Into the Dark - Season 2, Episode 5: “My Valentine” TV Episode Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by Hulu | Blumhouse Television
Written and directed by Maggie Levin
2020, 90 minutes, Not Rated
Premiered on Hulu on February 7th, 2020
Britt Baron as Valentine Fawkes
Anna Lore as Trezzure
Benedict Samuel as Royal
Anna Akana as Julie
Sachin Bhatt as Eddie
Shaun J. Brown as Nick
Tiffany Smith as Rosa
I’m a big fan of “the message”. You either are or you aren’t, honestly. Horror stands at the forefront of film when it comes to actually having something to say. There’s nothing wrong with simply entertaining your eyeballs; people still flock to see movies like Bad Boys For Life and the latest installment of the Fast and the Furious series for a reason. Still, the film that dares to make you evaluate your position on a social issue or (God forbid) confront your own lesser qualities is the film that aspires to be something more.
Hulu’s Into the Dark series thrives in that space, aiming to give you horror you can sink your teeth into while causing you to stop and think. That’s good news for horror fans and thinking humans alike. With My Valentine, writer and director Maggie Levin delivers a film that manages to be both substance over style and style over substance consecutively. It’s a trick that takes a while (including some silent meditation afterwards) to properly process.
Valentine Fawkes (Britt Baron; GLOW) was an up-and-coming young singer/songwriter until her gaslighting ex-boyfriend, Royal (Skeet Ulrich lookalike, Benedict Samuel; The Walking Dead), steals her songs and identity, leaving her broken and bereft. He gives Valentine’s essence to his new girlfriend, Trezzure (Anna Lore; Doom Patrol), and she becomes the next big thing in pop music using Valentine’s songs and exact appearance! Valentine, determined to reclaim her confidence and identity, books a gig at a local concert venue. Like a poisoned moth drawn to a spotlight, Royal returns (with Trezzure in tow!) to put an end to her comeback…or to simply put an end to her.
My Valentine has its hands full wearing a variety of hats (thematically and visually). The whole affair feels like a music video and a bastardized clip from social media at the same time. That’s by (intelligent) design, too – Levin comes from a background of stage performance and podcasting and has a firm handle of just how critical (both positively and negatively) the world of social media is for today’s artist. The film is peppered with recognizable visual effects, emojis and the like. It can be distracting, frankly, but it’s also important to the theme. Make no mistake about it, the music video format, distinct color palette, and VFX are an artistic choice made boldly and firmly. Whether or not they ultimately work is up to you to decide for yourself. Ambiguous it is not.
The closed-concert-venue setting gives a claustrophobic tension to the proceedings that pairs well with Benedict Samuels’ performance as the sociopathic Royal. You’ll be reminded of Billy from Scream on more than one occasion; the inspiration is clear. That theme of the toxic relationship and the desire to break away from it at all costs serves the story well in a ménage à trois of mounting tension. Valentine and Trezzure are great fun to watch as they reverse roles under the insanity of Royal.
The violence and gore are sparse and used effectively, but a little more of the hardcore would’ve served as an ugly counterpoint to the brightly colored and harmonic style on display. They do treat you to an absolutely smashing strangulation with a guitar string that sets a nasty tone. Seeing that, I was not surprised at all to learn that Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill (Sinister, Sinister 2) are executive producers. Again, it needs more of those moments that make you uncomfortable to match the relevance and sharpness of the message.
My Valentine is so garish and overdone that it’s nearly a parody, but that’s kind of the point. In our social media saturated society where the mob mentality rules, life itself is already pretty over the top. The ones who strive to stay out of the limelight are the ones who stick out now. That’s what Levin seems almost to mock.
You really must admire that ability to hit a social message so hard and still be a stylistic treat regardless of whether it’s your style or not.
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