Release theatrically in February 2001, the film received mixed reviews from critics, with some praising its performances and cinematography, and others criticizing its conclusion and deeming it too redolent of 1980s horror films. In spite of the mixed critical response, the film was a box office success, earning a total of USD$36.7 million.
At a junior high school St. Valentine's Day dance in 1988, Jeremy Melton, an outcast student, asks four popular girls to dance. Three girls, Shelley, Lily and Paige reject him cruelly, while the fourth girl, Kate, politely turns down his offer. Their overweight friend Dorothy accepts Jeremy's invitation and they proceed to secretly make out underneath the bleachers. When Joe Tulga and his friends discover the pair, Dorothy claims that Jeremy sexually assaulted her, causing the boys to publicly strip and severely beat him, and his nose starts bleeding under the distress. He is expelled and transferred to a reform school.
Thirteen years later, Shelley, now a medical student at UCLA, is at the morgue one evening studying on a cadaver. After receiving a vulgar Valentine's card in her locker, she is attacked by a man in a trench coat and Cupid mask. She is cornered in a cooler used to store cadavers, where she attempts to hide in a body bag, but has her throat slit by the killer. The killer's nose is seen to bleed as he performs the act.
Kate, Paige, Lily, and Dorothy attend Shelley's funeral, and admit to not having seen her in some time after her move from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Kate and Paige receive cards in the same fashion as Shelley after her funeral. Dorothy who is now much thinner, receives a card which reads "Roses are red, Violets are blue, They'll need dental records to identify you". Her boyfriend, Campbell, loses his apartment and stays with her. Lily receives a box of chocolates and a card which says "You are what you eat". She then takes a bite of one of the chocolates, and vomits upon realizing that there are maggots inside of it.
As the girls attend the exhibit of Lily's artist boyfriend Max, they meet Campbell's bitter ex-girlfriend Ruthie, who accuses him of being a con artist. Lily is isolated at the art exhibit and confronted by the killer, who proceeds to shoot her repeatedly with arrows until she falls several floors into a dumpster. When they have not heard from Lily, the others assume she is in Los Angeles on a work trip. Upon contacting the police, they agree that the culprit could be Jeremy Melton. Dorothy admits to her friends that she lied, and that Jeremy never attacked her and she ruined his life by getting him sent to reform school. Meanwhile, Kate's neighbor breaks into Kate's apartment to steal her underwear and is killed by the cupid killer.
As Valentine's Day approaches, Dorothy is planning a party at her family's large estate. Campbell is murdered with an axe in the basement by the killer the morning of the party. The others assume he has simply left Dorothy after duping her, angering Dorothy, who believes that they are jealous and still look at her as "the fat girl" of the group. After coming to the party to confront Dorothy with the truth about Campbell, Ruthie is thrown through a shower window by the killer who then impales her neck on the glass. At the party, Paige is attacked and trapped in a hot tub by the killer, who proceeds to try and kill her with a drill. After cutting her, he opens the lid of the hot tub and throws the electric drill into the water, electrocuting her.
The party disintegrates when the power cuts out, and Dorothy and Kate argue over who the killer is. Kate claims that Campbell could be a suspect because they do not know anything about him, while Dorothy counters by accusing Adam, Kate's recovering alcoholic on-off boyfriend who is now a journalist. After being told by Lily's boyfriend that she did not arrive in Los Angeles as planned, Kate realizes she is also probably dead, and calls the detective assigned to the case. After dialing the number, she follows the sound of a ring tone outside the house and discovers the detective's severed head in the pond.
Kate then becomes convinced that Adam is actually Jeremy, disguised by reconstructive surgery, and goes back into the house, only to find Adam waiting for her. To her surprise, he asks her to dance, and they dance together for a while until she becomes frightened, kneeing him in the groin and escaping. She runs through the house, discovering Paige and Ruthie's corpses. She locates a gun, but someone in the Cupid's mask jumps out and runs into Kate resulting in knocking the gun from her hand and sending them both tumbling down a staircase. The supposed killer arises and is shot by Adam who appears at the top of the stairs using Kate's gun, shocking and confusing Kate. As she apologizes profusely, Adam pulls off the Cupid's mask to reveal the killer as Dorothy. Adam forgives Kate, explaining that childhood trauma can lead to lifelong anger and some people are eventually forced to act on that anger. As Kate and Adam wait for the police to arrive, they hug as Adam says he has always loved her. Moments later, as Kate closes her eyes as they wait for the police to arrive, his nose begins to bleed, indicating that he is Jeremy Melton after all.
