Jamie Blanks made his feature debut in 1998 with the franchise-starting Urban Legend and continued his journey through studio horror with 2001’s Valentine before returning to Australia and smaller genre pictures. That second studio film has finally made its way to Blu-ray courtesy of a new collector’s edition from Scream Factory, and in addition to a new 2K scan and new interviews the release also features a brand new commentary track with Blanks and the always fantastic Don Coscarelli (The Beastmaster, 1982).
Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary for…
Commentators: Jamie Blanks (director), Don Coscarelli (filmmaker), Peter Bracke (moderator)
1. Blanks and Coscarelli first met when the Phantasm filmmaker visited the Toronto set of Urban Legend (1998). “I remember having the privilege of access to one of my childhood heroes,” says Blanks.
2. Blanks cast Jessica Capshaw, Steven Spielberg’s step-daughter, and recalls thinking “Well, there’s certainly one person I’m going to be concerned about.”
3. The killer’s mask was “the result of a process we termed ‘maskevation.'” Blanks’ inspiration was a book on famed painter Sandro Botticelli, and he asked KNB EFX Group to design the mask on his cherubs. It has an almost canvas-like texture which is a bit more visible on the Blu-ray. The script originally called for a Cupid mask.
4. Blanks tried to avoid overly referential dialogue so as not to compete with the likes of Scream (1996), but he couldn’t resist having Kate (Marley Shelton) refer to Adam (David Boreanaz) by saying he’s no angel but…”
5. The opening corpse is played by a producer’s assistant named Chad.
6. Blanks had wanted cinematographer Rick Bota for Urban Legend, but the timing didn’t work out, so he again asked for him on this film. The studio told him that Bota had actually been in pitching to direct the film, but Blanks convinced him to shoot the film with him instead. Bota went on to make his debut with Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002).
7. Boreanaz wanted to play the killer beneath the mask, but his availability made it impossible.
8. They had to edit out a shot of Katherine Heigl‘s throat being sliced and cut to a profile shot instead — “not by the MPAA, but by Village Roadshow.” Blanks was disappointed as his hopes for an 80s-style slasher meant “you better spill some blood.” Village and Warner Bros. had him trim several of the kills even after the MPAA had awarded the film an R rating! The argument was “Columbine!” but this is still insane.
9. The film is credited as being based on Tom Savage‘s novel, but producer Dylan Sellers optioned it solely for the title. “Dylan saw the title, liked the title, and said ‘I don’t want to make that story I want to make something else.'”
10. Blanks points out the difficulty of juggling the red herrings as every time he showed the killer he had to be sure to account for other possible suspects to keep audiences guessing. “And that’s really really tough when you only have your leading man for ten days.”
11. The identity of the killer was up in the air during pre-production, but “it was finalized for me when bloody Variety reported that David Boreanaz had joined the cast of Valentine to play the villain!” Blanks subsequently wanted to make the film a “why-dunit” instead of a whodunit, but the studio wasn’t interested.
12. Blanks was inspired by Jack Sholder’s still-fantastic Alone in the Dark (1982) for the killer’s bloody nose gag. “They probably won’t allow me to use that in the commentary anyway. Apologies to all the Alone in the Dark fans out there, I was aware that I was stealing it from that movie. I did it knowingly.”
13. Blanks’ attempts to get into Hollywood saw him get the scripts for films like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) but lost out in both cases to more established directors Wes Craven and Jim Gillespie, respectively.
14. As much as Coscarelli enjoys watching films like this he was never drawn to slashers as a filmmaker as he instead prefers a tinge of sci-fi.
15. Blanks wanted Rebecca Gayheart to play one of the women, but despite their shared Urban Legend experience “she turned me down” because she didn’t want to be typecast in horror movies. That’s an understandable concern, but she also only appeared in five more movies since 2001 — and one of them is Santa’s Slay (2005).
16. The “maggots in the candy” scene reminds Coscarelli of a time when he was a child and his father was eating a candy bar in the dark “and all of a sudden he started spitting it out, it was just loaded with ants.”
17. The studio was originally circling Jared Leto for the role of Adam before being thrilled with Boreanaz instead. Phew!
18. Filming of the outdoor scenes around the 40:00 minute mark were continuously interrupted by a real asshole who kept laying on his car horn until they paid him to stop. This happened in Canada so I can only imagine it was a visiting American tourist. “People can be jerks.”
19. They recorded the commentary track while watching the DVD, so Blanks is looking forward to seeing the film in HD. “It’s a low-res commentary,” adds Coscarelli.
20. Starship Troopers (1997) is one of Coscarelli’s favorite movies.
21. It didn’t rain at all in Vancouver during production, which along with the jerk in #18 above really sees Canada breaking its most commonly held stereotypes.
22. If he could do it all over again Blanks would cut back on the cheap scares and broad humor.
23. There’s been lots of talk about restoring the trimmed kills and releasing a director’s cut, but unfortunately it’s all been from fans and not the people who actually hold the power to make it happen.
24. The stunt double for Denise Richards received multiple cuts during the scene where she’s thrown into the hot tub. Stupid jet nozzles!
25. Blanks hopes the new Blu-ray transfer gives Bota the opportunity to darken a couple of the scenes including the hot tub setup. (It does not.)
26. The studio wasn’t behind Boreanaz being hit with the candy glass bottle as the risk to his pretty face was too great, but he and Shelton “conspired to do that together.” They told him they knew he needed the shot and did it of their own volition, but there were some cross words from executives after the fact.
27. When Blanks first got the script he assumed it was a reboot of My Bloody Valentine (1981) and initially passed. It eventually happened in 2009.
Best in Context-Free Commentary
“All young boys hope they’re going to grow up into David Boreanaz.”
“I really wanted it to be in the vein of a fun 80s slasher movie.”
“You’ll notice as the film progresses that every single man in the movie is a complete jerk.”
“We had to hide the fact that it might be a woman, so I guess I’m a feminist in that way.”
“The killers in my movies go to a great deal of trouble to pull off their crimes. They’re not lazy.”
“Hit the music loud enough and it works.”
“It is pretty phenomenal how easy filmmakers have it these days.”
“Something poetic about it dripping on his last victim.”
I’m still a bigger fan of Blanks’ follow-up film, Storm Warning (2007), than I am of his two studio films, but Valentine has its charms. It has a good cast and solid production design alongside an entertaining enough tone. The commentary, though, is even better thanks to Blanks’ candid nature and enthusiasm. That said? Coscarelli is the highlight as he’s just so damn supportive of Blanks and his film. He’s also unsurprisingly knowledgeable when it comes to genre, and I honestly hope he’s asked to sit in on future tracks with other filmmakers. Fans of the film will definitely want to pick up this new collector’s edition and give it a listen.
Read more Commentary Commentary from the archives.