Valentine

 

Laura Clifford 

Robin Clifford 

Hopelessly nerdy sixth-grader Jeremy Melton is brave enough to ask five of the most popular and pretty girls in his class to dance, but is tormented and taunted for his troubles.  Thirteen years later, those same five begin to receive threatening Valentine messages - and to die - in "Valentine."

Laura:
Director Jamie Blanks, who made his feature film debut with the so-so "Urban Legends," takes a step backwards with the truly awful "Valentine." Adapted by Donna Powers and Wayne Powers ("Deep Blue Sea") from the novel by Tom Savage (which sounds like it made sense before this crew got their hands on it), "Valentine" is most notable as the big screen debut of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer's" David Boreanaz.  He should have stuck to television.

The first grown up sixth-grader we meet is Shelly (Katherine Heigl, TV's "Roswell"), who ditches blind date Jason (Adam Harrington, suspect number one) to dissect a corpse in a dark, creepy college lab.  Guess who gets dissected.

Shelly's funeral is a good place to intro the rest of the cast, good buddies still since elementary school.  Paige (Denise Richards, clearly on a career slide) is the promiscuous tease.  She rooms with Lily (Jessica Cauffiel, "Road Trip"), a spoiled beauty with blond curls galore.  Dorothy (Jessica Capshaw, daughter of Kate) is the formerly fat rich girl who's just snagged a new (and, of course, suspect) boyfriend at her Yoga class. Kate (Marley Shelton, "Sugar and Spice"), is the serious blonde (we know this because her hair is straight and she doesn't wear slutty clothes) tentative about reestablishing a relationship with Adam (David Boreanaz), who has a history of becoming abusive when under the influence of alcohol. They also meet the requisite detective (Fulvio Cecere, "The Bone Collector") who tries to put the moves on Paige.

After several gruesome Victorian valentines and some maggoty chocolates are received, we again meet our Cupid-masked murderer at a photographic art show before he makes hay during the final, long drawn out climax at a Valentine party held at Dorothy's Spanish style mansion.

"Valentine" features so many MacGuffins that just about the entire cast, as well as a few extras, are suspects.  The final choice of the filmmakers as to who's been behind that murderous mask makes no sense whatsoever.

There are two notable elements in the film.  Jessica Capshaw gives a real performance here, creating an actual personality with jagged wit among a cast of nitwits.  Stephen Geaghan's production design exhibits quality and creativity a fair slash above the rest of the production.

"Scream 3" and "Urban Legends 2" should have announced the end of the teen slasher revival.  Here's hoping "Valentine" remains in the red.

D

Robin:
Valentines Day is usually a holiday of romance and love. But, not this year, it isn't. When the delivery of a threatening Valentine card is followed by a brutal murder of a young med student, her friends soon learn that someone from their past is stalking them all in "Valentine."

Been there. Seen that. This pretty much sums up the 90+ minutes you'll spend if you decide to waste your hard earned dollars on a ticket for "Valentine." Director Jamie Blanks ("Urban Legends") and a battery of writers bring the adaptation of Tom Savage's novel to the screen in a pretty production that is all good looks and absolutely no substance.

The story rehashes the horror genre in an unoriginal and uninvolving way that simply marks its time and body count until the muddled and silly ending. This is a shame since the production values deserve to be in a much better film. Every horror movie cliche - cheap jump-out-of-the-dark scares, the mandatory masked/faceless killer, go-into-the-dark-room-and-see-what-made-that-noise, pretty victims - are used frequently but to little good effect.

In the movie's prologue, a school dance for teens is marred by an incident involving the school dork, Jeremy Melton (Joel Palmer), and one of his female classmates. Jeremy is accused of molesting the girl and is sent to reform school. Years later, one of the girls who made fun of Jeremy, Shelley (Katherine Heigl), receives a death threat Valentine's card and is soon the victim of a brutal murder at the hands of a butcher knife-wielding, cherub-masked killer.

Soon, Shelley's friends begin to fall victim to more Valentines and violence as, one by one, they are slain in a variety of ways, from bow and arrow to electrocution to bludgeoning with a steam iron. The body count steadily rises as the killer stalks and kills, one by one, each of the friends until only one, Kate (Marley Shelton), is left to face the murderer.

Movie slight of hand and the expectation of audience acceptance of any and all illogic are the fodder that drives "Valentine." The ambiguity of the killer - the threatening cards are invariably signed "JM" - leads us to believe that young Jeremy is the culprit. Along the way, misleads and MacGuffins prevail as the storytellers try a shell game to keep us guessing just who the killer is. Unfortunately, they only kept me guessing for the first 20 minutes. After that, I marked time until proved correct, in the end. This certainly takes the thrill out of "thriller."

The unfortunate cast is populated with a bevy of pretty young women who provide the victim pool with candidates for the escalating body count. TV's "Angel," David Boreanaz, is ostensibly the film's star, what with being top billed and everything. But, the actor wanders through his role looking as if he's in the wrong movie. Denise Richards, on the heels of being a Bond girl, seems to have made a very bad career choice as just another slasher victim. The rest are pretty and bland. Jessica Capshaw gets the most mileage as the formerly fat girl who bears a grudge against her prettier friends.

As I said, the production is far superior to the story, with stylish photography by Rick Bota giving things a slick look. Set design, too, by Stephen Gaeghan, lends a terrific appearance with some inventive sets, including a video art gallery that is visual eye candy. Too bad the rest of the film fails to meet the production standards. Helmer Blanks should rethink his dedication to the horror genre.

I give "Valentine" a D+.

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