Thursday, February 14, 2013

Book vs. Movie: Valentine

Happy Valentine's Day! In honour of the special day, here's a post comparing the book Valentine to the film adaptation of the same name.

The Book

I saw the film version of Valentine before I read the book written by Tom Savage (I only recently became aware of the book's existence), so I was surprised to find that the book is a thriller and not a horror novel. It focuses more on suspense than gore while the film is a slasher. The plot in the book barely resembles the plot in the movie.

The book is about Jillian Talbot, a bestselling mystery author, who receives threatening Valentine's Day cards and is the victim of other unsettling pranks in the days leading up to February 14. She becomes convinced that an old classmate, Victor Dimorta, is the one behind it.

In college, Jillian was part of a clique where each member was named after a different element: Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. On Valentine's Day, they played a cruel prank on Victor, resulting in his expulsion from college.

When the police tell Jillian that they can't help her, she hires a private investigator to find her stalker, but the closer it gets to Valentine's Day, the less time there is for Jillian.

There are so many parts of the book that I love and wish they had included in the movie. In the book, the killer elaborately plans the murders, using the clique's nicknames - Earth, Wind, Fire and Water - to end their lives. He also plays the song "My Funny Valentine" before he kills them because it's the song that was playing when they pulled the prank on him.

The killer also has a better motive in the book. By pulling a prank on Victor, the girls essentially ruin his life (or so he thinks). When he's expelled, he's sent home to his abusive father and things just get worse from there. College was his chance to get away from his family and the girls ruined it. This makes his character more believable than in the film.

The biggest difference between the book and the movie is that the murders take place over the span of a few years instead of in succession. The murders in the book each have their own chapter, shown from the killer's perspective while he reminisces about them. 

My favourite part of the novel was the twist at the end. When I saw the quote on the cover of the book from James Patterson - "Suspense with a twist." - I spent the entire book trying to figure out what it could be. I thought I knew the identity of the killer since I had already seen the movie but I didn't think that was much of a twist. Eventually I started to think maybe they changed the ending for the movie and I was blown away by the ending of the book.

Seeing the film first didn't take away my enjoyment of the book and I recommend anyone who enjoyed the movie to check out the novel.

The Movie

Five young women who have remained friends since middle school are the targets of disturbing pranks - creepy Valentine cards and chocolates filled with maggots - before Valentine's Day. When one of them dies, they realize the pranks are more than sick jokes.

The Valentine cards are signed with the initials J.M. which leads them to believe they're from Jeremy Melton - a boy who asked them all to dance at their middle school Valentine's Day dance and they all rudely rebuffed. But one of the girls kept a secret from the others. When some boys caught her making out with Jeremy under the bleachers, she was humiliated and lied, saying he attacked her, resulting in him being sent to reform school.

While their friends are being picked off, they try to figure out which man in their lives could secretly be Jeremy Melton.

Since they turned the novel into a slasher, the body count is higher than what it is in the book and the deaths are more gruesome and unusual. But I enjoyed the gory death scenes. I think the only thing missing from the novel is gore and that's the reason why I tend to choose horror novels over thrillers. I especially like the death by Cupid's arrows and the maggot-filled chocolates.

In the book, the killer is cold and calculating, taking several years to think of the perfect plan for revenge - going to lengths to incorporate their nicknames into their deaths and ensure the deaths happen on Valentine's Day. The killer in the film is the typical slasher psycho - he wears a mask (a Cupid mask that was worn at the middle school dance) and kills several people in a row as gruesomely as possible with little thought behind it.

In the film, the women remain friends, whereas in the book the girls stop being friends after college (Jillian doesn't speak to them after the prank). Each character in the movie is a cliche. There's the Smart One, the Sexy One, the Fun One, the Nice One and the Fat One (or the Formerly Fat One). The characters in the book are described more realistically, although the book doesn't focus on the other women nearly as much as on Jillian.

There are a lot of differences between the book and the movie, but these are the major ones.

The Verdict

The novel is much better than the film. They took a suspenseful psychological thriller and turned it into a run-of-the-mill slasher. The only things the two have in common are the basic plot - a spurned classmate gets revenge on the girls who rejected and humiliated him - the disturbing Valentine cards and the climax taking place during a Valentine's Day party.

I still do like the film (I have a thing for slashers), but when comparing it to the book, I realized that it's just your typical slasher, nothing special. Unlike the book, which has a twist ending which I didn't see coming even after seeing the movie first.

I would give the book a 4/5 and the movie a 3/5 rating.