Valentine (2001)
Valentine (2001)

Genre: Slasher Running Time: 1 hr. 36 min.

Release Date: February 2nd, 2001 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Jamie Blanks Actors: Denise Richards, David Boreanaz, Marley Shelton, Katherine Heigl, Jessica Capshaw, Jessica Cauffiel, Hedy Burress, Fulvio Cecere, Benita Ha

 


 

N

erdy, buck-toothed 6th-grader Jeremy Melton doesn’t have much luck with the girls at the big school dance. And even when he gets Dorothy to kiss him under the bleachers, the other kids mercilessly bully him – specifically by pouring red punch on his head like something out of “Carrie.” And little Dorothy isn’t immune to the torment either, though she’s quick to accuse Jeremy of being the transgressor, ultimately resulting in the boy being sent off to reform school.

“I don’t think he’s capable of an intricate revenge plot.” Thirteen years later, Shelley Fisher (Katherine Heigl) is on a horrendous first date with Jason (Adam Harrington), which ends in a split check, no dessert, and demands for a compensatory kiss. Afterwards, however, Shelley returns to her lab, where she can dissect a cadaver, all alone, in the dark, in preparation for the medical degree she’s working on. Unfortunately for her, after running into a colleague in the neighboring locker room, she walks back in on her cold, naked subject, lying on the operating table, only to find that he’s alive – and intent on stalking her throughout the hallways and into the morgue, menacing knife in hand. Plus, to obscure his identity, he wears a baby-faced cherub mask.

Classmates Paige Prescott (Denise Richards), Kate Davies (Marley Shelton), Dorothy Wheeler (Jessica Capshaw), and Lily Voight (Jessica Cauffiel) are mortified to hear the news of Shelley’s untimely demise, though they haven’t been all that close over the last year, what with the med student’s significant workload. Nevertheless, they’re questioned by Detective Vaughn (Fulvio Cecere), who suspects that Shelley’s date, Jason, is a person of interest – and he’s currently missing. Plus, it’s not long before the girls begin receiving creepy Valentine’s Day cards, which foretell of upcoming, gruesome murders. “Don’t worry about it. Everything’s gonna be alright.”

The setup isn’t particularly unique, but at least Valentine’s Day is a lesser-used holiday for horror films (1981’s “My Bloody Valentine” might question whether another similarly-themed picture was necessary, of course). And it lends itself rather fittingly to the notion of unsuspecting women getting harassed and then attacked by a cupid-masked slayer – in the edgier, bloodier vein of early 2000s slashers. A young, hip cast slowly being dispatched in increasingly more violent ways is a comparably familiar scheme, copying many of its likeminded brethren, but there’s something amusing about the large assortment of suspicious men interacting with the dwindling female victim pool; it’s not easy to guess who the culprit is, considering that all the signs point to one obvious person, yet there are plenty of sketchy supporting roles with possible motives.

Sadly, the frequent jump-scares and the various women spontaneously finding themselves in ill-lit, isolated locations prove to be only middlingly creative. In fact, the boyfriends and suitors tend to die in more wild, over-the-top manners – perhaps because they’re scripted to be far less sympathetic. Curiously, a sub-theme about pairing up for Valentine’s Day courses throughout, involving not only the couples who find amorous success (and the imbalances therein), but also those who match with exceptional weirdos or sulk over insufficient attention. “Everything’s fine. It’s just that men suck.”

By the end, however, the unguessable nature of the killer doesn’t propel the story or maintain interest; instead, it’s the sexiness of the cast (Richards manages to steadily shed her attire) and the opportunities for death and destruction (in haunted house environs, some of which are so labyrinthine that the villain – let alone the owners – couldn’t possibly navigate them) that remain engaging – though even these elements can only barely sustain a 90-minute picture. Perhaps the most disappointing character is that of the police detective, whose routines and behavior are consistently unrealistic, as if he’s merely pretending to be an authority figure. And then, frustratingly, the obligatory twist ending makes virtually zero sense.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10