Adapting Valentine to film took a traditional novel thriller and turned it into a slasher film. The movie shares little with its source material. I’m not sure if this is a case of the movie studio buying the rights to the novel just to use the name with a movie they were going to make anyway. It reminds me a lot of what happened to World War Z. Both versions of WWZ had zombies and the same title, but that was where the similarities stop.
Both stories feature a group of girls that had a part in rejecting and humiliating a boy who later comes back to exact his revenge. The novel has the incident take place during college, and in the movie, the boy is tormented during a 6th-grade dance. The killer starts enacting his vengeance over ten years later. So, in the book, the victims are mostly in their mid-thirties, and the movie is filled with twenty-somethings which of course is more traditional prey for a slasher movie.
The boy leaves school in both versions and blames the girls. No one sees or hears from him again until mysterious valentines start getting delivered and the girls start turning up dead. None of the characters are the same in either version, and they all have different names. The book at times is a very creepy look at a stalker watching his victim’s every move and manipulating his prey to degrade them before he kills them. It is very unsettling how realistic it comes off. The movie handles the revenge plot differently with the killer dressing up as a cherub masked killer. Imagine Michael Myers from Halloween, but with a goofy expressionless babyfaced mask.
I saw Valentine in the theater when it was initially released, and I really was disappointed with it at that time. My biggest issue with it was that it’s so similar to the other post-Scream slasher movies that were flooding the market at the time. These movies tried to not be the trashy, but fun, slasher movies of the 80’s. When they were done right, the films were frightening self-aware whodunnits disguised as cheesy horror movies. Without the wit and charm, the movies would tend to be just bland and not even have the ridiculousness of less sophisticated horror films to entertain. This film definitely falls more in the latter category.
This time around I must admit that I enjoyed the picture much more because I wasn’t comparing it to all those other films. It still isn’t a masterpiece, but it does do a few smart things which I won’t spoil. The most prominent issue that I had with it this time around was that I just couldn’t get over that dumb baby mask. It looks so tiny on the man’s body that I just kept imagining it was really several babies stacked on top of each other under that coat trying to pose as an adult. Although, one of the things the movie does better than the book is the killer’s valentines are pretty creative and entertaining (i.e., Roses are red, Violets are Blue, They’ll need dental records to identify you).
The book takes its time to get under your skin by showing events through the eyes of the killer. Also, you really get to know the main character’s personality, and it makes her suffering harder to bear. I can’t say the same thing for the movie though. Bottom line, if you want an unnerving tale of a stalker then read the book. If you’re looking for something lighter, watch the slasher movie.
Novel by Tom Savage
Publication Date: February 1996