womanizer, an “alpha male” who doesn’t pay for his date’s meal, not one but TWO douchebag artists, a scam artist, a drunk, a sleazy cop.... Even the minor male characters, like the father of the rich one who holds the climactic party, is portrayed as a rich prick who cares more about his 20 year old “mail order” wife than his own daughter. All of this in a movie directed by a man (the script is credited to four writers, two men and two women, based on a book by another guy). It’s like some sort of inverted apology/response to Slumber Party Massacre (written and directed by females).
Apart from the commentary (worth a listen - Blanks is an interesting and honest guy), the DVD has a making of that is worth a look because most of it centers around the filming of a scene that was cut from the film (why it doesn’t appear in full on the DVD, I do not know). It’s kind of funny hearing the actresses ramble about how the film is different because “You really get to know these women” and the example they are using is nowhere to be found. Still though, the characters ARE better drawn than usual - it’s just a shame so much time had to be spent on the Denise Richards character, the only weak link in the acting or the character department (she’s “sexy”.... and that’s about it). Jessica Cauffiel, on the other hand, isn’t given nearly enough to do, despite being the most engaging of all the performers. Oh well. The creepy teaser is included as well, though not the final trailer. And then something titled “Club Reel” which I skipped due to the fact that it’s titled “Club Reel” (according to the back of the DVD, it’s a sort of music video for a song from Orgy, but since it’s not their awesome “Blue Monday” cover I continue to not care).
So give it a chance. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s solid, and a refreshing change of pace from the other slasher films of the time. The stalk scenes work well (particularly the first one with Katherine Heigl, and a later one with a minor character that somehow manages to be the longest in the movie), and a couple of the attacks are pretty harsh (Richards in particular, though he finishes her off rather weakly). I plan to read the book someday (I understand it was almost completely different, but also that the way it was written wouldn’t work for a movie, for whatever reason), and I am sure it’s better, but that doesn’t mean the movie isn’t worth a look.
What say you?