When Jeremy Melton asks each girl for a dance, the comment they state right after he asks them foreshadows each of their fates.Shelley"In your dreams, loser!"Dies lying down in a sleeping position.Lily"Eww!"Receives maggots in a chocolate box and her body lands in a dumpster after being murdered.Paige"I'd rather be boiled alive"Gets thrown into a hot tub and is then electrocuted.Dorothy"He attacked me!", she pretends she got "attacked". She makes everyone believe that it was all Jeremy's fault.Jeremy makes everyone believe that all the killings were Dorothy's doing.Kate"Maybe later, Jeremy"Jeremy lets Kate live since she is the only girl that did not insult him.
While Warner Bros. had acquired the rights to the Tom Savage novel in May 1998, the project was later transferred to Artisan Entertainment with producer Dylan Sellers and writers Wayne and Donna Powers, with Wayne Powers attached to direct.
The original script had a different tone and was set on a college campus. The project went into turnaround to Warner Bros., was rewritten and Richard Kelly was originally offered the chance to direct, but turned the offer down. Hedy Burress auditioned for the role of Dorothy Wheeler, and Tara Reid was considered for the role, but it was given to Jessica Capshaw instead. However, Blanks wanted Burress to star in the film, and cast her as Ruthie Walker. Jessica Cauffiel originally auditioned for Denise Richards' role of Paige. In the original cast, Jennifer Love Hewitt was to play Paige Prescott.
Valentine was shot on location in Vancouver, British Columbia, with principal photography beginning July 10, 2000, and commencing September 8. Boreanaz shot all his scenes in less than two weeks. Katherine Heigl only had three days to shoot her scenes as she was already committed to the television series Roswell.
Blanks later said in an interview, "Forgive me for Valentine. A lot of people give me grief for that, but we did our best."
In promotion of the film, Warner Bros.'s official website featured digital e-card valentines that visitors could send via email, and stars David Boreanaz and Katherine Heigl—both well-known at the time for their roles in the series Angel and Roswell, respectively—appeared at the Los Angeles Comic Book and Science Fiction Festival.
Valentine had its Hollywood premiere at Hollywood Post No. 43, American Legion, on February 1, 2001. It earned $20,384,136 in the United States and Canada and a total gross of $36,684,136, allowing the film to surpass its $10 million budget.
Valentine received largely negative reviews from critics. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film a middling review likening to a 1980s-style slasher film, but praised the performances, writing: "Valentine isn't scary, but it is unsettling; not ultimately satisfying, but arresting in the moment. Part of the credit has to go to the ensemble. The actresses are vivid, and the characters they play are clearly delineated." Ben Falk of BBC gave the film two out of five stars, writing: "Let's face it - we all know what's going to happen and director Blanks (Urban Legend) offers up few surprises. There's the host of red herrings of which none really bite, creative deaths, girls running around screaming and then being incredibly thick, but a distinct lack of gratuitous nudity, which would have at least brightened up the landscape."
Kevin Thomas of The Los Angeles Times gave the film a positive review, calling the film a "smart, stylish horror picture that offers a fresh twist on the ever-reliable revenge theme and affords a raft of talented young actors solid roles that show them to advantage." Dennis Harvey of Variety gave the film a mixed review, noting: "Looking good but lacking much in the way of personality or gray matter — rather like its characters — Valentine s a straightforward slasher pic that’s acceptably scary until a weak finale."
At Rotten Tomatoes, an online review aggregator, the film received a poor rating of 8%, with the general consensus being that "Valentine is basically a formulaic throwback to conventional pre-Scream slasher flicks. Critics say it doesn't offer enough suspense or scares to justify its addition to the genre."
In a 2015 retrospective review, the online horror publication Icons of Fright published a retrospective review of the film, defending the spirit of the film and its thematic handling of the holiday's mythological aspects.
The musical score for Valentine was composed by Don Davis. The soundtrack also includes the songs "Pushing Me Away" by Linkin Park, "God of the Mind" by Disturbed, "Love Dump (Mephisto Odyssey's Voodoo Mix)" by Static-X, "Superbeast (Porno Holocaust Mix)" by Rob Zombie, "Valentine's Day" by Marilyn Manson, and "Opticon" by Orgy. This soundtrack compilation was lampooned in a sketch by Saturday Night Live, which humorously pointed out that many of the bands featured on it were not only unknown to a mass audience, but have oddly nonsensical names.
Valentine was released on DVD by Warner Home Video on July 24, 2001.