Release Date(s)2001 (February 12, 2014)
Studio(s)Warner Bros./Village Roadshow Pictures/NPV Entertainment (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A+
Based in named only on the book of the same name by Tom Savage, 2001’s Valentine came and went without much fanfare, barely recouping its costs and receiving unfavorable reviews from critics. Its director, Jamie Blanks, had just found success with Urban Legend two years prior, but despite being well-liked by the various people he worked with, he returned to his home in Australia and didn’t direct again until 2007.
Valentine is about a group of girls who previously rejected a bullied and unpopular young boy at a Valentine’s Day school dance many years before. Grown up with successful careers but unsatisfactory love lives, these women are suddenly stalked by an unknown killer disguised in an overcoat and a cherub mask, who goes after them one by one. With Valentine’s Day coming up fast on the calendar, they’re soon to be struck by cupid, but they’ll wish they hadn’t been.
Championed for years by fans and people within the film community, Valentine holds up remarkably well amongst many of its contemporaries – chiefly due to how it focuses less on the era it takes place in and more on characters and atmosphere. An all female-led horror film was, and still is, a rare commodity, and the film truly delves into these women’s lives, including their everyday struggle with finding love. Nearly every man they meet is either overtly piggish and sexist or completely idiotic in sometimes over-the-top and on-the-nose ways.
The performances from all involved, including Marley Shelton, Denise Richards, Katherine Heigl, Jessica Capshaw, and Jessica Cauffiel, are all mostly strong (aside from Richards who often appears like she’s trying out for a 1-900 hotline commercial, regardless of what her character is meant to be doing at any given time). The film also plays with many red herrings, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s David Boreanaz as Shelton’s recovering alcoholic ex, but also jilted ex-girlfriends, perverted weirdos, seemingly angelic boyfriends, and sleazy, incompetent policemen.
Valentine is often seen as a misunderstood horror film, and was perhaps more interesting an effort than many of its detractors would have led everybody to believe. It was mostly accused of being nothing more than a retread of 80s slasher films (which its director admits he was going for), but I personally feel that it’s more closely related to a giallo. Because of the strong emphasis on the look of the film, specifically its bold color palette, as well as a series of fairly brutal kill sequences, it’s often reminiscent of films like Torso, Don’t Torture a Duckling, and The Pyjama Girl Case, with women being murdered surreptitiously. It’s a fair comparison, and given the film’s conclusion and final reveal, it’s a more accurate description than simply labeling it as a slasher.
Valentine debuts on Blu-ray from Scream Factory in a Collector’s Edition package with a new transfer from “original film elements” (likely the original camera negative or an interpositive). It’s a beautiful transfer with a solid grain structure. The frame is often loaded with fine detail, revealing a variety of textures in both foreground and background elements, but also reproducing the lush color palette with ease, including some bold primaries and natural skin tones. Blacks are thoroughly deep while overall brightness and contrast levels are more than satisfactory. There are no leftover instances of damage and the presentation is free of debris and digital augmentation. It’s easily the best the film has ever looked, making it a major upgrade.
The audio is presented on a single English 5.1 DTS-HD track with optional subtitles in English SDH. It’s a fairly immersive track that isn’t overly aggressive due to the film’s low-key style. Dialogue exchanges are clean and clear with no intrusion from sound effects or score, meaning that everything is mixed together well without distortion issues. Sound effects are often biting and carry plenty of weight, sometimes aided by sporadic instances of LFE. The score itself is reproduced beautifully and the music selection, comprised mostly of a mix of hard rock and alternative sources, blends in well. There are also no clipping issues or instances of hiss or crackle.
The extras for this release are quite extensive and satisfying. First up is a new audio commentary with director Jamie Blanks and filmmaker Don Coscarelli, moderated by author Peter M. Bracke, all of whom are friends and enjoy discussing the film while watching it. There’s also a vintage solo audio commentary with Jamie Blanks. In addition, there are several new interview pieces, including Thrill of the Drill, a 10-minute interview with actress Denise Richards, who is surprisingly grateful for the film’s cult status and very down to earth about her experiences making it; The Final Girl, a 14-minute interview with actress Marley Shelton, who talks about how much she enjoyed working with the other actors and how important the movie is for women; Shot Through the Heart, a 24-minute interview with actress Jessica Cauffiel, who speaks highly of Jamie Blanks; Writing Valentine, a 64-minute interview with screenwriters Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts, who go over the genesis of their involvement with the project, their contributions to it, and its status with gay viewers; Editing Valentine, a 28-minute interview with editor Steve Mirkovich, who has nothing but nice things to say about his experiences cutting the film; and Scoring Valentine, a 12-minute interview with composer Don Davis, who discusses his work and his collaboration with the director.
Also included is 114 minutes of raw behind-the-scenes footage shot during the making of the film, which is presented in chronological order; a vintage 8-minute featurette; the film’s 18-minute electronic press kit, which includes interviews with actors David Boreanaz, Dennis Richards, Marley Shelton, Jessica Capshaw, Jessica Cauffiel, and director Jamie Blanks, as well as random behind-the-scenes B-roll; 9 deleted and extended scenes, including several extended death scenes; a music video for Opticon by Orgy; the film’s teaser and theatrical trailers; 5 TV spots; and a still gallery featuring 48 behind-the-scenes stills, promotional shots, posters, and lobby cards. There’s also an Easter egg to be found: when the theatrical trailer is selected, press right to reveal a heart with an arrow through it, which will take you to a brief interview snippet with director Jack Sholder, who settles the score on whether or not the movie rips off Alone in the Dark or not (could an Alone in the Dark: Collector’s Edition be in the offing?).
Having not seen Valentine prior to this Blu-ray release, I really had no idea what I was in for. Most accuse the film of being a detriment to the original novel, which I find difficult to believe since the source material wasn’t even utilized. That said, I think Valentine has aged well and is certainly one of the more enjoyable and interesting slasher films of its era. Scream Factory’s release of it, including the excellent A/V presentation and dynamite set of extras, makes this one a must-own for horror fans. Highly recommended!
– Tim Salmons