Director: Jamie Blanks
Starring: Denise Richards, David Boreanaz, Marley Shelton, Jessica Capshaw, Jessica Cauffiel, Katherine Heigl
1/2 (out of 4)
At the 8th grade dance, complete nerd Jeremy Melton is turned down by just about every girl, falsely accused of attacking an overweight Dorothy, doused in red punch (Carrie-style), and then beat to a pulp by bullies. Not a good start to his teenage years, which, incidentally, involve mental hospitals and the fiery deaths of his parents.
13 years later, the bitchy girls and the plump one are all grown up. They are all still friends, however unbelievable that is. And one by one they receive threatening Valentines Day cards right before being skewered by a killer in a cherub mask. He signs the cards J.M. … is the killer Jeremy come back for revenge?
That’s the setup for Valentine, your standard “holiday” slasher that begins well with an effective murder sequence in a morgue. Med school student Shelley is attacked by the psycho, at one point forcing her to hide in a body bag among the corpses. In probably the only clever sequence in the film, our Cupid killer starts unzipping bags, then figures out that simply stabbing through each one is much more efficient. Cue up the next scene, where Paige (Denise Richards) and Kate (Marley Shelton) go through a speed dating ritual, the purpose of which is to set up all males in the film as self-absorbed, oafish, nerdy, or some combination of all the above. Take Kate’s boyfriend, Adam. He’s a drunk. Dorothy’s boyfriend Campbell (Daniel Cosgrove) is a con man. Lily’s artist boyfriend Max (Johnny Whitworth) is a swinging jerk. Even Detective Vaughn (Fulvio Cecere) can’t keep his hands to himself, coming onto Paige right in the police station. (It must be the fact that she’s the only non-blonde. Personally, those damn eyebrows scare me). Worst of all, one of them might be the killer!
Not that the girls fare any better than the guys. They are also self-absorbed and spoiled, when they aren’t busy wielding their sexuality as a weapon. In fact, all the people in Valentine are so unlikeable, that when they die there’s no caring about any of it. It’s just rich good looking people being complete assholes to other rich good looking people. And once in awhile some of these people get killed. Should I feel pity, or glee? The killer in the cherub mask seems to be telling us that love hurts, but there is no love in this movie, only obsession, or self-obsession. Perhaps that is the point. There’s a dark side to Valentines Day – at what point does a secret admirer become a stalker? Is that what the movie wants us to ask? Probably not, as the Valentine theme is hardly utilized.
Anyway, it all adds up to a rather tame flick akin to your typical post-Scream horror, like a Halloween episode of Beverly Hills, 90210. The movie is closer to a PG-13 than its R-rating; sex is promised but never followed up on (man-hater Paige leaves her male suitor naked, tied up, and with a penis burned by candle wax – I guess that’s one way to say “No”) and the deaths seem cruel but are strangely bloodless. Valentine seems more interested in bringing up issues of paranoia and trust, asking questions like “How well do you really know someone?” Yeah, because that guy you know could be that kid you bullied in school now grown up into a serial killer! The ending plays a little game of switcheroo, confirming that the identity of the murderer is exactly the person you thought it was in the first place (It’s a whodunit without really being one). Valentine looks pretty good – director Jamie Blanks (Urban Legend) knows how to setup a scene (a murder-by-bow-and-arrow inside a multimedia art installation works well, even if it’s nonsensical), but the problem is that the stage is populated with Barbie and Ken dolls and aimed at the audience who watched anything on the WB network. Otherwise, there are better movies to focus your attention on, as this one is a combination of a slasher and a murder mystery that fails to ultimately satisfy as either. Dario Argento and Mario Bava did it better.
- Bill Gordon
Buy Valentine on DVD