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valentine

review by rob gonsalves

director
Jamie Blanks

screenwriters
Donna Powers
Wayne Powers
Gretchen J. Berg
Aaron Harberts
based on the novel by
Tom Savage

producer
Dylan Sellers

cinematographer
Rick Bota

music
Don Davis

editor
Steve Mirkovich


cast

David Boreanaz (Adam Carr)
Marley Shelton (Kate Davies)
Denise Richards (Paige Prescott)
Katherine Heigl (Shelley Fisher)
Jessica Capshaw (Dorothy Wheeler)
Jessica Cauffiel (Lily Voight)


mpaa rating: R
running time: 96m
u.s. release: February 2, 2001
video availability: VHS - DVD
official website


Maybe it's just nostalgia, but I remember the slasher movies of the early '80s, terrible as they often were, being more fun than the post-Scream crop of neo-slashers of the last few years. There was gore, there was nudity (lots of nudity), and there was a satisfied audience of teenage boys taking all this in. (This was before society decided that movies cause impressionable youths to become violent. Back then, we still believed that people were responsible for their own actions.) Today's slasher offerings are hardly worthy of the title. Largely bloodless, featuring name actresses who refuse to disrobe gratuitously, they now have little reason to exist. I mean, if you're going to take the gore and T & A out of these films, what's the point?

The meretricious Valentine is the latest (though, sadly, probably not the last) example of the slasher genre's pallid decline. On paper, it looked like a promising throwback -- it even has two slasher staples, the Holiday Theme and the Vengeful Killer. With its premise of a former geek getting bloody revenge on the girls who rejected him in junior high school, this should've been an indefensible, go-for-broke, sinfully enjoyable wedge of horror cheese. Instead it's just indefensible.

For one thing, if you're the type who'd give Valentine a day in court -- what the hell, could be fun, horror movies are fun -- chances are you've seen it all before. This isn't even the first Valentine's Day horror movie -- My Bloody Valentine, a Canadian import from 1981, takes that honor. And it's certainly not the first revenge-of-the-nerd thriller: aside from the obvious (Carrie), there was also Terror Train, another Canadian import, in which a humiliated geek returns years later to decimate his classmates. Add in the routine false scares (eek! -- oh, it's only a harmless guy) as well as the predictable actual scares, consistently botched by talentless director Jamie Blanks (Urban Legend), and you're in for a long 90 minutes.

Four college girls -- Kate (Marley Shelton), Paige (Denise Richards), Dorothy (Jessica Capshaw), and Lily (Jessica Cauffiel) -- are worried because a psycho is sending them poison-pen valentines ("Roses are red/Violets are blue/They'll need dental records to identify you" is one of the better ones), and one of their number, a medical student who apparently preferred to do autopsies in a dark basement with her tanktop on, has already gone to the big tanktop store in the sky. We're given several suspects, including Kate's recovering-alcoholic boyfriend Adam (David Boreanaz, looking uncomfortable without a long black coat to flap around) and every other male on the screen. That even includes a flatly unbelievable detective on the case, who takes the opportunity to fondle one of the girls.

Valentine is yet another one of those films that Scream was supposed to have buried but instead resurrected: Everything Scream laughed at, this movie plays straight. People are always wandering off into dark, unfamiliar places alone; Denise Richards, in the movie's pinnacle of idiocy, goes off by herself during a loud party -- the killer's on the loose, you'd think she'd want to stay among lots of people -- and takes a dip in a hot tub. But don't you see, without nudity there is no point to this scene. At least in the old slasher films, you could laugh and say, "Ah, the obligatory nude scene." Here, it's ... Denise Richards in a bikini. Acting stupid.

Aside from that, Valentine offers some flaccid nastiness in the form of man-bashing (there's a scene with hopeful guys angling for a date that's almost a direct ripoff of the "Dog" scene in Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It); since the only men in the movie are wimps, losers, jerks, or unreliable, it's no wonder the women in the movie have no use for them. This shouldn't be taken as feminism, though: the whole bloody mess gets started because a girl lies to save her own reputation, and the females are as crudely written as the males. Lack of screenwriting talent is the great equalizer, I guess. Four people wrote Valentine, two men and two women; it's nice to know that it now takes a gender-proportional quartet to write garbage that it took one person to crank out in a weekend back in the '80s.



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