review by Gregory Avery, 9 February 2001

Valentine turns out to be, of all things, an attempt to return to the un-ironic scares of the slasher movie genre, after they have been monotonized to death by the Friday the 13th films, glibbed to death by the Freddy Krueger films, mocked to death by the Scream films, and joked to death by Scary Movie.

Poor Jason (hmmm, that has a familiar ring to it) was so traumatized and humiliated at the sixth-grade school dance that, thirteen years later (that sounds familiar, too), he tracks down all the girls who gave him the brush-off  when he asked them to dance. They all happen to be living in San Francisco (although the film never gives us a single shot of either of the Bay bridges or even a cable car): they include the popular one (Marley Shelton, who just sent-up this type of role in Sugar and Spice), the babalicious one (Denise Richards, and, yes, she is, rather), the brainy one (Katherine Heigl), the artistically-inclined one (Jessica Cauffiel, whose character lives in an apartment that looks like a downtown gallery), and the formerly "fat" girl who is now thin and wealthy (Jessica Capshaw, who seems to spend all her time on-screen either flinching or talking through gritted teeth). The deranged one sends them all macabre valentine cards, then starts picking them off, one by one, while wearing a Cupid's mask. Who could it be? Do you really care?

And what does Denise Richards think she's doing here? As if she hasn't already received enough flak over her appearances in Wild Things (warranted) and The World is Not Enough (unwarranted), here she does a scene with an actor who promises that he has a "surprise" for her, then promptly drops his trousers to show her his propensities. He then delivers a memorable line of dialogue which, unfortunately, cannot be repeated here. Richards responds with an even more memorable line of dialogue which, unfortunately, also cannot be repeated here. The whole thing ends up with her tying him up hand and foot, putting a blindfold over his eyes...and then dripping hot candle wax onto his body. Was this scene already in the script when she received it, or did she ask for it to be included?

David Boreanaz, of the TV series Angel, bumps in and out of the movie as a guy who's a sports journalist, an alcoholic, and who drives a vintage Mustang convertible. He's also a former boyfriend of one of the female characters, but his primary function is to wear a figurative sign around his neck that tells the audience "I AM A RED HERRING." (To his credit, Boreanaz does just about the best job possible playing such a thankless part.)

Otherwise, the film is of primary interest for seeing, if you can still remember them when the slasher movies first came out, twenty-year-old formula clichés transplanted into modern settings (with cell phones, rave music, et al.). At least two of the murder scenes are direct lifts from earlier, and better, films by the Italian "giallo-maestro" Dario Argento. And the filmmakers even resurrect that most hoariest, and disdainful, of slasher movie clichés, in which all the characters who are killed are the ones who have had sex sometime earlier in the story, leaving as the one survivor the girl who has held-out and retained her virtue. The identity of the killer, here, is tipped off quite early on with an unbelievably relentless, self-referential piece of dialogue. But, while the scary parts in the film aren't scary, the funny parts aren't funny, and the serious parts turn out to be unintentionally funny, the picture ends up, except for a brief moment at the very end, being mostly dismal, the reason being that things have simply changed and this type of movie has been passed by. The time when we could still experience something other than contempt or disgust while looking at glowering shots of a female character simpering and quivering helplessly in the dark while a hulking brute pursues her and music stings dither and whine on the soundtrack is over.

Directed by:
Jamie Blanks

Marley Shelton
Denise Richards
David Boreanaz
Jessica Cauffiel
Jessica Capshaw
Katherine Heigl

Written by:
Donna Powers
Wayne Powers
Gretchen J. Berg
Aaron Harberts

R - Restricted
Under 17 requires
parent or adult





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