In the decade following the popularity of the Scream franchise, slasher films became a dollar a dozen (inflation), and this fool scooped up loads of them on DVD. So I’ve dug out all the slashers from the 2000s that I haven’t yet covered on my blog, and I’m revisiting them all to see just how bad—or good—each one is. I figured I’d start with three of the more widely spotlighted titles from the era.
This holiday horror comes to us from Jamie Blanks, director of Urban Legend. But while that film gave its killer a novel approach, Valentine is strictly a paint-by-numbers slasher—and the vibe is so obviously a product of the post-Scream era (making it very nostalgic these days).
The opening scene takes us back a decade to witness a geek at a junior high dance getting completely humiliated by his classmates—including being stripped down to his undies and having red punch poured all over him in an apparent Carrie homage.
Cut to the present and we get our first victim and meet our traditional killer—black trench coat, knife, and a Cupid mask—in a good old-fashioned chase scene in a morgue.
Next, we’re introduced to our scream queens—who add some good camp to the tone of the film. Personally, I would have liked a bit more, because the playful humor is too subtle and minimal overall. We have Denise Richards (Starship Troopers, Scary Movie 3), Marley Shelton (Death Proof, Scream 4), and Jessica Caulffiel (Urban Legends: Final Cut). They each receive awesome, ominous pop-up Valentine’s Day cards and begin to suspect that the geek from the beginning is coming for them. That doesn’t stop them from flirting with a bunch mysterious guys, including sizzling hot Daniel Cosgrove (Satan’s School for Girls remake, They Crawl) and David Boreanaz, who pretty much pops out of shadows every now and then just like his Angel character (who even gets an in-joke). Naturally, any one of these guys could be the geek, all grown up and magically transformed into a hunk…and a killer.
An Angel Valentine episode?
While the death scenes are perfectly spaced throughout the film and pretty dang good (Denise’s is the best!), with serviceable quantities of blood, good suspense, variety, thrilling chases, body reveals, and a creepy killer, Valentine is definitely a second-tier product of its time. One issue for me is that killer cards and a Cupid mask aren’t enough to capture the spirit of the holiday. It’s more than halfway through the film before Valentine’s Day even begins, and while the big climax revolves around a huge Valentine’s Day party, it kind of comes out of nowhere—there’s no hype by the characters about the big upcoming event. Watch the original My Bloody Valentine to see the holiday done justice.
Another issue is that there’s no clear final girl, something that always weakens a slasher in my opinion. The final girl only becomes obvious through the process of elimination, meaning, all the other girls are dead. And finally, the film is completely open-ended with absolutely no clear motive and a jumbled twist concerning the killer’s identity that doesn’t make much sense without an explanation. We are left guessing…and wondering if there was supposed to be a sequel to iron out the details.
PROM NIGHT (2008)
Prom Night causes a great debate. Is it a remake or just another slasher with the same name as the 1980 classic? Considering the premise is the same (a killer stalks teens at their prom), but the plot is entirely different, it’s probably easiest to just consider it a reboot. One thing is for sure: it’s as Hollywood-horror-for-tweens as they get.
It’s vaguely established through flashbacks that Brittany Snow’s hot teacher—played by Jonathan Schaech—was obsessed enough with her to kill her whole family. O…kay.
Now it’s her prom, and her uncle and aunt (Will Schuester’s ex-wife on Glee) wave goodbye as Brittany and friends head to a big hotel for their prom. They get a suite. Brittany starts looking over her shoulder constantly—yet goes up to the suite all by herself several times. O…kay.
Turns out, Brittany’s random paranoia is valid; Schaech has escaped. Detective Idris Elba, who handled the original case, is on the case again. He rushes to the prom…and just stakes the place out instead of warning Brittany and her friends and putting them someplace safe. O…kay.
Schaech has one of the easiest slasher killer jobs EVER. He just WAITS in the suite for one person after another to come up so he can stab them to death. Yawn. No suspense, scares, or gore. One chick does make it out of the suite for a chase scene. She takes the stairs directly to a floor that’s…a hazardous construction zone? A floor we learn is accessible even by the main elevator? At an upscale hotel? Where there’s a high school prom being held? REALLY? O…kay.
Watch out for that circular saw on the floor behind you, bitch!
Eventually, the hotel is evacuated (Idris finally decides there’s enough dead bodies to warrant it) and Brittany is sent home, with one lone cop sitting outside in a car to “protect” her in case Schaech shows up. I guess these detectives have never seen a single horror movie. O…kay.
Anyway, we get a cheap dream scare. Yes, at this late point in the movie. The reason for it soon becomes clear. Nothing else is going to scare or shock us here. I mean, come on. Cop sitting outside in a car, Schaech still on the loose, Brittany inside her house.
Anyone who has scene any thriller from the 90s can guess how this is going to play out.
APRIL FOOL’S DAY (2008)
Just like Prom Night, this is more like a reboot or reimagining of the original movie with which it shares a name. If you’ve seen the 1986 classic, you already know the big twist. In order to make it less predictable, there’s a twist piled on top of the twist. That still doesn’t save this from being a horrible movie.
We meet a bunch of privileged snots, including scream queen Scout Taylor-Compton and hottie Josh Henderson from the Dallas reboot. At a big debutante ball, after loads of mind-numbing snob drama, they try to film Josh banging some chick to put it on the Internet. Something tragic and absurdly melodramatic happens, but all these rich bitches get to go on with their lives for one year.
Someone knows what they did last debutante ball. The first one to die is an embarrassingly stereotypical gay rich bitch character. He comes flitting out of his mansion in his silver speedo and robe calling for his dog, then begins squealing for it when he thinks it’s in the pool. He jumps in to save it…and apparently can’t swim?
April Fool’s Gay.
The rest of the characters can’t even seem to follow their own whodunit dialogue as they run around trying to stay one step ahead of the killer. At some point, we get a glimpse of what looks like the trans killer from Dressed to Kill. Once we’ve been bored to tears for an hour, Scout becomes the final girl and we get the twist from the original movie, followed by the twist on the twist.
“Dr. Loomis, if that’s you under that wig, I’m going to be pissed!”
The only thing that could have saved this film was if Amy Steel showed up as the killer…wearing Mrs. Voorhees’ sweater.