There is a constant pressure, especially as we approach February, to be in relationships. To some, being single is akin to a death sentence or a sign that they are not worthy enough. This may lead to some people, and I count myself in this category, to stay in relationships that have either run their course or have turned out to be progressively toxic and unhealthy. It’s this particular dynamic, especially once you throw in a professional working relationship in the toxic relationship dumpster fire mess, that gets explored in the latest Into The Dark installment, MY VALENTINE.
The episode primarily focuses on Valentine (Britt Baron), who has spent the past couple of years creating music while dealing with rabid fans over how she stole her appearance and style from rapidly ascending popstar, TREZZURE (Anna Lore). While performing at a nightclub with her friend and support system, Julie (Anna Akana), Valentine comes face to face with her ex-boyfriend and well-known producer, Royal (Benedict Samuel). As soon as her set is done, Valentine and Julie try to book it out of the club, but Royal has other plans for them. He came to Valentine’s performance for many reasons, but he will make sure he gets those reasons across to Valentine by any means necessary. Anyone who intervenes or says no to Royal will have to pay the price for it, including his beloved asset TREZZURE and his ex-girlfriend, Valentine.
So, I’m not going to lie. This episode was rough for me to watch on a personal level. As a recovering co-dependent person, it was difficult to watch the dynamic between Valentine, Royal, and TREZZURE. However, it is a testament to both director and writer Maggie Levin that she was able to nail down those complex dynamics that take place in an abusive, co-dependent relationship scenario and elevating it to a more extreme horror setting with the help of Royal’s delusional, narcissistic personality and TREZZURE’s vapid popstar persona. The one thing that I will mention writing-wise is that, if anyone is familiar with entertainment music industry news, the inspiration source material for these characters will feel a little close to home. However, I think Levin has made enough changes and has created distinctive enough characters separate from that source inspiration that no one should really freak out about this being a call-out to anything.
Acting-wise, I felt like it was a little bit across the board, but that the over-the-top acting from certain actors had more to do with the character they were portraying than actual skill. For instance, Benedict Samuel’s Royal is quite clearly all about himself and oozes charm in a way that borders on too much. The disingenuous nature of his charm is obvious in a way that clues us in that something is up with him and immediately raises our hackles. We see his true self when Valentine calls him out on his bullshit and he angrily breaks down like a child and yells how mean she is being to him. Such a simple acting decision then helps us connect the dots in seeing how childish and over-the-top he is to cover what is clearly a detriment to his overall personality. My note about the persona also comes into play with Anna Lore’s TREZZURE, who definitely reminds me of the cult-like popstar Poppy. While TREZZURE’s persona feels like it’s up the entire time, you can see little cracks when things start to go awry. It’s when all bets are off that you really see it crack and you can see the subtle work Lore has done in constructing the character. The characters not intimately involved with the industry as well as Britt Baron‘s Valentine, feel more real and grounded, which works to contrast against the superficial package that the entertainment music industry sometimes thrusts onto performers.
Keeping the setting within the nightclub helps do a couple of things to help out the overall film. It keeps things intimate enough between the gang of characters to give the illusion that they are alone, which then helps draw the viewer into their group dynamic. However, given the natural space of the nightclub building, it’s just big enough to provide ample windows of opportunity for surprises to occur. These surprise moments featured throughout the course of this episodic film help propel the plot forward while also reminding the audience that, despite Royal’s best attempts to keep people away by flaunting his reputation and money, he’s not as in control or powerful as he thinks it is.
Overall, I liked MY VALENTINE. The acting at times could be a little over-the-top, which made certain more terrifying moments more comical than not, I didn’t think it was enough to detract away from the final product. And, with such a short running time and the fast-paced nature of the plot, there’s more to love than pick apart. MY VALENTINE shines a horror-filled, almost absurdist light on codependent relationships, both emotional and physical abuse, and the mental and literal loss of identity that can happen in both relationships and the entertainment industry in the latest installment of Blumhouse’s and Hulu’s anthology series, “Into The Dark“.
MY VALENTINE will be available on Hulu this Friday, February 7, 2020. Just in time for that special, romantic holiday coming up.