HORROR WITHOUT HEART
A scene from 'Valentine'
Courtesy Photo
"VALENTINE"
** stars 97 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, February 2, 2001
Directed by Jamie Blanks

Starring Denise Richards, Marley Shelton, Jessica Capshaw, David Boreanaz, Jessica Cauffiel, Katherine Heigl, Fulvio Cecere, Daniel Cosgrove, Johnny Whitworth



 COUCH CRITIQUE
   SMALL SCREEN SHRINKAGE: 15%
   LETTERBOX: COULDN'T HURT

Good only as a popcorn-throwing rental to watch with your most vocal and smart-mouthed friends.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 07.24.2001



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Another holiday becomes slasher flick fodder in fright-free 'Valentine'

By Rob Blackwelder

The target-audience crowd at the night-before-release screening of "Valentine" -- a sluggish, labored slasher flick based on a much more complex suspense novel -- gave the movie an unequivocal review that needs no explanation when almost all of them loudly and resoundingly booed in unison as the end credits rolled.

They were booing mostly at the laughable, implausible "surprise" reveal of the real killer after an hour and a half of haphazard red herrings. But they might as well have been booing at the very idea that movie audiences will go see anything with a masked killer, a bloody kitchen knife and a random holiday in the title.

The killer here wears a creepy cherub mask, of course, and in the picture's one remotely clever scene he offs the movie's second worst actress (Jessica Cauffiel, "Urban Legends 2") by foregoing the knife in favor of a bow and arrow -- because he's Cupid, see? Apparently this is the kind of thing that makes brain-dead studio suits wet themselves in delight.

The movie's worst actress is internet pinup Denise Richards ("Starship Troopers," "Wild Things"), and we have to put up with a lot more of her inept sexpot performance before we get to see her waxed (every film critic's fantasy come true!).

In the mean time, reels of celluloid unspool with very little suspense as the three remaining cast-for-their-cleavage hotties (Richards, Jessica Capshaw and the adorable Marley Shelton) burn brain cells working out that the psycho -- who sends them threatening valentine poems like "Roses are red, Violets are blue, They'll need dental records to identify you" -- is some geek they all snubbed 13 years before in junior high school.

I'm not spoiling anything by telling you this. It's established in the first scene in the movie. We just don't know who the geek grew up to be. The filmmakers -- especially director Jamie Banks ("Urban Legends") -- seem to think this vaguely novel angle is all the excuse they need to make another cookie-cutter horror flick, because the originality pretty much stops there. The Cupid killer, with his slow gait, black garb and gimmicky guise, is nothing but a paltry proxy trying (and not very hard at that) to fill the shoes of slasher icons like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and The Face from "Scream."

This might have been an interesting horror story had we gotten to know the killer (think "Carrie" with a sex change). It might have been a good thriller had screenwriter Donna Powers stuck even remotely to the book, by Tom Savage, about one woman stalked by an insanely bitter classmate.

But "Valentine" banks entirely on the low standards of typical slasher movie fans, so the reaction it received at this screening pretty much says it all.






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